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[Hunger Strike] [Political Repression] [California State Prison, Corcoran] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 35]
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Response in California a Hypocritical Farce

The battle against torture in California prisons is heading for a breaking point with unity running high among prisoners and resistance to change stiffening within the state. Since the third round of strikes ended in early September the promised state legislature hearing around the Security Housing Units (SHU) occurred and Pelican Bay SHU representatives met with California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officials. Yet the actions taken by the state in response to the protests have been the same old political repression that the SHU was created to enforce, not ending conditions of torture. One comrade from Corcoran reports:

I read in your latest publication that you guys hadn't had any news of the concessions Corcoran SHU made in order to bring our hunger strike to an end. For the most part, the demands made here are not even worth articulating, as they don't incorporate, in any way, the push towards shutting these human warehouses down completely.

The demands put forth here are simple creature comforts, which have not even been met by the administration, to pacify those who seem to have accepted these conditions of confinement.

Worse than the petty reforms, is the blatant political repression of strikers just as the world's attention is on them. The state knows that if it can get away with that now, then it has nothing to worry about. As another comrade from Corcoran SHU reports:

I stopped eating state food on 8 July 2013 and as a retaliatory measure I and a bunch of other prisoners were transferred from the Corcoran SHU to the Pelican Bay SHU. Only the thing is, when we got to Pelican Bay on 17 July 2013 we were placed in the ASU instead of the SHU, which made it so that we would have a lot less privileges and we couldn't even get a book to read. So we were just staring at the wall. On 5 August 2013 others and myself were moved to the SHU where we were again just staring at the wall. On 7 September 2013 we were again moved back to the ASU to sit there with nothing. On 24 September 2013 I was moved back to the SHU and I just received all my property last week.

So we were moved around and denied our property for 3 months or more. But that seems to be it right now and I can finally settle in. But I'm telling you that was a long 3 months. Other than that no new changes or anything else has happened around here. I did, however, receive a 115 rules violation report for the hunger strike, along with everyone else who participated, and in it it charges that I hunger striked as part of some gang stuff so it was gang activity. This is ironic since the hunger strike was about the CDCR misusing the validation process and what is considered gang activity. So now that 115 can and will be used as a source item of gang activity to keep me in the SHU longer.

While that comrade was sent to Pelican Bay, our comrade below is being "lost" in Enhanced Outpatient Program (EOP). Organizing in California has gotten so advanced that the CDCR is moving people out of Administrative Segregation to isolate them. But with a third of the people actively participating in protests, there is no way for them to brush this movement under the rug.

I am writing to say that it's been over 5 weeks since our peaceful protest was suspended. I am a petitioner in the Corcoran Administrative Segregation Unit 2011 strike and am a participant and a petitioner in this 8 July 2013 one. I have been moved around and retaliated against. I went from ASU-1 to Cor 3B02 on 24 July 2013. I was moved back to ASU-1 on 16 August 2013 and then on 19 August 2013 I was moved to where I am currently housed in isolation with no access to anything although I am not "EOP." I am being housed against my will and the correctional officers here tell me I don't belong here but that they can't do anything because it's above their pay level. No one seems to know anything about why I am being housed here but all come to the same conclusion: that someone above them has me housed here. I'd like to know if there is anyone out there that you may have heard of that find themselves in similar situations or am I the only one?

We haven't heard anything yet. But don't let their games get to you comrade.

Another indication of the strength of change in California comes from a story being circulated by representatives of the Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective. Multiple versions have been circulating about a historic bus ride where these "worst of the worst" from "rival gangs" were left unshackled for an overnight bus ride. It was reported that not one of the O.G.'s slept a wink that night, but neither did any conflicts occur. At least some of these men self-admittedly would have killed each other on sight in years past.(1) This amazing event symbolizes the extent to which this has become about the imprisoned lumpen as a whole, and not about criminal interests.

The CDCR keeps telling the public that they are instituting reforms, while in reality they are torturing people for being "gang members" for reasons such as protesting torture. Outside supporters can up the pressure to end this system of repression by letting them know that we know what they're doing, that their words mean nothing, and that going on hunger strike is not a crime. There is a campaign to call the CDCR out on their hypocrisy by contacting:

M.D. Stainer, Director
Division of Adult Institutions
Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
P.O. Box 942883
Sacramento CA. 94283
(916) 445-7688
[email protected]

Those on the outside who want to do more after they make their phone call should contact MIM(Prisons) at our new email address.

As we reiterated last issue, it is prisoners who determine the fate of the prison movement. And the only way prisoners can actually win is by building independent power. As long as this is a campaign for certain reforms, the state will go back to business as usual as soon as the outside attention fades. Torture cannot be reformed, and neither can an exploitative economic system that demands it. Of course prisoners can't end imperialism alone, but wherever we are we must focus on building cadre level organizations that can support independent institutions of the oppressed.

