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Under Lock & Key

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[Education] [Texas] [ULK Issue 10]
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Cellies Educating Each Other

Studying in Allred UnitGreetings to all my brothers and sisters and political prisoners. I want to encourage all comrades to promote educational thinking. My cellmate, who is a Crip, took time out of his schedule to teach me how to count. Yes, count. I dropped out of high school in the 9th grade to only have to come to prison and learn math. I'm 37 and my celly is 28. He encouraged me and pushed me to use my mind. We have had our ups and downs inside this cell which is in a high security unit.

The administration does not care if we kill each other, but instead we build each other. He sees my potential and motivated me to use it. Comrades, do not let youth fool you. They look at us as leaders. But if you only want to prove how ignorant and violent you are or "was", they will continue to promote that too.

Failure is falling down and staying there. Get back up! Know thyself.

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[Education] [Illinois] [ULK Issue 9]
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Only the Educated are Free

Back in 100 A.D. a greek philosopher named Epictetus uttered these five words: "Only the educated are free." Today these five words ring true to a lot of us who find ourselves in residence behind the walls of the United States prison system. The U.S. has 5% of the world's population, yet is responsible for 25% of the world's prison population. 1 in every 31 adults in the United States is in jail, prison, or on some sort of supervised release. Now, with that in mind, we prisoners should have a strong voice, and I applaud MIM for trying to help us organize that voice for the common good.

Where do we start? Go back to the quote I opened with, and then take a look at MIM platform plank number one: Primary, secondary and college education free to the whole world. Let's localize that to ourselves for the time being. As "guests" of the prison system, we have lots of free time. In case you have not noticed, the government has no problem with us using all that time to play cards, watch TV, maybe take a few of their so-called "educational" programs and basically kick us out the door no better than we were when we came in. There are a ton of correspondence courses available to prisoners from many different colleges in many different disciplines. Apparently though, a criminal seeking a higher education, to better himself while behind bars, scares those in charge.

In 1994, the government stopped awarding Pell grants to prisoners to pay for their education. Considering that, by the Bureau of Prisons' own statistics, 40% was the average recidivism rate for parolees in general compared to only 5% for those with college degrees. So one would have to ask, why would the government choose to promote recidivism versus education? There are two simple answers: money and fear. The government makes too much money off of prison and the fruits of prison labor.

As for fear, the government is scared that the prison population will become educated, vocal and organized, which is exactly what needs to happen. Groups like MIM are going to make it happen. I encourage all of you to start a writing campaign. U.S. Senator Jim Webb has vowed to look at every aspect of our criminal justice system from top to bottom to "fix" it. Well, here's a chance to let our collective voice be heard. Encourage other prisoners to write, encourage your families to write:

Senator Jim Webb
248 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Ask why only the rich and the white collar criminals are deemed worthy of outside education and a realistic shot at not coming back to prison.

MIM(Prisons) adds: Send us copies of letters sent to Senator Webb so that we can also publicize this struggle. We also point our readers to Under Lock and Key issue #8 where we discussed in detail the economics of prisons. In reality the government is not making money off prison labor, but they are benefiting greatly from the social control provided by the prison system.

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[Education] [Texas]
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Sharing the Revolutionary Message, Opening Eyes

To my komrades at MIMs, I would like to thank you all, firm and true to our cause members, seeing and making progress with the lumpen and other oppressed groups. I just received your Under Lock & Key March 2009 issue, and I was pleased to read the many different views and struggles around Amerika (prison system) which not only inspire me but allow for me to understand that this octopus of a capitalist system is still at war oppressing people and nations. The revolutionary mindedness that I have built upon since receiving your publications, going on two years strong, has given renewed strength and encouragement not only to me but to all those seekers wanting to be and who are a part of your movement. My highest respects!

I myself have been reaching to the masses in here and out in the free world trying to maintain unity and strength and by doing so I’ve come to see that so many prisoners who are locked up with me don’t have that kind of support from outside people. So what I have come to do in light of that has been giving your information so that they may find encouragement and mental support through your organizational work.

Not everyone I’ve come across understands the oppression that they face because for some reason they truly believe they are given this life of pain and slavery behind the choices they have come to make. I try my best to express to them that it is the fucked up politics of this government that has us doing these things, and some come to see and understand and others choose to ignore and accept everything that comes their way. Man! It’s crazy how some people think in here.

