Here in the Michigan Department of Corrections(MDOC), like in any amerikan prison, we have drugs. We have weed, cocaine, heroin, even meth; but what we have the most of is not the drugs you get from your neighborhood dealer, no. We got drugs straight form the manufacturer the ones you get doctors to prescribe and then get a monthly “script” of 30 to 120. I’m talking about a drug who is so closely related to its hot older sister they’re basically twins. I’m talking about suboxone: subs, strips, strippers, orange slices, because they are orange and have the lovely smell of oranges coming off of them. Suboxone has become the number 1 choice in the drug trade: it dominates all others, even heroin. Impossible right? No, don’t even think. Its perfect small little paper thin strips that only take up maybe the length of a stamp and only need a 16th of it to get blown away. You can sell a 16th of a strip which is smaller than the whites of your fingernail. As much as real deal Big Poppa heroin is, it is nothing compared to “subs.” They are small – very potent – and are guaranteed by the manufacturer to get you high every time on a consistent basis. Anyone who was on the Dog or Heroin takes to it like a fat kid at the buffet line. It’s no surprise that this drug is used for heroin addicts to come off of heroin it is so close I honestly see people trading heroin addiction to sub addiction.
Around 2012 is when I first heard of subs. In 2013, I saw the problems of them such as the quick money which they bring because of the easy ways they’re smuggled into the prison system. I saw how easily it was taken by guys who never had done things like heroin. Like the crack dealer trying his own stuff, these guys tried it too cause what do you do when you sit around making money all day and the only things you have to do are either get high or sell. Lots of people sell the strips but everyone does them. It don’t matter Black, White, or Hispanic: all of them.
The thing about strips that people fail to realize is that it is a drug: a drug to help people get “off” heroin. But because it comes from a doctor and is handed out at every rehab facility across Amerika, nobody thinks it is addictive. I’ve seen it and it’s just as bad, no worse, than crack or Heroin. I’ve even seen suboxone on T.V. being handed out to heroin addicted teens as an intervention. Doctors handing this drug out on T.V. says a lot about how people perceive this miracle drug. Just like how oxycontin and fentanyl became the miracle drug for pain which led to the opiate epidemic. That only trades who you buy the opioids from because when you ran outta oxycontin or vicodens, you could go to the dope man and get a blow pack of heroin for a fraction of the price. Now you can get it from the doctor no problem. Being an affiliated member of a large Latin organization, I’ve seen guys go from selling it and making money to running around robbing Peter to pay Paul selling his shoes to finally getting knocked out because he has not paid his debts.
Not only does this drug slip past your normal “say no to drugs” defense; not only does it slowly take control of an addict’s life; it lulls you into this docile scared state where you are no longer the proud man that held his head high and looked your problems right in the eye. Instead you are now feeling like scum beneath one’s shoe, and when people see the weakness in you they pounce. They pounce so hard and so fast. The homies I thought were giants have tucked tail and ran away thanks to strips: this miracle drug for heroin and opioid addicts. This drug that can be so lucrative in the prison system that is so lucrative to Big pharma has made our men – our brothers and our fathers – into cowards. This drug takes away your will to fight and stand tall and to me if that don’t scream to you that this government is trying to destroy the hearts and minds of the proletariat – the workers – who bleed for every dollar; who get coddled by big pharma to take their opioids for pain and then their suboxone to get off the opioids they sold you in the first place; then you’re a damn zombie and are now hopeless. And what do you do with an animal that is beyond hope… bang!
It is my hope though that for your sake and everyone else’s that you learn to see the sign of addiction and stop them. It’s important to have a hardliner stance on taking suboxone for any reason: it is a very addictive drug and should be treated as heroin is. And like heroin it should be avoided at all costs: this is the only way to keep you and your compañeros from falling victim to this dangerous drug.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We echo this comrade’s conclusion that drugs, like prisons, are being used for social control.(1)
As we wrote in ULK 59, discussing our survey results on drugs in prisons:
Our survey showed significant abuse of Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid addiction. In the 1970s Methadone clinics, backed by the Rockefeller Program, became big in New York. The state even linked welfare benefits to these services. Yet, Mutulu Shakur says, “In New York City, 60 percent of the illegal drugs on the street during the early ’70s was methadone. So we could not blame drug addiction at that time on Turkey or Afghanistan or the rest of that triangle.”(2) Revolutionaries began to see this drug that was being used as treatment as breaking up the revolutionary movement and the community. Mitulu Shakur and others in the Lincoln Detox Center used acupuncture as a treatment for drug addiction. Lincoln Detox is an example of an independent institution developed by communists to combat drug addiction in the United $tates.(2)
Our 2017 survey revealed Suboxone as the latest scourge coming to prison systems in the northeast.(3) And it is making it’s way across the country. While it hit Michigan in 2012, it has just hit California in the last couple years. To document this shift we are asking our readers to submit to us your responses to the following brief survey. We especially want to hear from those of you on the West Coast, where suboxone was not being reported 4 years ago.
Drugs in Prison Survey 2
Please rank the most common drugs/intoxicants in your prison and answer the following questions for each one:
What percentage of people use this substance in your prison? You can use percentages or think of it in terms of if you picked 10 random people from the prison, how many of them would use the drug – 1 in 10? 5 in 10?
Are there certain groups, nationalities, agegroups, etc that seem to prefer this substance?
If you have been in that system for more than a year, have you seen the use of this substance increase? or decrease? or stay the same?
What are the health impacts of this substance on the population?
What are the social impacts of this substance on the population? (ie. more fighting, more passivity, more/less socializing, more/less community, what activities would people likely be doing if it weren’t this drug)
Are there conditions on prisoners abilities to receive suboxone? For example, do you have to attend any other treatment like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy(CBT) classes for the duration of your prescription?
Are suboxone doses generally lowered over time, or can patients stay on suboxone for as long as they want?
Have you seen effective efforts by prisoners to organize against drug use and its effects? If so, please describe them.
Would you be interested in implementing a revolutionary 12 Step program that is focused on transforming ourselves to serve the people and transform society?
