The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

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[Education] [Release] [South Woods State Prison] [New Jersey] [ULK Issue 2]
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DOC claims integrating Prisoners back to society/work force a priority

I felt the need to express my opinion on this matter, since I will be one who will be affected by this phenomenon that has yet to be solved.

The other day I was watching the New Jersey Network channel, in which they were airing a program called Due Process. The topic being spoken of on Due Process was on the issue that prisoners will be facing prior to their release from prison. The main & only topic was "jobs." there were several spokespersons, one was from Princeton University & the other was from the Department of Corrections.

The Department of Corrections states that they have implemented programs to help prisoners in obtaining jobs when released back into society. So here I am to expose the so-called programs & to hopefully make clear what is the Department of Corrections (DOC)'s main priority.

As you may know, I am a prisoner at Southwoods State Prison (SWSP) in the state of New Jersey, which is the largest prison in New Jersey. In this prison you have a variety of programs that you may choose from. They consist of Educational, Vocational, therapeutic programs such as Moral Recognition Therapy, Life Skills & AA. DOC has also started a program by the name of S.T.A.R.S. which is suppose to help prisoners to re-enter society. The S.T.A.R.S. program provide prisoners with the help of resources, how to apply for jobs and how to manage your money. There is also another so-called program that is provided to prisoners who are within 2 weeks of their release from prison to prepare them to re-enter society. This program also provides resources.

This leaves us with DOC's top priority program, The Therapeutic Community Drug Program, which to my understanding is a funded program. The Therapeutic Community Program (TC) is a program that is provided in several of the New Jersey State Prisons for prisoners with substance abuse disorders. It does not provide prisoners with educational, vocational, nor a transitional re-entry back to society.

Upon entering DOC, you are interviewed by so-called trained clinical screeners, to evaluate the severity of ones substance abuse. Once you see classification, which have the final say, they determine if you qualify for the TC program by evaluating your clinical screening results. If your results are a 5 and above, then you are automatically classified to the TC Program. Now the catch to this program is that if you deny or refuse the TC Program, you are given an I-Overide, which means that you will not receive any type of status, forcing you to do the remaining of your time behind the wall without the possibility of obtaining full minimum status or the possibility of obtaining full minimum status or the possibility of going to a Halfway house, unless you submit to such TC Program. I am one who will be facing the I-Overide for my refusal to participate in such programs. I was classified with a score of 5 which according to the Administration makes me an appropriate candidate for such programs, in which I have no substance abuse disorder since 1999 & my Pre-Sentence Report states clearly "no drug use during the time f crime, no drug evaluation or recommendations for drug use programs." But according to the Administration they state that due to my previous and present drug charges, I am an appropriate candidate for such programs. Funny that no where in the 10A Law does it state that you will be classified to the TC Program because of your past & present drug conviction. But as I mentioned above, the TC Program is a funded program, which provides money to DOC for keeping the programs beds filled. Which leads me to really question the contradiction that DOC has imposed on itself. What is really their priority? Are they really providing prisoners with the proper transition program to re-enter society, who has always abandoned our interest & needs, after being released?

DOC claims are nothing but bull shit, like every politician here in the united snakes, who sell dreams. DOC fails to really understand the prisoner's needs. Lack of job opportunities is not the only obstacle that many prisoners will be facing when released. Many prisoners will be facing the obstacles of not having a place to stay upon their release & health issues as well. But has any of this really been a concern to DOC? Of course not! If DOC was really concerned about this issue, then they will provide more educational & vocational programs. Here the only certificate that is really recognized in society is the GED certificate, which is authentic. All the other certificates are not recognized in society. I took a Core Curriculum & Building Trades course at this prison and according to the teacher who taught one of my classes, the certificate that I received from the National Center for Construction, Education & Research really meant nothing. He stated that if we were to provide these certificates in our resume or job interview, that employers will probably laugh because the reality is that no one has ever heard of such a place.