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[Education] [Hobby Unit] [Texas]
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Education Program but No Classes Available in Texas

I'm writing this letter because I'm upset with the Texas Prison education system. Here in the Hobby unit they lack the space in classrooms and the counselors seem to not care because the seats that could be put to good use by someone who really wants to better themselves are being given to and occupied by people who don't want to be in school.

I completed one of the three vocations that I am allowed to take through TDCJ in July of 2008. I have been waiting since then to take another vocation, one of which is offered here, but they are steadily putting people in the class who don't want it.

I'm due to see parole anytime from now until April so I qualify to take the vocation but still have not been put in the class.

I'm outraged because we are supposedly sent to prison to rehabilitate ourselves, however we are denied the fundamental materials necessary to do so.

I received my GED October 2005 and that was the last time I took what Texas prisons call an EA test to see what educational level you are at. I'm a 9.5 on a D level and I've been trying for almost a year to be scheduled to re-take my EA so that I can bring my score up to an A level so that I can attend a college vocational. I've been told that I'm on the list for almost a year now.

Although the Texas prison system has an educational program, they do not want us to better ourselves. This is unacceptable for society.

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[Education] [California] [ULK Issue 6]
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Responses to ULK5

To my loyal solid freedom fighters. ULK5 has reached its destination safe and sound (to my hands). I must say this one really caught my eye. It's contents are enjoyable and very inspiring to say the least. First, I'd like to extend my thanks and appreciation to MIM for their unending support and dedication. You never fail to teach or elighten me on so many different levels. I can't wait to be set free and given my opportunitity to help and shine a light on the injustices of this corrupt system.

I'm pending validation right now so I can really identify with what was said in ULK. Obama changes nothing, Amerika can't see this point of view. I mean are they blind, in denial, or what? Especially when rappers, musicians, go out of their way to show support. I understand the dire need for change. But changing the face is not going to change the system. The comrade who wrote this article couldn't have said it better: "why is it that if Barrack Obama starts talking about the empowering of oppressed people in this country, he wouldn't stand a chance of becoming President?" Because that's the truth and a lot of people can't handle the truth.

And to CDC's name change, it's ridiculous, nothing but a lie. I'm up for parole in a matter of months. I've been down 10 years. What are they doing to help me prepare for society? Not a damn thing. Except find a way to oppress me even more by labeling me an active gang member and validating me as a prison gang member. All in an attempt to further hinder my so-called freedom once I depart from these gates.

Now I'd like to take a minute and respond to a New York prisoner's words. His is a response to ULK4. He sees the great need for struggle, this can't be stressed enough. We must be patient and humble. Do not let others actions or words disturb our peace and harmony. We need to stay focused on the big picture which would be true liberation. We must educate ourselves and learn rules, laws, and regulations. Even CDC's appeal system. I know it sounds crazy. The system sets up a system to hear their own grievances against them. I have no faith in it either from personal experience.

There is a way to work it, however, and that is get an outside organization to assist you. Send them copies and have them send them into wardens or overseers. You must have patience, build a paper trail, and document everything pertaining to said incident. My last citizen complaint took 4 months just to hear it on an informal level. The stalling in time is just a tactic CDC uses but don't be discouraged. Assist one another, teach and guide one another.

And to a Mississippi prisoner's Combatting Liberalism: very well spoke comrade. I aspire to put words together as you have. They truly inspired me. Reading this whole ULK was inspiring. It's words such as these that keeps that fire burning within to the fullest. I awake everyday eager to learn or teach somebody something new.

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[Education] [Texas]
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Stop being passive and join the fight

As I sit here and watch what the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has done to my fellow man, I can't help but pick up the banner of justice and fight for a just cause.

What I see day in and day out, is a group of men beaten by a system of oppression, with no identity or cause to go on living under the title of "men." Everyone in this system has given up. They are in a state of confusion, with no understanding on what it means to be free. Free from the bonds that the system wants you to be in.