I’m definitely looking forward to receiving more material that will benefit me in my growth in our movement. Of course the prison library here has nothing that is intellectually or politically stimulating. Any military or political writings are pro-amerikan imperialist, and only bitch about how the long-haired commies and commie sympathizers are tearing the fabric of this great country asunder. Blah Blah Blah!…
So a little background info that led to my radicalization, the charge that led me to prison is a murder in the 1st degree which is a life without parole sentence of 60 years at 100%. So I got tweaked on crystal meth, stayed awake for 16 days and unfortunately an innocent person lost their life.
Upon coming to prison my give a fuck button was busted. I felt like I had nothing to live for so I spent my time chasing dope and trying to remain numb. Also I’ve dealt with being a closeted pan-sexual since I was 12 years old. Prison was hard for me at the beginning. All of these bullshit prison politics revolve around race and I didn’t fit in with the “Aryans” so I constantly got jumped and beat up by them and then the gang bangers all saw me as an easy target cause I wasn’t cliqued up with the whites. So I spent my days trying to dodge these assholes and trying not to draw attention to my self. I started noticing how the pigs here were playing bullshit games and turned inmates against one another and stirring up confrontations that led to wars and bloodshed. Also I was slowly building up courage to “come out” and not give a fuck what others think of me.
I began to notice how narrow-minded bigoted pigs and inmates were both marginalizing people of the LGBTQ community. Along with all this, I started paying attention to politics ever since the people of the United Snakes decided to elect a fucking pompous troll for our president. Before this I never really had an interest in politics, but something clicked in me as I kept seeing innocent minorities being basically fucking murdered by the law enforcement who’s supposed to protect us. The blatant discrimination against the LGBTQ community by these evangelical Jesus freaks and the draconian bullshit our “corruptor in chief” was trying to push against us. I got sick of Islamaphobia, systematic racism, fucking garbage Nazis, all of their shit.
One day I saw a live report from a “pro Trump” rally, out in the midst of all these bigot bitches I saw these radical comrades from “Antifa” rallying against these fuckers and I started to do a little research with what limited sources I have and I got turned on to radical/revolutionary material and it hit me: this is what I was supposed to do.
My first step or personal liberation was “coming out,” than I realized I’m in a prime breeding ground of people who’ve been marginalized, demonized, and all together left behind by most of society. A lot of these people (including me) have no idea how to cut the foot off that’s constantly trying to be placed upon our necks. If a single person like myself can acquire the proper knowledge and put it to use, I have the ability to reach people and get them to see who the real oppressors are!
I’ve studied various people who have had a major influence on me: Weathermen, SLA, Malcolm X, etc. etc. and I’m trying like hell to get a full, well-rounded understanding of Maoist thought and the communist philosophy. And with that knowledge, there is no limit to who I can reach!
So that’s pretty much the way I was liberated from my own mental prison. I most definitely agree that drug use in prison is not only encouraged but it’s running fucking rampant! The two main things that are dealt are Suboxone and “bath salts.” Suboxone is basically the U.S. government and big pharma’a sleezy way to extort recovering addicts by getting them hooked on the “miracle drug” that is supposed to cure them. “Bath salts” is the same shit that’s reported in the news making people eat other people like zombies! So you can imagine the effects of a drug like that in a place that’s hyper violent and full of testosterone already.
I’m looking very forward to the next bit of material coming from you and I’m very excited and grateful to have been accepted into the study group. You know prison can most times feel like hell when you feel alone. With no type of purpose or meaning to your existence.
Well that’s where I stop the line. I want to not only educate myself and better my own situation, I want to give other people the tools to help themselves. This prison is unfortunately my life, so I want to spend my time fighting and advocating for every single thing that we are entitled to and raise hell until we get it! We must unite and educate before we can be liberated from these fascist fucks!
MIM(Prisons) responds: We are excited for the fresh energy into revolutionary organizing that the Trump administration has brought. Most people stop at the call for simply getting rid of Trump, bringing back Obama, maybe shifting to Bernie or Hilary, and they are satisfied. The liberal media putting Trump on blast, plus the very visual images of Antifa activists, has helped some people see the atrocities that the Unites Snakes government has been doing all along. Seeing the difference between patriotic reformism and revolutionary communism is a crucial step in opposing the marginalization and oppression that Trump represents. Trump’s persona is unique, but eir policies and practices are not.
Seeing the difference between organizing against Trump and organizing against Amerikkka is an extremely important part to organizing against fascism. Where many people would prefer a Bernie-type of government, with more benefits for U.S. citizens with absolutely abhorrent internationalism, we see that trend in so-called “revolutionary” organizing actually a trend toward fascism. Where our comrade uses the term “fascist” in eir letter to be a persynality criticism, we prefer to use it to refer to an economic, social, and military system. We see a Bernie-type social democratic administration as paving the way toward a fascist government, that’s not just bigoted and outspoken like Trump, but protectionist and militarized like Hitler. Trump and Bernie are two sides of the same coin, and we must oppose all Amerikanism in order to oppose fascism.
While the common view is that “minorities” (comparatively small groups of people) are being oppressed by Trump, we take confidence from the fact that we’re not the minority internationally. The oppressed internal semi-colonies have a lot in common with oppressed nations across the globe, and more to gain from uniting with them than trying to integrate into Amerikkka. And oppressed people across the entire world would be behind them.
We’re excited that this author, who is just one voice among many, has chosen to unite with us in this internationalist struggle.
As you know, March 2020 TDCJ has made changes. No more greeting cards are allowed in, only ten photos at a time and more little changes, such as the only ones allowed to send money or ecom packages must be on your phone or visitation list.
They are trying to slow the drug market down. However no changes for good time work time or payment for our labor. Still slaves to the system imagine that. Anyway the study group I am working on hasn’t grown. We are three strong. It’s a start! We decided to post “Did you know”’s and “Just think about it” notes to get the attention of people. A lot of people are still stuck on K-2 and other drugs.
I deeply feel this is what they want to keep us from thinking, but never will I give up hope or educating men. We have a major fight on our hands and the battle is far from won. Not only are we fighting the oppressors but we must educate the masses. I read and studied a lot of material I still haven’t come to the understanding on how to influence people of the knowledge or political education or even a common platform that will help the Texas prison system. We all have been pushing peace so that’s a start.
We just now need to get rid of the Meth and K-2! Our unit just came off lockdown they had a surprise unit sweep, getting rid of a lot of K-2 and Meth only to see the prison block flooded again with that shit. Over 50 cell phones were found and pounds of K-2. No big changes cause it’s still here it seems like even more though. In other words they took pictures then put it right back on the streets.