Here at this prison there are College courses, that are being provided to those prisoners who are under 25 years of age. Leaving those who do not meet the age criteria with no hope of pursuing a higher learning. Of course there are College correspondence courses, but the issue with such courses, is the money the prisoner will have to pay, in a place where the common pay is $1.40 a day.

There is truly a lack of understanding by DOC, when it comes to the prisoner population, in dealing with the needs & obstacles that we face collectively when we are released from prison. The priority should be Educational & Vocational learning skills. DOC should find a solution for upgrading the educational & vocational programs.

Here in New Jersey, every prison has an Inmate Trust Fund, which is generated by the surcharge of the Institution Commissary Sales. What the Inmate Trust Fund is being used for is recreational equipment, Incentive Meals and for more commissary purchases. This trust fund is well over 2 million dollars.

To give you an insight into how much the Inmate Trust Fund generates a month, I will give an example. At this prison it is said that it holds up to 2800 prisoners. Let's say that all these prisoners receive a state pay of $16.00 a month. Let's also say that all 2800 prisoners will use their $16 for commissary orders. So 2800 prisoners x 16.00 dollars = $44,800 dollars made in commissary sales, now $44,800 x 10% of commissary surcharge = $4,480 made for the Inmate Trust Fund. Just think, over the years the amount that the Inmate Trust Fund has generated. Yet DOC claims that they run on limited funds for educational programs.

This money from the Inmate Trust Fund should be used to build a complex to provide prisoners with a true & certified vocational trades before and after release. It should be mentioned that the Inmate Trust Fund is run by a Board of Trustees, in which we the prison population have no say or rights.

If DOC wants to make re-entry a priority, they should stop giving I-Overides for a TC Program that does not provide any educational or vocational learning skills and and replace them with proper training to re-enter society. If you were to do a survey of prisoners who participated in TC Program and prisoners who participated in real educational & vocational training, I can guarantee we would see a lower recidivism rate among those who got the educational & vocational training.

It is evident that the DOC priority is money as they keep giving I-Overides to those who refuse TC Program, while educational & vocational programs are optional. As mentioned above, the TC Program enrollment brings money to the DOC while other training does not. If they were truly concerned about prisoners post-release they would give I-Overides for refusing educational & vocational training instead.

DOC's form of helping to deal with this matter is by providing prisoners with pamphlets listing resources. This method is like giving a person a map to find a specific place. Of course I will refer to the pamphlets as I would the map, but the rest is really up to us.

Another way that DOC could really help prisoners with the transition back to society is to bring back the Work Release Program that were eliminated for reasons unknown to me. And if they were to bring back the Work Release Program they should find jobs that provide true vocational skills for prisoners to become equipped with the proper training for today's work force.

I myself will not submit to the TC Program, I will not take part of a program whose only benificiary is the DOC, not me. I tell all those inside the belly of the beast, to stop submitting, stop participating in any TC program. Note that DOC has no priority or concerns in this matter. Don't rely on DOC rehabilitative process because if you do it will only keep you contained. The struggle continues.

MIM replies: We don't know much about the programs described above, but we actively support the demand for more educational and training opportunities for prisoners. As the author stated, these are proven means for helping prisoners after release and therefore helping society as a whole. There are tactics that we can use to build a campaign among prisoners and concerned citizens on the outside to push some of the reforms suggested.

At the same time, we encourage those who are concerned with these problems to work to build the Serve the People Prisoner Re-Lease on Life program as well as our Free Books and educational programs for prisoners. The state has the ability to provide various training on a large scale to prisoners. But as we see here, this is a constant battle. And ultimately we must create institutions that can provide the people with what they really need.

The DOC has two main motivating factors: 1) to perform the task of social control, including the suppression of liberation movements, and 2) the meeting of the narrow economic interests of the bureaucracy and prison guard unions. Only institutions by and for the people, free of these narrow interests can really address the concerns expressed in this article.