I've noticed that it's not that the system that won't let you educate yourself, they just won't. They are more interested in the idiot box (TV) and being modern day slaves of the system. The average inmate is content with where he is now. The three meals, television and living quarters, a six by nine cinder block cell, is more than some have in the free world. The mentality is that its free food, no bills, and free medications for the taking. It's a pitiful sight.

With thinking like this, the injustice system will never change. Texas is so far behind times that we still don't get good time and work time, but even with this, you are doing 80% of your time. What does it take for everyone to realize we can change this system and break it from the inside out? Without our labor, this system would fold in on itself. Our free labor makes the revenue to run this system. No work, no money.

Anywhere you look and read, the Texas prison system is running at 50 to 60% shortage of officers. As many as they hire, the same amount quit. If no one worked who would replace us and at what cost? They simply couldn't. But Texas doesn't have to worry because the breed of prisoner now is content with oppression. It's a sad sight, but it's the truth.

No one is willing to sacrifice for a better future and your basic human rights. Can't they see we are a force that can't be denied. You don't stop being a man just because you were sentenced to do time. A man will always be a man regardless of the situations he is put in.

It's hard to make them understand. the literature is open for the reading. Education, struggle, sacrifice, and unity is key for success. I'm doing my part to make the movement known. Fear has just been embedded so deep by authority that it eats their whole insides and steals their hope. Without hope, their futures are lost.

All I can say is that, I plead that these brothers (by brothers, I mean all races) open their eyes and stand up against the injustices of the system. If you have a voice, let it be heard and felt. The same fear that the system throws our way, it can be used in return. I hope word goes out to all brothers of the struggle. Educate yourselves to educate others. It is key to further the cause, and stop the injustices of not only our system, but all inustice systems of these united states.

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[Legal] [Education] [California] [ULK Issue 4]
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Fighting for a library

Thank you for sharing the struggle of others bearing much heavier crosses than mine. At this prison I'm trying to establish an Inmate Library Committee - which legally we should already have. The law library is our most powerful tool from within institution walls and the administrative authorities here at this prison have turned our law library into nothing more than a copy room to promote their agenda. The law library here at Mule Creek State Prison does not even have typewriters or provide legal envelopes for purchase or otherwise.

This is my struggle, this is our struggle! The Department of Corrections has coordinated an attack at our ability to be heard by the courts - and the tide is on their side.

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[Organizing] [Education] [Nevada] [ULK Issue 4]
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USW organizing in Nevada

I received your recent missive; thank you for the USW information. I understand you do not have a USW chapter in Nevada. I am not surprised; in fact, I suspected there wasn't, for there is no revolutionary core among the oppressed nationalities. I will assume responsibility of USW leader in Nevada.

There is an extreme lack of literature circulating among Nevada prisoners to begin breaking new ground and give rise to a revolutionary core here. To illustrate my point: the side I'm on, housing over 100 prisoners, has no political material in circulation, except my literature. I'm the only one on my side with political material (and the Wall Street Journal). Because of this, I find that lack of political education - or lack of choice to be politically educated - to be a hinderance to establishing a revolutionary core.

Simply put, we need more literature in circulation.

Generally, Nevada prisoners suffer from the same injustices endured by prisoners at large: education issues, medical, control units, etc. However, we have issues that are unique to us and we must struggle against alongside general issues. I am preparing a platform in harmony with the goals outlined in your letter.

This letter is to officially declare that I will lead in the tasks of erecting USW in Nevada.

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[Organizing] [Education] [California]
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Fighting for rights to education and organize

I am a prisoner of the State of California at CSP-Corcoran. I received your address from the Prison Activist Resource Center and was interested in your ad about helping prisoners to organize and educate themselves. Right now I'm prepared to take legal action against this prison for exercising injustice, oppression and corruption against me. They dislike when a prisoner stands up against their injustice and exercises his constitutional right. I personally will not allow my rights to be stripped away nor will I stand by idle when the helpless are being oppressed!

Malik Shabazz stated: "And one of our first programs is to take our problem out of the civil rights context and place it at the international level, of human rights, so that the entire world can have a voice in our struggle!" What a profound speech and lovely concept to strive for. I dislike injustice, tumult and oppression at any level of society. My goal here is to promote justice and human rights in this prison. The only way to fight the system is with the system!