MIM(Prisons) adds: In our survey on drugs in prisons conducted in 2017, 39% of respondents said staff brought in most drugs, and 78% mentioned staff as part of the problem.(1) From the ghettos of New York to the Iran-Contra scandal, drugs and drug money have been important tools of the oppressor in its war on the oppressed.
As this comrade points out, recent changes in mail polices to address drugs in prison are a joke, and only serve to limit support and education for prisoners. The results only reinforce the fact that drugs are being brought in by staff. Meanwhile, the lack of connection to family, community and organizations that are addressing social ills is counter to any goals related to rehabilitation.
This comrade is on the right track. Providing connection, meaning and hope through independent institutions like their study group is the best counter measure we currently have to the reactionary effects of drugs on the people. We want to hear more about the “Did you know” fliers. What topics and slogans are working to reach the masses that we could share with others? Let us know.
On 1 April 2020, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the United $tates had doubled military forces engaged in combating drug trafficking in the Pacific Ocean between the United $tates and South America. The primary purpose was stated as being to protect Amerikan lives from dangerous drugs. The secondary purpose was to destabilize the Maduro administration in Venezueala that Trump claims is propped up by drug money. The Maduro administration responded by commending the United $tates for trying to fight drug trafficking for the first time in decades.(1)
While these actions are part of a long history of political warfare in the region, this announcement is also significant in that it is the first show of militarism to stave off the looming economic depression facing the imperialists and the global economy. Finance capital is in crisis.
As Lenin explained, the portion of capital that is finance capital only increases with time. This leads to a very top-heavy economy. One of the primary laws of capitalism is that all capital must circulate. Unlike industrial capital, finance capital is not involved in the actual production of material goods and value. As such it is not limited by humyn consumption, as long as there are profits to be made. The problem is that capitalism, unlike an economic system based on humyn need, cannot adapt to economic slowdowns such as the current one imposed by the health needs of humyns facing the COVID-19 pandemic.
If the economy is shrinking, while finance capital is always growing, then there are not enough places for that finance capital to circulate into to return a profit. This is reflected in the recent reduction of interest rates by the Federal Reserve to 0%. When profit rates are high, people will borrow at higher rates to invest and return a profit. When banks are struggling to loan money for free, that means there are no profits to be made by finance capital. Stock markets losing close to a third of their value in recent weeks also demonstrate the lack of outlets for finance capital.
The United $tates and other imperialist countries have passed stimulus plans to try to keep their consumer classes afloat. The consumption of luxury goods plays an important role in the circulation of capital, by increasing demands on production. As the skies of urban centers become clear of pollution, and animals take the opportunity to stretch their legs in areas normally dominated by humyns and pollution, finance capital becomes desperately confined when the consumer classes reduce their consumption to necessities. This is true even as Amerikans and Europeans continue to enjoy higher levels of consumption and comfort than the majority of the world.
A third factor limiting the circulation of capital, that is still accelerating, is the closure of borders and, with it, a shift in international trade. Imperialism is by definition an international system, and without massive global trade it cannot extract massive super-profits from the exploited nations of the world and distribute them amongst the imperialist country populations. The drug trade has long been an important part of international trade and finance capital. So this move announced by Trump can likely be seen as an exertion of force by the imperialists on the black market to meet some financial interests.
However, the more troubling driver to all this is imperialist militarism. It was global economic crises and trade wars that led to the first two inter-imperialist wars (with guns). This is because war destroys capital, while stimulating production and consumption in the process. War requires production for war, and production to rebuild after it. It is the final solution for the otherwise unresolvable contradictions of imperialism, specifically that of over-production. This move towards Venezuela is just the first in what we predict to be a coming escalation of militarism. And the most likely targets will be countries that have resisted the U.$. imperialists’ programs as Maduro, and Hugo Chavez before em, have done.
Today, the Maduro administration remains in power over a year after the United $tates attempted a military coup against it, without actually sending in an invading force. The United $tates continues to push Maduro to give up power to a “transitional government” under threat of continued sanctions and International Criminal Court charges co-signed by imperialist lackeys in the region. While rumors of further military action in this war on Venezuela have long been circulating, we predict that the economic downswing will be the push to make that happen. It is the duty of all who love freedom and justice to build an all-out resistance to a rising tide of militarism from the imperialist countries.
I am currently incarcerated in Pennsylvania at the State Correctional Institution: Chester. And every day as I look around this place I'm forced to live in, all I see is a growing number of "synthetic snaps." When I first came to state prison in 2006 drugs were an issue but not like they are today. These new cheaper, and more easily obtainable synthetic drugs such as suboxone or subutex and K-2 synthetic marijuana, are making prison society worse and more depressing than ever. These subs cause withdrawal symptoms like heroin and are causing convicts to throw away their solidarity to scumbag each other in pursuit of their next fix.
Suboxone strips are flat and very easy to smuggle into prisons and all one needs to obtain them on the streets is to test positive for opiates at a clinic to receive up to 90 strips a month for a small co-pay. They then smuggle them into the prisons where they can sell for up to $100 apiece wholesale which is like a 10,000% profit which is irresistible to most "hustlers."
This new opiate replacement has prisons in an uproar. Convicts are stealing from and robbing each other to get just a little "piece" to chase away their withdrawal symptoms. And our RHUs are filled with "protective custody" inmates who ran up drug debts on credit that they couldn't cover.
Then we have the so-called "synthetic marijuana" product K-2. I was an avid marijuana smoker on the streets and this stuff is way different than blowin a sacc of loud. K-2 can cause violent outbursts, passing out, seizures, suicide attempts, and serious mental breakdowns. I have seen people attempt to fly over the fence earning them escape charges. People lose touch with reality and lash out at everyone around them. Guys pass out standing up, cracking their heads open, and to top it off a guy on my block at SCI: Somerset went all zombie on his celly biting him on his face and arms. This stuff is more like bad PCP than marijuana. It just blows my mind that synthetics are causing more problems than their "real" counterparts.