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[Education]
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MIM literature opening eyes

Greetings! Let me start by saying "thank you - thank you" for sending me the newsletters (MIM Notes). It was very much appreciated. MIM Notes gives us important news and as of this moment they're being shared with others, opening the eyes/minds to our struggles. Especially the prison news Under Lock & Key. I ask in the interest of myself/others if you could please send me more MIM Notes. Thank you for your time and hard work!

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[Education] [Campaigns] [Censorship] [California] [ULK Issue 1]
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California Bans MIM Distributors

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has instituted a ban on educational material within prisons, categorically censoring all literature sent by MIM's prisoner education program. This ban was mandated by Scott Kernan, Director of the Division of Adult Institutions for California, in a memorandum issued December 13, 2006 "directing an immediate ban on the receipt, possession, or distribution of literature/publications from MIM to or by inmates in the custody of the CDCR." This ban has been interpreted by prisons to include dictionaries and history books as well as MIM's own magazine and newspapers. In some prisons the ban has been interpreted to also include all letters written by MIM.

This censorship is in direct violation of legal precedent which requires review of mail for content that violates prison policy. Systematic rejection of all mail from an organization based on disagreement with the sender's politics is not legal, even within the prison system's own rules and regulations.

Neither Kernan nor the prison administrators applying the ban have ever supplied any evidence that MIM literature (much less, letters, dictionaries and other books MIM sends to prisoners) present any threat to the institutions. Kernan's letter contains a review of the MIM political line as supposed evidence that MIM represents some danger to California prisons. The California Code Of Regulations (CCR) Title 15, sec: 3135(b) states: "Disagreement with the senders or receivers apparent moral values, attitudes veracity, or choice of words will not be used by correctional staff as a reason for disallowing or delaying mail. Correctional staff shall not challenge or confront the sender or receiver with such value judgments, nor shall such value judgments be considered in any action affecting the correspondents." Further, in Procunier v. Martinez, the Supreme Court upholds the right of prisoners to receive mail, regardless of the prison official’s opinion of the mail content, as long as there are no legitimate restrictions from the prison related to correctional purposes.

There is a strong correlation between education and imprisonment. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (the U.$. Department of Justice's own organization) latest study on 1997 population data, 41% of State and Federal prisoners had not completed high school. This compares with 18% of the general population age 18 and older.(1) Things look even worse among prisoners age 20 to 39 showing that the trend is towards more prisoners without a high school education as younger prisoners are even less educated than older prisoners. Other more recent studies have shown this trend continues. The likelihood of ending up in prison is tremendously higher for young Black men who drop out of school before getting a high school diploma. And a college degree is further protection against imprisonment.

On the other side of education, in-prison education programs have repeatedly been shown to reduce recidivism by helping prisoners to find jobs and opportunities once they are released. Individual and meta studies repeatedly conclude the same thing:

"Since 1990, the literature has shown that prisoners who attend educational programs while they are incarcerated are less likely to return to prison following their release. Studies in several states have indicated that recidivism rates have declined where inmates have received an appropriate education. Furthermore, the right kind of educational program leads to less violence by inmates involved in the programs and a more positive prison environment."(2)

California already has one of the highest recidivism rates in the country, with an astronomical 70% of released prisoners ending up back inside within three years. And in recent years we have seen education programs, visitation, and even mail cut back so that prisoners are left with very little to do behind bars and a virtually impossible task of going straight from prison to the streets with no education or transitional services.

Implementing a state-wide ban of educational material from MIM is one more way to keep prisoners locked up. Prisoners who read our literature frequently tell us they learn to channel their time into productive activities rather than participating in violence behind bars. And the education helps them have a better chance at staying on the street once they are released. We get letters pleading for reading materials like this one all the time: "I'm an inmate at Salinas Valley State Prison and am on a yard that's been on lockdown off and on for approximately 4 years. Therefore I'm unable to get to the library here. I've read every 'floater' here. I would be very grateful for any soft back books you could send. Anything you send will be read and reread by many inmates." Surely the CDC"R" knows there is a demand for reading materials in the prisons, but they don't even bother to fill this void with fluff novels. They prefer to spend their large budget on higher salaries for brutal guards and legal defense for their illegal activities like setting up prisoner fights for sport.