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[Hunger Strike] [Connally Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 35]
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TX Close Custody Struggling Over Conditions

The hunger strike that was to start here at Connally Unit on 21 October 2013 has been postponed. The powers that be have had close custody on continuous lock-down after an annual lock-down was lifted. Even though close custody went on lock-down before the rest of the unit, we have remained on lock-down unable to buy stamps and basic hygiene.

However, a planned hunger strike to protest these conditions is temporarily on hold after meeting with the warden who claims that after we get shaken down we will be let off these inhumane conditions. If the warden does not start taking steps to change our status and conditions we have more who will go on hunger strike with us when we start back. Since we have nothing, we have nothing to lose. The seeds are being planted.

Liberty and Justice!

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[Hunger Strike] [Pontiac Correctional Center] [Illinois] [ULK Issue 35]
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Illinois Strike Ends Prematurely

Illinois prisoners hungry for justice
The 22 prisoner hunger strike at Pontiac Correctional Center that started at the beginning of October 2013 has ended, unsuccessfully, with prisoners being manipulated by the pigs to end the strike. One of the pigs' tactics was to not document prisoners who were on strike more than five days, thus causing some to stop striking. Others simply came off strike because the pigs "promised" to meet some of the demands that were being made. These demands included adequate sanitary supplies, programs for prisoners in long-term segregation, replacement of the current grievance officer, better recreation environment, etc. These requirements have yet to materialize and most prisoners who participated in the strike are scattered throughout the prison now. This separation was inevitable. For the pigs know in unity there's strength, so they reacted by separating us. But this will not stop the struggle. For each one will teach one and strengthen prisoner solidarity in the process.

The goal now is to continue to build unity and peace amongst prisoners so that next time we strike we will be more organized and prepared to struggle fully!


MIM(Prisons) responds: This report highlights some of the risks of getting ahead of the masses. This is at least the second hunger strike organized at Pontiac in the last year that we've heard of. So we do not mean to second guess the comrades' organizing choices there. But as these tactics show successes in some places, they are being imitated elsewhere. And it is important to assess your conditions where you are at, as you must gain more in terms of building peace and unity than you lose in the pigs moving people around and demoralizing the masses from engaging in future actions. The prison movement is on the rise, and by being smart it can continue to rise.

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[Political Repression] [Control Units] [Hunger Strike] [Gang Validation] [California State Prison, Corcoran] [California]
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Political Repression Against Peaceful Protestors at Corcoran Continues

Administrative and medical retaliations continue by California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) staff as retribution for any sort of participation in hunger strikes and/or show of resistance. Recent validation reviews have shown futile since CDCR is utilizing hunger strike and single cell write-ups as proof of [security threat group] association. Doctors first question, before denying all subsequent inmate request for pain management, is: "were you in the hunger strike?" 602s [grievance forms] are disappearing from inside locked metal boxes.


MIM(Prisons) adds:Control units were developed as a form of political and social control within the prison system, and this blatant political repression against prisoners who protested against them shows that social control is still their purpose. The review process is a sham to allow the state of California to continue to torture oppressed people while pretending to make changes.

We must continue the fight against these isolation units, but we know that real and lasting changes will only be made when we dismantle the criminal injustice system. In the short term we fight for reforms to improve the conditions of those locked in these torture cells, but the imperialists will not reform away their tools of social control. This is why we see the fight against the criminal injustice system as an integral part of the anti-imperialist struggle.

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[Hunger Strike] [Control Units] [Pontiac Correctional Center] [Illinois]
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Pontiac on Hunger Strike Again! Strikers join United Front for Peace in Prisons

2 October 2013 - Right now myself and 21 other comrades are on hunger strike. We started on Sunday 29 September 2013. Our purpose for the hunger strike is to bring an end to all the unconstitutional conditions that exist in segregation. These conditions include inadequate cleaning supplies, regular use of excessive force whenever they put prisoners in and out of cells, tampering with prisoners' food, denying prisoners access to recreational time on the yard, and failure to respond to grievances. We are also striving to receive new law library books because correctional officers destroyed the ones we had. We're also striving to get educational and other help programs for prisoners with long-term segregation time.

Most prisoners who are confined in Pontiac Correctional Center are here for staff assaults, and/or are labeled as "STG" (Security Threat Group) status. It is well known that Pontiac C.C. is a 'retaliatory facility' for prisoners with the above labeled offenses. That's why most prisoners who come here with a year of segregation time end up with five, six, seven years segregation time! This is all part of the oppressor's plan to keep places like this operating. That's why me and the other comrades on strike are writing local newspapers and organizations based around the country to receive some outside support.