We as a united front against the injustice system need to stop trying to capitalize off the downfall of our comrades, and utilize our efforts to solidify our ranks against our oppressors. The rapper Meek Millz is a prisoner here at Chester with me and has stated that even growing up on the drug-laden streets of Philadelphia he couldn't imagine a cell block in prison so closely resembling a drug block in the badlands of his home city. We can't continue to give the oppressors more ammo to use against us. I understand that boredom, hopelessness, and other forms of incarceration depression tend to drive us to find ways to numb us. But let's try to come together and help our comrades strive to kick habits they have already acquired, and to prevent anyone from picking one up.
This is just another battle we need to unite to win. Whether you're White, Black, or Hispanic, Crip, Blood, Latin, or Aryan, come together for the greater good of convicts everywhere. Pay attention, comrades, because Amerikkka wants to catch us slippin'.
MIM(Prisons) responds: In the November issue of Under Lock & Key we got deep into the issue of drugs in prison. All writers agreed it's a big problem, though what is used and how the problem plays out varies from state to state and even within each prison. And a lot of folks came to the same conclusion as this comrade: we need to stop trying to make money off the suffering of others and instead come together against the injustice system. This letter is a good follow-up to that issue of ULK because we need to keep this topic front and center as we work to find ways to help people kick the habit and join the revolutionary movement.
Are you helping comrades kick their drug habits? What methods and tactics are you using? What have you tried that didn't work, and why? What harm reduction tactics can we try to employ? What about counseling techniques? The State isn't going to fix this problem for us. We need to make our own interventions and support systems.
On 26 October 2017, U.$. President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. The declaration should lead to more federal funding for grants to combat opioid abuse.(1) As we explain below, this epidemic disproportionately affects euro-Amerikans. Trump linked his campaign to build a wall along the current Mexican border to the battle against this epidemic, despite the fact that prescription painkillers are at the root of it. This is consistent with the Amerikan government's solution for drug problems created by imperialism. For the crack epidemic of the 1980s Amerika responded with mass incarceration of New Afrikan men as the solution. As opioid addiction continues a steady rise, Trump offers further militarization of the border.
Opioids have been used by humyns for thousands of years both medicinally and recreationally, with many periods of epidemic addiction. Use began with opium from poppies. Morphine was isolated in 1806. By the early 1900s heroin was promoted as a cure for morphine addiction in the United $tates, before being made illegal in 1924. There was a lull in heroin use during the 1980s, when cocaine and crack overshadowed it. Various prescription pain killers began to come back into vogue in the 1990s
after the "Just Say No!" mentality was wearing off. Since then, use and abuse has been on a steady rise, feeding a new surge in the use of heroin as a cheaper alternative. This rise, in the economic centers of both the United $tates and China, is directly linked to capitalism.
While K2 is one dangerous substance plaguing U.$. prisons these days, partly due to its undetectability, opioids are by far the biggest killer in the United $tates, and we expect that is true in prisons as well. Drug overdoses surpassed car accidents as the number one cause of accidental deaths in the United $tates in 2007 and has continued a steady rise ever since. The majority of these overdoses have been from opioids.(2)
While the increase in deaths from opioids has been strong across the United $tates, rates are significantly higher among whites, and even higher among First Nations. One reason that use rates are lower among New Afrikans and [email protected] is that it has been shown that doctors are more reluctant to prescribe opioids to them because they are viewed as more likely to become addicted, and Amerikan doctors see them as having a greater pain threshold.(3)
We did see some evidence of this trend in the results of our survey on the effects of drugs in U.$. prisons. The most popular answer to our question of whether certain groups did more drugs in prison than others was no, it affects everyone. But many clarified that there was a strong racial divide where New Afrikans preferred weed and K2, while whites and usually [email protected] went for heroin and/or meth. Some of these respondents said that New Afrikans did less drugs.(4) A couple said that New Afrikans used to do less drugs but now that's changing as addiction is spreading. In states where K2 has not hit yet (CA, GA, CO) it was common to hear that whites and "hispanics" (or in California, "southern" Mexicans) did more drugs. The pattern of New Afrikans preferring weed and K2 seemed common across the country, and could have implications for strategies combating drug use among New Afrikans compared to other groups. In particular, stressing that K2 is completely different and more dangerous than weed could be part of a harm reduction strategy focused on New Afrikans.
If prison staff were doing their jobs, then we would expect rates of both overdoses and use in general to be lower in prisons. But we know, and our survey confirmed, that this is not the case (78% of respondents mentioned staff being responsible for bringing in at least some of the drugs in their prison). In hindsight, it may have been useful to ask our readers what percentage of prisoners are users and addicts. Some of the estimates that were offered of the numbers using drugs in general were
20-30%, 90%, 75%, and many saying it had its grips on the whole population.
Deaths from opioids in the general U.$. population in 2015 was 10.5 per 100,000, double the rate in 2005.(5) This is higher than the rates in many state prison systems for overdoses from any drug, including Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania that all reported average rates of 1 per 100,000 from 2001-2012. California was closer at 8 per 100,000 and Maryland exceeded the general population at 17 deaths from overdoses per 100,000 prisoners.(6) At the same time,
prison staff have been known to cover up deaths from overdoses, so those 1 per 100,000 rates may be falsified.
In our survey of ULK readers, we learned that Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid addiction, is quite popular in prisons (particularly in the northeast/midwestern states). Survey respondents mentioned it as often as weed as one of the most popular drugs, and more than heroin. Suboxone is actually used to treat heroin addiction. And while it is not supposed to be active like other opioids, it can lead to a high and be addictive. It is relatively safe, and will not generally lead to overdose until you combine it with other substances, which can lead to death.
Prescription drugs are not as common as other drugs in most prisons, according to our survey. Though in some cases they are available. We received a few responses from prisons where prescription drugs prescribed by the medical staff seemed to be the only thing going on the black market. Clearly there is variability by facility.
Two Paths to Recovery
The increases in opioid abuse in the United $tates has been staggering, and they cause a disproportionate amount of the deaths from drug overdoses. About 10% of opioid addicts worldwide are in the United $tates, despite only being less than 5% of the world's population.(7) At the same time, only about 1% of people in the United $tates are abusing opioids.(8) This is not the worst episode in U.$. history, and certainly not in world history.
Around 1914 there were 200,000 heroin addicts in the United $tates, or 2% of the population. In contrast, some numbers for opium addicts in China prior to liberation put the addiction rate as high as 20% of the population around 1900, and 10% by the 1930s. That's not to dismiss the seriousness of the problem in the United $tates, but to highlight the power of proletarian dictatorship, which eliminated drug addiction about 3 years after liberation.