Of course, the CDC"R" does have reasons to ban MIM from the prisons. Educating prisoners is counter to their goal. With education comes consciousness, and while prisoners working with MIM report avoiding violent confrontations (both with their peers and with guards), they are also more likely to take up legal and administrative appeals, and to educate and organize their fellow prisoners to stand up for their legal rights. As one California prisoner wrote to us in October of last year:

"In extending my respects to all, I would also like to convey my heartfelt appreciation to everyone working at, working with and/or affiliated with Maoist Internationalist Movement for all that you do and the services you provide. Especially, in regards to prisoners. Speaking from personal experience I can say that in receiving and reading your newsletters, it's both a major source of motivation and encouragement. To say that your MIM Notes have served me well does not cover any specifics, but I can say that your notes have been a potent ingredient towards my transformation: and your free books to prisoners program has nurtured and fed me like a baby at his mother's bosom. The books you have been so generous to send have taught me to respect and value the importance of an education…an education that has taught me that with knowledge comes enormous responsibility. The responsibility that arises from not just knowing the difference between what is said to be right, or wrong, testing an deciphering, truth and lies, but knowing and acting in accordance with what is consistent and progressive in the exercise of self determination and self defense."

We will continue to pursue the fight against this ban in California, working closely with our comrades behind bars to challenge this action in court if necessary. We encourage the CDCR leadership and California state politicians to step forward and overturn this illegal ban before they are forced to waste money needlessly in a legal battle that will only further expose their disregard for Rehabilitation, the welfare of prisoners, and the very laws they claim to uphold.

We need support from prisoners to join this struggle, and support from people on the outside to demand an end to this ban. Write protest letters to: James Tilton, Secretary, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 1515 S. Street, Sacramento, CA 95184

1. Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report: Education and Correctional Populations, January 2003 2. Journal of Correctional Education, v55 n4, p297-305, December 2004. See also The Nation, March 4, 2005: "Studies have clearly shown that participants in prison education, vocation and work programs have recidivism rates 20-60 percent lower than those of nonparticipants. Another recent major study of prisoners found that participants in education programs were 29 percent less likely to end up back in prison, and that participants earned higher wages upon release."

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[Education] [Censorship] [California]
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Education is essential, must fight censorship

Revolutionary greetings to your staff. I just received your letter with the information on prison censorship. I'm fully schooled with the state's so-called laws. In the past I have not had any problems receiving MIM Notes or the study books. I fully understand that problems do come up behind the hands of the oppressor. This is why freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.

Let's test the water for now and please start sending me educational material. The struggle can not be stopped, I refuse to let them take control of my mind. I'm 50 years old, been in prison on and off for 30 years, and now three strikes have me. I refuse to lay down on myself or other oppressed people. The most dangerous weapon in this world is a fully focused mind.

MIM adds: MIM was banned in California prisons by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in December of 2006. We are working with our comrades behind bars to fight this ban. We need support from prisoners to join this struggle, and support from people on the outside to demand an end to this ban. Write protest letters to: James Tilton, Secretary, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 1515 S. Street, Sacramento, CA 95184


Campaign info:
MIM Banned in CA!
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[Education] [Legal] [West Valley Detention Center] [California] [ULK Issue 1]
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No access to legal materials or education

I am writing to let MIM comrades be informed on ever more injustice in our so-called system. As of today I have been awaiting trial almost four and a half years, since I was sixteen years old. At sixteen I was placed in a juvenile facility, then the day after my eighteenth birthday was placed in West Valley Detention Center for women in California.

There is not one program at this facility for those awaiting trial - we barely have a library that contains mostly old romance novels. I am not even convicted and have no access to any legal or educational materials. The facility will only provide "Christian" religious materials so any other religions basically do without unless materials can be provided by the outside. We even have some of our religious materials sent back saying they are "gang-related materials" because they are not common beliefs.