Malik Shabazz also stated: "But all of that violence that they display at the international level, when you and I want just a little bit of freedom, we're supposed to be nonviolent. They're violent. They're violent in Korea, they're violent in Germany, they're violent in the South Pacific, they're violent in Cuba, they're violent wherever they go. But when it comes time for you and me to protect ourselves against lynchings, they tell us to be nonviolent." Luckily we are protected by the U.S. Constitution and this allows us to be nonviolent and utilize the legal system, this is why one of my current objectives is to study, learn and practice legal law. If you can please donate any legal books, i.e. law dictionary, how to file 1983 Civil complaints, or books on how to file motions.

MIM(Prisons) responds: There is a constant demand for law books and other educational materials in prisons. This is an indictment of the prison system which doesn't even pretend to help rehabilitate people.

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[Education] [California]
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Education system lacking but still fighting

I was studying Comrade George L. Jackson's "Blood in my Eyes" when I first came to know of your organization and movement. After inquiring I was given a little more information and agreed completely with everything that you expressed and stood for.

I'm currently serving a life sentence, though I strive each day to relieve myself of this oppressive prison system, having gone through this experience has been fundamental in the development of my revolutionary consciousness. When I was running the streets the same conditions that exist in prison where I'm at existed out there as well. It took the compounding of these conditions that prisons create to lead me to open my eyes. More than that, being housed and living with, and in many cases fighting along side with, BGF, Crips, Bloods, former Black Panthers, and others, gave me the strength and realization that there is still much work to be done.

George Jackson has become a role model of sorts for me. His strength, intelligence and desire for positive and meaningful change are aspects I see within myself. Through this process of self and environmental reflection I've come into my own ideas of how to affect change, and have begun working with a couple of other comrades towards this end. But one many can only do so much by himself, or even with a few determined comrades.

I read about the USW (United Struggle from Within) and I want to become a part of this. Because this prison is quick to suppress any efforts to organize prisoners around anything that isn't conformatory, I haven't heard of any others involved with the USW. But that's not to say there are not any. I will work from my end to affect the goals and objectives of the USW.

The conditions of my prison are as follows: the overcrowding here is out of control and has lead to the placing of prisoners on bunks in the middle of the day room floors and gym, two places that were never intended to house prisoners.

The conditions I find to be most objectionable however are those you can't see. Not having the access to exact numbers I can only describe the following situation from a first hand perspective. Though I'm a convicted murderer, at the moment I'm a level 3 prisoner, and many of my comrades here will be heading back to the streets within the next 5 years. The education system here is worthless. A man who is given the chance to work toward his GED isn't given any help in the way of actually understanding the information he's asked to memorize off the packet of work he's given. The man is asked to sit in a classroom for 6 hours where he receives no instruction, and the teacher, like most of the so-called students, is goofing off, doing everything except the work intended. These men are fed through a worthless system where their only requirement is that they show up.

From what I have read, education is the biggest factor in the reasons people come to prison in the first place, and return in the second. And yet, when money "needs" to be cut, it's education that is the first place they turn to. The system in my eyes hides this fact by compensating the lack of education with an abundance of yard time. My prison does offer a college correspondence course, one must first have his GED and with a majority of the prisoners being unable to read through an entire newspaper their ambitions remain as such, alone and to themselves. So with the illusion of GED and college classes, the fact that many of the prisoners will never participate or complete them is hidden from those too distracted walking laps around the prison yard. Thankfully I came in with a GED, and I am taking college classes. But the basis of this educational system is to be laughed at.

The conditions of today's prison system are not, in my eyes, as physical as they once were in the 50s, 60, 70s, and 80s. Though I'm only 25 years old, I tend to view the developing prison system as I do the development of the New African Nation here in America. Some think that because the physical restraints have come off and we have been given fists full of "rights" that we've come along in the way of freedom. I take nothing away from those who lived and died to achieve these rights, but the United States is a flexible entity that has existed as long as it has because it is able to mold itself with developing and commanding situations. I ask myself, did slavery end because they finally work up and realized their abuses, or did it become just too difficult to maintain any longer? I like to believe it's the former. The abuses of this country or of its prison system have only receded from the front lines where it's most easily attacked, to the rear, where those of less than open eyes cannot see its source.

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