Richard Fortmann did a direct comparison of the United $tates in 1952 (which had 60,000 opioid addicts) and revolutionary China (which started with millions in 1949).(9) Despite being the richest country in the world, unscathed by the war, with an unparalleled health-care system, addicts in the United $tates increased over the following two decades. Whereas China, a horribly poor country coming out of decades of civil war, with 100s of years of opium abuse plaguing its people, had eliminated the problem by 1953.(9) Fortmann pointed to the politics behind the Chinese success:
"If the average drug addiction expert in the United States were shown a description of the treatment modalities used by the Chinese after 1949 in their anti-opium campaign, his/her probable response would be to say that we are already doing these things in the United States, plus much more. And s/he would be right."(9)
About one third of addicts went cold turkey after the revolution, with the more standard detox treatment taking 12 days to complete. How could they be so successful so fast? What the above comparison is missing is what happened in China in the greater social context. The Chinese were a people in the process of liberating themselves, and becoming a new, socialist people. The struggle to give up opium was just one aspect of a nationwide movement to destroy remnants of the oppressive past. Meanwhile the people were being called on and challenged in all sorts of new ways to engage in building the new society. There was so much that was more stimulating than opium to be doing with their time. Wimmin, who took up opium addiction in large numbers after being forced into prostitution in opium dens, were quickly gaining opportunities to engage at all levels of society. The poor, isolated peasants were now organized in collectives, working together to solve all kinds of problems related to food production, biology and social organization. The successful struggle against drug addiction in China was merely one impressive side effect of the revolutionizing of the whole society.
In contrast, in the capitalist countries, despair lurks behind every corner as someone struggles to stay clean. The approach has ranged from criminalization to medicalization of drug addiction as a disease. "Once an addict, always an addict", as they say. Always an individualist approach, ignoring the most important, social causes of the problem. That drug addiction is primarily a social disease was proven by the practice of the Chinese in the early 1950s, but Western "science" largely does not acknowledge the unquestionable results from that massive experiment.
It is also worth pointing out the correlation between drug abuse and addiction, and capitalist economics specifically. Whether it was colonial powers forcing opium on the Chinese masses who had nothing, in order to enslave them to their economic will, or it is modern Amerikan society indulging its alienation in the over-production of prescription pills from big pharmaceutical companies marketing medicine for a profit.
And now, opioid addiction is on the rise again in capitalist China after decades. A steady rise in drug-related arrests in China since 1990 are one indicator of the growing problem.(10) As more profits flowed into the country, so have more drugs, especially since the 1990s. We recently published a review of Is China an Imperialist Country?, where we lamented the loses suffered by the Chinese people since the counter-revolution in 1976. It goes to show that when you imitate the imperialists, and put advancing the productive forces and profits over serving the people, you invite in
all the social ills of imperialism.
In China drug addiction has now become something that people fear. Like it did with its economy, China has followed in the imperialists' footsteps in how it handles drug addiction. Chinese policy has begun treating addicts as patients that need to be cured to protect society. Rather than seeing those who give up drugs as having defeated the oppressor's ways, they are monitored by the state, lose social credibility, and have a hard time getting a job.(11) Under socialism, everyone had a job and no one needed recreational drugs to maintain themselves mentally. The path to combating drug addiction and abuse is well-established. Attempts under imperialism that don't involve liberatory politics of the oppressed have little to no effect.
For this issue of Under Lock & Key we took on the task of investigating the impacts of drugs and the drug trade on the prison movement. We ran a survey in the Jan/Feb 2017 and March/April 2017 issues of Under Lock &
Key. We received 62 completed surveys from our readers in U.$. prisons. We have incorporated the more interesting results in a series of articles in this issue. This article looks at the central question of the role of the drug trade inside and outside prisons and how to effectively organize among the lumpen in that context. In other articles we look more closely at the recent plague of K2 in U.$. prisons, and the latest rise
in opioid addiction and what socialism and capitalism have to offer us as solutions.
Bourgeois society blames the individual
Bourgeois society takes an individualistic view of the world. When it comes to drugs, the focus is on the individual: we talk about how they failed and succumbed to drugs because of their weakness or mistakes as an individual. While individuals must ultimately take responsibility for their actions, it is only by understanding society at a group level, using dialectical materialism to study the political economy of our world, that we can address problems on a scale that will make a real impact. Even at the individual level, it's more effective to help people make connections to the root causes of their problems (not supposed persynality flaws) and empower them to fight those causes if we want lasting change.
Much of our criminal injustice system is built on punishment and shaming of those who have been convicted. A proletarian approach to justice uses self-criticism to take accountability for one's actions, while studying political economy to understand why that path was even an option in the first place, and an attractive one at that.
In the essay "Capitalism Plus Dope Equals Genocide", Cetewayo, a Black Panther leader, provides a good example of overcoming the conditions one is born into. Ey was addicted to heroin from age 13 to 18, before joining the Black Panther Party. Eir example stresses the importance of providing alternative outlets for oppressed nation youth. In some cases the mere existence of that alternative can change lives.
Drugs and the Principal Contradiction in Prison
MIM(Prisons) and leaders in the Countrywide Council of United Struggle from Within (Double C) have had many conversations about what the principal contradiction is within the prison population. MIM(Prisons) has put forth that the parasitic/individualistic versus self-sufficient/collective material interests of the lumpen class is the principal contradiction within the prison movement in the United $tates today. The drug problem in prisons relates directly to this contradiction. Those pursuing drugs and/or dealing are focused on their persynal interests, at the expense of others. The drug trade is inherently parasitic as it requires an addicted population to be profitable, and users are escaping the world for an individual high, rather than working to make the world better for themselves and others.
A Double C comrade from Arkansas explains this contradiction:
"Things have been slow motion here due to lockdown. Reason being too much violence across the prison. Some of this violence is due to the underground economy. Being submerged in a culture of consumerism which is not only an obstacle to our emancipation (mentally and physically) this self-destructive method of oppression is a big problem consuming the population. I've been in prisons where the market is not packed or heavily packed with drugz. It is in those yards that unity and productive lines are greatly practiced. The minute drugz become the leading item of consumption, shit breaks down, individualism sets in and all of the fucked up tendencies follow suit.