How am I to defend myself if I can not get any law books, or educate myself with no real library or any programs? I am 20 years old and have been facing 25 to life since age 16. I now sit idle with my life in the hands of California's injustice system.

Those who have no financial support must also do without personal hygiene and writing materials as these things are not provided free to indigent inmates. Our canteen prices are so high you'd think they could pay to provide us with something! At least get rid of all the gnats, roaches and rats in our facility! Some prisoners here are even kept in ad-seg for their whole waiting process with no real infractions.

I am only one young female inmate and I need the help from my comrades to fight this ridiculous system. I hope to be able to help in this fight, but I can't do it alone.

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[Censorship] [Education] [Fremont Correctional Facility] [Colorado] [ULK Issue 2]
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Winning censor battles in Colorado

Thank you for sending in your MIM Notes. We've played hell getting them in to Colorado D.O.C. They don't like your message of truth. Our mailroom here in Fremont Correctional Center likes to act as our moral censor. Every time you send your notes it has to go through our "reading committee." Every time they have to give it to us.

In Colorado D.O.C. we've paid very little for our slave labor. I'm glad to get your writing and I try to pass it on to others in here. The ideas spark some heated talks between us here. Your words to us in here can and do instigate some good thinking. Keep up your good work for us on the "inside". We are appreciative of you and look forward to your mailings.

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[Education] [Abuse] [Censorship] [California]
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Prisons cutting off education access, increasing brutality

I know you are having trouble getting lit in to the prison. In the BMU (Behavior Modification Unit) it seems they are trying to deplete the literature that is already in the system, while not allowing any new lit in. There are also new restrictions popping up around the state on the number of books you can have. The point: they are trying to systematically prevent alternative education. They want to limit you to the education they provide. GED, basically next to nothing. It is no coincidence that the individuals being flooded with 115s, and placed in BMU are, the jailhouse lawyers, the political educators, and non-conformists, i.e. revolutionary minded individuals. All of these adverse policies must be attacked at the same time. If we get them to allow lit back in it is meaningless if they can just put you in BMU and send it home, it is also costly.

Myself and a bro we will call "Z" were fighting the censorship. "Z" has been doing time since 1974. They transferred him to Corcoran SHU in May. In June they vacated my indeterminate SHU, and placed me in ad-seg pending transfer. I now have none of my property. My property was trans-packed pending transfer to SVSP or CSP general population. Transfers have been routinely taking 6 months or so. It is clear these pigs are serious about repression.

This battle may come to the knife. They are getting physical. They pepper spray people around here on a regular basis. As well as beat people. Something as small as complaining about a missing item on your dinner tray is enough to get you splayed and whipped. The attitude of the pigs seems as if it has changed overnight. I mean it is real bad. They pepper sprayed a guy the other day because he refused breakfast. This kind of abuse is condoned by the brass up to the warden. I don't see how it cannot come to the knife if we have no redress. Appeals are met with more abuse. They routinely use punitive measures and intimidation to get inmates to drop appeals, or to keep other inmates from coming forward as witnesses. The tactics and practices of the Green Wall are spreading at an alarming rate. These practices are not just spreading amongst the rank and file pigs, but the administration.

Please note the struggle against censorship is my top priority. I realize that the education of the prison population is important to our overall struggle for prisoner rights. I am trying to do a quick analysis of the situation. We already have a strategy we are just revisiting our tactics to meet the environmental change. Any assistance MIM could provide in this regard would be greatly appreciated.

MIM replies: We know that it often seems like there is no way to beat the prison administrators and brutal guards, who use violence against prisoners daily, without resorting to violence. But we also see that attacking from behind enemy lines almost always leads to greater repression. And so we urge our comrades behind bars to avoid violence. Obviously prisoner on prisoner violence only serves the prisons. But prisoners retaliating for guard brutality just gives them another excuse to beat you up. We must organize our fight strategically especially when it looks like we are losing ground.