"I say 75% of the population in this yard is a consumer. About 5% have no self control, it's usually this percentage that ends up a 'debt' victim (since you owe $ you owe a clean up). Aggressor or not, consumerism is a plague that victimizes everyone one way or another. This consumerism only aids the pigz, rats, infiltrators, and oppressors in continuing with a banking concept of 'education/rehabilitation' and therefore domesticating the population.
"I mean the consequences and outcomes are not hidden, it is a constant display of what it is when you can't pay the IRS, so it is not as if people don't know. I've seen people slow down or stopped some old habits after experiencing/witnessing these beheadings. Shit, I just hit the yard because pigz were all inside the block searching and homeboy's puddles of blood were still on the yard."
Drugs and Violence
It is no secret that drugs and violence often go hand-in-hand. As the above comrade alludes to, this is often related to debts. But one of the things we learned from our recent survey of ULK readers is that in most prisons there is an inherent threat of violence towards people who might take up effective organizing against drugs.
A California comrade wrote,
"No one in prison is going to put their safety and security on the line over drugs. You have to understand that life has little value in prison. If you do anything to jeopardize an individual's ability to earn a living, it will cost you your life."
Another California comrade was more explicit,
"If you say anything about the drugs, cell phones, extortions, etc., whether if you're in the general population, or now, worse yet in 2017, SNY/Level IV, the correctional officers inform the key gang members that you're running your mouth. You either get hit immediately, or at the next prison. Although my safety is now at stake, by prisoners, it's being orchestrated by corrections higher-ups concocting the story."
This was in response to our survey question "Have you seen effective efforts by prisoners to organize against drug use and its effects? If so, please describe them." Not only were the responses largely adamant "no"s, the vast majority said it would be dangerous to do so. This was despite the fact that we did not ask whether it would be dangerous to do so. Therefore, we assume that more than 73% might say so if asked.
Some readers questioned what to do about staff involvement bringing drugs into the prisons. One writer from Pennsylvania said:
"It's hardly ever dry in Fayette and this institution is a big problem why. A lot of the staff bring it in. Then when someone goes in debt or does something they wouldn't normally do, they don't want to help you, if you ask for help. There's no unity anymore. Nobody fights or stands up for nothing. Everybody rather fight each other than the pigs. It would take a lot to make a change in the drug situation. Is it wrong to put the pigs out there for what they're doing? Would I be considered a snitch? I know there would be retaliation on me, maybe even a ass whoopin. I'm curious on your input on this."
If we look at the involvement of staff in bringing drugs into prisons, and the violence associated with the drug trade, we have to call bullshit when these very same institutions censor Under Lock & Key on the claim that it might incite violence. The system is complicit, and many staff actively participate, in the plague of drugs that is destroying the minds and bodies of the oppressed nation men and wimmin, while promoting individualistic money-seeking behavior that leads to brutal violence between the oppressed themselves.
Organizing in Prisons
While the reports responding to that question were mostly negative, and the situation seems dire, we do want to report on the positive things we heard. We heard about successful efforts by New Afrikans getting out of the SHU in California, some Muslim communities and the Nation of Gods and Earths. Some have been at this for over a decade. All of these programs seemed to be of limited scope, but it is good to know there are organizations providing an alternative.
In Arkansas, a comrade reports,
"For the mass majority of drug users and prisoners I have not seen any positive efforts to stop drug use and its effects. But for my affiliation, the ALKN, we have put the product of K2/deuce in law with heroin and its byproducts where no member should be in use of or make attempts to sell for profit or gain. If you do you will receive the consequences of the body who governs this affiliation and organization for lack of discipline and obedience to pollute your self/body and those around you who are the future and leaders of tomorrow's nations."
While practice varies among the many individuals at different stages in the organization, the Latin Kings/ALKQN has historically opposed the use of hard drugs amongst its members. Many in New York in the 1990s attributed their recovery from drug addiction to their participation in
There are some good examples of lumpen organizations engaging in what we might call policies of harm reduction. One comrade mentioned the 16 Laws and Policies of Chairman Larry Hoover as an example of effective organizing against drugs in eir prison. Lumpen leaders like Jeff Fort and Larry Hoover are where we see a national bourgeoisie with independent power in the internal semi-colonies of the United $tates. The proletarian organizations of the oppressed nations should work to unite with such forces before the imperialists corrupt them or force them into submission. In fact, the Black Panthers did just that, but failed to build long-term unity with the Black P. Stone Rangers largely due to state interference and repression.
On the other hand, in some states comrades reported that lumpen organizations are among the biggest benefactors from the drug trade. Some of the same names that are mentioned doing positive work are mentioned as being the problem elsewhere. This is partly explained by the largely unaffiliated franchise system that some of these names operate under. But it is also a demonstration of the principal contradiction mentioned above, which is present in the First World lumpen outside of prisons, too. There is a strong individualist/parasitic tendency combating with the reality that self-sufficiency and collective action best serve the oppressed nations. Too often these organizations are doing significant harm to individuals and the broader movement against the criminal injustice system, and can not be part of any progressive united front until they pull out of these anti-people activities.
The more economically entrenched an organization is in the drug trade, the more they are siding with the imperialists and against the people. But on the whole, the First World lumpen, particularly oppressed nation youth, have the self-interest and therefore the potential to side with their people and with the proletariat of the world.
As one Texas comrade commented:
"I must say that the survey opened a door on the issue about drugs within prison. After doing the survey I brought this up with a couple of people to see if we could organize a program to help people with a drug habit. I'm an ex-drug dealer with a life sentence. I can admit I was caught up with the corruption of the U.S. chasing the almighty dollar, not caring about anyone not even family. Coming to prison made me open my eyes. With the help of MIM and Under Lock & Key I've been learning the principles of the United Front and put them in my everyday speech and walk within this prison. The enemy understands that the pen is a powerful tool. Comrades don't trip on me like other organizations done when I let them know I'm a black Muslim who studied a lot of Mao Zedong.
Building Independent Institutions of the Oppressed
At least one respondent mentioned "prisoners giving up sources" (to the pigs to shut down people who are dealing) in response to the question about effective anti-drug organizing. From the responses shown below, it is clear that the state is not interested in effective anti-drug programming in prisons. This is an example of why we need independent institutions of the oppressed. We cannot expect the existing power structure to meet the health needs of the oppressed nation people suffering from an epidemic of drug abuse in U.$. prisons.
The Black Panthers faced similar conditions in the 1960s in the Black ghettos of the United $tates. As they wrote in Capitalism Plus Dope Equals Genocide,
"It is also the practice of pig-police, especially narcotics agents, to seize a quantity of drugs from one dealer, arrest him, but only turn in a portion of the confiscated drugs for evidence. The rest is given to another dealer who sells it and gives a percentage of the profits to the narcotics agents. The pig-police also utilize informers who are dealers. In return for information, they receive immunity from arrest. The police cannot solve the problem, for they are a part of the problem."
Our survey showed significant abuse of Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid addiction. In the 1970s Methadone clinics, backed by the Rockefeller Program, became big in New York. The state even linked welfare benefits to these services. Yet, Mutulu Shakur says, "In New York City, 60 percent of the illegal drugs on the street during the early '70s was methadone. So we could not blame drug addiction at that time on Turkey or Afghanistan or the rest of that triangle."(2) Revolutionaries began to see this drug that was being used as treatment as breaking up the revolutionary movement and the community. Mitulu Shakur and others in the Lincoln Detox Center used acupuncture as a treatment for drug addiction. Lincoln Detox is an example of an independent institution developed by communists to combat drug addiction in the United $tates.
"[O]n November 10, 1970, a group of the Young Lords, a South Bronx anti-drug coalition, and members of the Health Revolutionary Unity Movement (a mass organization of health workers) with the support of the Lincoln Collective took over the Nurses' Residence building of Lincoln Hospital and established a drug treatment program called The People's Drug Program, which became known as Lincoln Detox Center."(3) Lincoln Detox was a program that was subsequently run by the Young Lords Party, Black Panthers that had survived the Panther 21 raid, the Republic of New Afrika, and White Lightning, a radical organization of white former drug addicts, until 1979 when a police raid forced the communists out of the hospital, removing the political content of the program.(4)
Young Lord Vicente "Panama" Alba was there from day one, and tells eir story of breaking free of addiction cold turkey to take up the call of the revolution. After sitting on the stoop watching NYPD officers selling heroin in eir neighborhood, and a few days after attending a Young Lords demonstration, Panama said, "Because of the way I felt that day, I told myself I couldn't continue to be a drug user. I couldn't be a heroin addict and a revolutionary, and I wanted to be a revolutionary. I made a decision to kick a dope habit."(3) This experience echoes that of millions of addicted Chinese who went cold turkey to take up building socialism in their country after 1949.
Mutulu Shakur describes how the Lincoln Detox Center took a political approach similar to the Chinese in combatting addiction, "This became a center for revolutionary, political change in the methodology and treatment modality of drug addiction because the method was not only medical but it was also political." Shakur was one of the clinic's members who visited socialist China in the 1970s to learn acupuncture techniques for treating addiction. He goes on to describe the program:
"So the Lincoln Detox became not only recognized by the community as a political formation but its work in developing and saving men and women of the third world inside of the oppressed communities, resuscitating these brothers and sisters and putting them into some form of healing process within the community we became a threat to the city of New York and consequently with the development of the barefoot doctor acupuncture cadre, we began to move around the country and educate various other communities instead of schools and orientations around acupuncture drug withdrawal and the strategy of methadone and the teaching the brothers and sisters the fundamentals of acupuncture to serious acupuncture, how it was used in the revolutionary context in China and in Vietnam and how we were able to use it in the South Bronx and our success."(2)
Dealing with the Dealers
Though the Black Panthers had organized the workers at Lincoln Hospital leading up to the takeover, by that time the New York chapter was already in decline due to repression and legal battles. While many BPP branches had to engage with drug cartels, the New York chapter stood out in their launching of heavily-armed raids on local dealers and dumping all of their heroin into the gutters. The New York Panthers faced unique circumstances in a city that contained half of the heroin addicts in the country, which was being supplied by la Cosa Nostra with help from the CIA. While there was mass support for the actions of the Panthers at first, state repression pushed the New York Panthers down an ultra-left path. The Panther 21 trial was a huge setback to their mass organizing, with 21 prominent Panthers being jailed and tried on trumped up terrorism charges. After they were all exonerated, the New York Panthers, siding ideologically with Eldridge Cleaver who was pushing an ultra-left line from exile in Algeria, made the transition to the underground. If they were going to be accused of bombings and shootings anyway, then they might as well actually do some, right?
These were the conditions under which the Black Liberation Army was formed. Though there was overlap between the BLA and those who led community projects like Lincoln Detox, the path of the underground guerrillas generally meant giving up the mass organizing in the community. Instead, raiding local drug dealers became a staple of theirs as a means of obtaining money. Money that essentially belonged to the NYPD, which was enabling those dealers and benefiting them financially. The former-Panthers-turned-BLA continued to destroy the dope they found, and punished the dealers they raided.
Again, we are confronted with this dual nature of the lumpen class. It would certainly be ultra-left to view all drug dealers as enemies to be attacked. It is also certainly clear that the CIA/Mafia/NYPD heroin trade in New York was an enemy that needed to be addressed. But how does the revolutionary movement interact with the criminal-minded LOs today? In its revolutionary transformation, China also had to deal with powerful criminal organizations. The Green Gang, which united the Shanghai Triads, significantly funded the Guomindang's rise to power, primarily through profits from opium sales. In the late 1940s they opened up negotiations with the Communist Party as the fate of China was becoming obvious. However, no agreement was reached, and the criminal organizations were quickly eliminated in mainland China after 1949. They took refuge in capitalist outposts like Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and Chinatowns elsewhere in Asia and Europe. While heroin has returned to China, the gangs have not yet.(5)
While the contradiction between the communists and the drug gangs did come to a head, it was after defeating Japanese imperialism and after defeating the reactionary Guomindang government. And even then, most drug dealers were reformed and joined the building of a socialist society.
Many respondents to our survey sounded almost hopeless when it came to imagining a prison system without rampant drug addiction. But this hopelessness is not completely unfounded. As "Capitalism Plus Dope Equals Genocide", reads:
"The government is totally incapable of addressing itself to the true causes of drug addiction, for to do so would necessitate effecting a radical transformation of this society. The social consciousness of this society, the values, mores and traditions would have to be altered. And this would be impossible without totally changing the way in which the means of producing social wealth is owned and distributed. Only a
revolution can eliminate the plague."