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[Censorship] [Education]
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Studying and struggling in spite of censorship

Just because the study group never got started [because of censorship problems in California prisons] it doesn't mean that I'm not studying or learning anything. I repeatedly go over MTs and past study group questions and answers, constantly trying to see if there's something I missed or didn't quite comprehend the first, second or third time around. Right now I'm going over MT10 for the third time and I must say a lot more knowledge and information is jumping out at me this time around that before. I hope everyone else is doing the same.

Also, I constantly find myself arguing in the dayroom or on the yard, and it's always about the same stuff. I just can't stand hearing the bullshit that comes out of a lot of people's mouths. Like, for example, if I hear someone talking about "our soldiers" over there in Iraq or wherever getting shot at or blow up. Fuck a pig! A pig is a pig is a pig! I quickly point out that they are not our soldiers, but our oppressors, or a fool of the oppressors. Unfortunately it always seems to be an uphill battle.

Also, the MT on the white proletariat certainly came in handy the other day. There's this guy in here, one of many in here whom I like to argue with on a regular basis. I like blowing holes in his bourgeois theories. Not just that, but more importantly I want to help him understand the evils of capitalism and the science of self-criticism. I think the MT helped a lot.

Anyways, just letting you guys know that the struggle continues.

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[Education] [Control Units] [State Correctional Institution Houtzdale] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 1]
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No useful education in the hole

I have been locked up here in the PA DOC for over 10 years. Four and a half of that has been served in the RHU "Hole" in retaliation for confronting the PA-DOC administration on a wide range of issues, healthcare, dietary, commissary and about having adequate material for general and law libraries, to name a few. The years I have been locked up I have seen things go from bad to worse to sickening in regards to the way prisoners are treated here in PA.

Less and less money is being spent on effective rehabilitation and educational programs. And the programs that are up and running may look and sound very good on paper when presented to the state legislatures in Harrisburg for funding and the general public. However, in all actuality the programs that the DOC do make available to the prisoners are just a shell of what they should be. After securing Federal or State funding for a particular educational or rehabilitation program a major part of this money then gets diverted to things for the guards' new uniforms, the latest two way walkie talkies, new computers, more video security cameras, and the list goes on and on.

Here at SCI-Houtzdale, two of the educational programs that the administration likes to show off when people from the community or legislatures from Harrisburg come to tour the facility are the computer repair class and the computer aided drafting class. However, for a prisoner to get discharged from the DOC and try getting employment with what they were taught will be very difficult because the technique, computers and software they are learning on is 12 to 15 years out of date. The administration, staff, and COs are getting all the new equipment, not the prisoners. So factor this in when wondering why PA has such a high rate of recidivism.

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[Education] [Political Repression] [New Jersey] [ULK Issue 50]
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Struggle to Reunite with Panther Legacy

I am one of Jersey's political prisoners and because of my gang involvement and political views the state views me as a threat. To control and monitor my behavior and movements I was placed in this closed custody Max-Max Unit.

Many of us long termer gang members have transcended the normal gangbang functions of red and blue. Some of our actual history leads back to the militant movements of the Black Panthers of the 1960s. Many of us know about the Panthers and the movement, but 90% of us have missed the opportunity to learn the actual literature and history that motivated this movement.

I'm in a position to educate these fellas to the real militant movements against this fascist state. I had the benefit of learning about Marxism-Leninism-Maoism from a real revolutionary. I would like to return the favor by teaching others the same.

I would greatly appreciate if you will help me by sending me newspapers. I will send a contribution but not with this letter. This letter contains information that this facility sees as dangerous that would be another reason for them to segregate me further.

All of us here are physical revolutionaries. I believe so simply because the state only responds to violence. This furthers their justification for excessive force, beatings and at times torture. It's time we exercise our minds in making a change. All is appreciated.

Please do not return this letter. All incoming mail is reviewed. We have the freedom to receive any literature. We are ONLY NOT ALLOWED TO TEACH OTHERS.

The system can never kill me.

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