To back up what the Panthers were saying here, we can look at socialist China and how they eliminated opium addiction in a few years, while heroin spread in the capitalist United $tates. The Chinese proved that this is a social issue and not primarily a biological/medical one. The communist approach differed greatly from the Guomindang in that addicts were not blamed or punished for their addiction. They were considered victims of foreign governments and other enemies of the people. Even many former dealers were reformed.(6) Although we don't have the state power now to implement broad policies like the Chinese Communist Party, we can help drug users focus on understanding the cause and consequences of their use in a social context. We need people to see how dope is harming not only themselves, but more generally their people, both inside and outside of prison. People start doing drugs because of problems in their lives that come from problems in capitalist society. Being in prison sucks, and dope helps people escape, even if it's fleeting. But this escape is counter productive. As so many writers in this issue of ULK have explained, it just serves the interests of the criminal injustice system. We can help people overcome addictions by giving them something else to focus on: the fight against the system that wants to keep them passive and addicted.
On 15 September 2017 my neighbor died smoking K2 and after the pigs saw I was the last person to speak with him they locked me up under investigation. The first interrogation was conducted by the Arkansas state pig and it seemed as if all was well. The next week another death, same cause. Then my neighbor's mom appeared on the news saying she was gonna get to the bottom of his death (apparently they told her he had a heart attack), and bring a lawsuit before the court.
So when the internal affairs came and conduct their interrogation the pressure had been put on ADC (Arkansas Department of Corrections) and the woman resorts to some dirty ass tactics as soon as I walk in. She starts by telling me she's been doing her thorough investigation and listening to my phone calls, and that she knows about my girlfriend that I tell that I love her and then call my wife and turn around and tell her the same. I ask her if it was some type of threat she was implying because what she was talking about had nothing to do with my neighbor's death. She then starts her backpedaling and starts questioning me about $ I had moved in the "free." That's where I decided to end our conversation.
Right before the time period for investigation ran out I received a disciplinary for possession of contraband even though I was never in possession of anything and it was at this point I realized ADC had their scapegoat in the form of myself. That week topped off with another death, same cause. That's 4 deaths from K2 in this prison within 90 days (there was one about a month before my neighbor).
I was found guilty in kangaroo court, given 30 days punitive and 60 days restriction on phone, visits, commissary. A few days later, the Arkansas state pig comes back. The only reason I could see was to fish for some more circumstantial evidence and bring some type of formal charges to cover ADC's ass. I've been in the hole for about 40 days now and as far as that situation, that's where things stand.
Drugs in prison is a sensitive topic in the convict world. Being that I live in it and that I am STG'd out here in Arizona, I will refrain from speaking/writing about the illegal kind as here in solitary they are not as prevalent as they are out there on the yards. I will not lie though, and say that they are non-existent here, as all convicts know "where there is a will, there is a way." But what I mean is that there is no one all strung out or in debt and so forth.
The number one drug here is the pills that the contract medical provider, Corizon Health, Inc., is giving to everyone, i.e. the legal kind. These prescription drugs that come in the guise of treatment are what reigns supreme here in SMU. You don't even have to wait for visit on the weekends like on the yard. No way not here, here they are passed out on the daily, twice a day, even three times a day to some. These drugs are prescribed by so called "clinicians who use an evidence based approach to treat conditions such as yours which includes maximizing formulary medication use while providing safe and effective treatment," to quote Corizon staff verbatim. This is actually impossible as you cannot eyeball someone and use that as your evidence. That is just a guess, and not an educated one.
Now that they have taken actual pain medication, which is only gabapentin, a pill to treat nerve damage, Corizon staff have been directed to prescribe psych drugs in replacement. So instead of further treatment that include MRIs, EMG treatment, physical therapy, or a range of other options, they are taking away a drug that works, to prescribe you an anti-depressant for pain management as if the depression from you being here was causing you pain and not the stenosis in your neck, AC joint separation, nerve damage, etc. This psych med is like the commercials that you see on TV where the side effect is diarrhea, headache, etc.
The system gives you these legal drugs instead of approving further treatment because MRIs cost money, and outside care visits cost money. So they want you on psych meds to have you walking around like a zombie or not so depressed from being STG'd and housed in solitary. Even the law firms and organizations representing us in Parsons v. Ryan are aware, yet choose to do nothing. Corizon staff and Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) staff actually tell you to seek outside legal representation, like a dare! But while all we want is to be treated for our injuries and not drugs, ADC will not step in nor will our so-called legal team. Instead, our drugs at this unit are more habit-forming and more highly accessible than the illegal kind, and will continue to be supplied by our very own med provider Corizon, and all legally.
ADC will just allow this to continue to take place and protect their mule, Corizon, just like the drug cartels in the motherland. This is ADC's "plaza" and Corizon will continue to funnel drugs all over the state of Arizona, not through tunnels, planes, boats, or on foot but right through the front gate with a badge and a greeting, service with a smile!
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer brings up an important point about drugs in prison. The problem isn't just illegal drugs numbing minds and harming bodies, it's also legal drugs being prescribed by the prison medical teams to keep the population pacified. This pacification happens through the action of anti-depressants and anti-psychotics, which can dull all emotions, and also through addictive drugs like pain meds. Instead of treating the real problems, both physical and emotional, that are caused by years of living in the harmful conditions of Amerikan prisons, prison medical staff just treat the symptoms, if they offer any treatment at all.
From the capitalist perspective, in the short term providing inadequate health care and getting people addicted to pacifying drugs is an effective way to control costs and control the prison population. But in
the long term this makes no sense, even for the capitalists. Health problems left untreated will only get worse as people age, and become more expensive to deal with. Further, releasing prisoners addicted to
pain killers or other drugs does not lead to productive life on the streets.
This only makes sense in the context of a criminal injustice system that wants to maintain a revolving door of an expanding prison population. One that doesn't care if prisoners live or die, as long as they stay
passive. While it may be true that cost is part of the reason good treatment isn't provided, Amerikans are happy to spend lots of money on prisons in general. Spending all that money is justified because the prisons provide an effective tool of social control, targeting oppressed nations and all who resist the capitalist system. The drugs given to prisoners behind bars are just one part of that control.