Me and my comrades have embraced and accepted the United Front for Peace in Prisons Statement of Principles and plan to propagate them amongst the prisoners here in segregation. We see the necessity of all five principles being put into use, as a means to unite and gain unity amongst prisoners here, and hopefully to help free some from the psychological chains of mental slavery.


MIM(Prisons) adds: Just last summer we received a report on a hunger strike at Pontiac Correctional Center for similar demands, and in February a similar strike was reported by others. Our information is limited due to censorship problems in Illinois, but we are working to get better follow up this time around.

The problems at Pontiac were exacerbated last winter after the closure of Tamms Supermax, which, for years, was the primary destination for jailhouse lawyers and prisoner activists. One comrade reports from "North administrative unit where it's a constant battle with our rights and living conditions. Since the closing of supermax Tamms, a lot of guys are now being housed in this unit wrongfully." As long as the oppressor nation feels threatened by the oppressed they will not give up their tools of torture and social control willingly.

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[Abuse] [Hunger Strike] [North Branch Correctional Institution] [Maryland] [ULK Issue 35]
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"New Policies" Being Implemented in MD to Quell Protests

On 9 September an organized collective of over 30 prisoners representing the North Branch Correctional Institution (NBCI) movement for humyn rights submitted demands to the imperialist overlords in regards to the inhumane, unjust and degrading conditions here.

The vanguard of this "demonstration" was determined by pigs to come from the SMU, D tier. Their notice of infraction reports read, "A mass of officers was assembled and a cell to cell inspection of the entire tier was conducted."

Inside the prison, the grunts feel the movement has been suppressed, but the truth is even their tactics of not reporting strikers in need of medical attention, destroying personal effects, and elevated level of all previous oppression had no bearing on the suspension of the protest. The suspension is based on the collective recognition by the Governor, Secretary of Public Safety and DOC Director that change is needed and imminent. A total review has been issued and guarantees of policy change are at hand, as ambiguous as they were.

Since June 2013, NBCI has been on lock-down status. The "new policy" currently being implemented places the entire prison on a "level" system. Their answer to a "return to normalcy" is to allow one hot meal a day in addition to the two bags, one hour of outside recreation a week and one shower a week. Those in general population get one 15 minute telephone call a week as well. In addition, butter has been re-issued to bring the diet calorie count back to pre-lockdown levels. The pigs attempted total control through all means including the withholding of adequate required calorie count. It doesn't seem like much, but 300 calories of butter removed from a 2200 calorie diet does have an effect. Especially when bags are often shorted or withheld. The ever popular "air bag."

Many lawsuits and grievances have been labeled moot in the wake of the drafting of the new STG/step down program as it will supposedly address many of the main demands, like ending indefinite Administrative Segregation. However, nothing currently has been published and I for one hold reservations. When final products have been issued and all fall out dealt with, if copies suffice, I will send them for review.

There are a few soldiers so sick of the outlandish psychological torments that they utterly refuse to eat until they are removed or die. We have tried to reach and support these brothers as we know news reporting ceased a while back and we don't want good soldiers losing themselves to a battle when the war isn't over.

I persynally hope to unify more brothers for a future response for what will most likely be a failed reform, but time is needed to allow the overseers to implement their newest tactic in humyn warehousing and degradation. Then our time shall again be at hand to show the flaws of imperialist bourgeois ideology of suppression and exploitation.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade was organizing around the September 9 day of peace and unity campaign to promote the United Front for Peace in Prisons. It is true that our organizing will go in cycles, with some set backs, and then some forward progress. We are never optimistic that promised policy changes from the DOC or government will result in any positive changes for prisoners. But we can use these set backs to educate others about the failure overall of the criminal injustice system and point to these examples for why we need to organize outside of the system for lasting and fundamental change. These are all good examples of the importance of building an anti-imperialist movement, rather than just fighting small reformist battles. We look to the examples of socialist China to see what is possible in terms of revolutionizing prisons, and society in general. That transformation required the seizure of power from the capitalists and the reorganizing of the economic structure of the whole country. But just as that transformation began in remote villages of China, we can start it today in those who are hidden away in the prisons and control units of the United $tates.

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[Abuse] [Control Units] [Hunger Strike] [Georgia] [ULK Issue 35]
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Striker Still Seeking Justice After Brutal Claw Hammer Beating

As a member of the Georgia hunger strikers of 2012 and the focus of Georgia's prison beating, I strive to awaken these brothers here in Georgia. I have been spreading ULK to all here and to a lot of associates at other prisons. As of 16 September 2013 the video of me being beaten with a claw hammer by these pigs has gone viral. A comrade and myself have filed charges on those pigs, and due to all the exposure, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is doing their best to do damage control, but the damage is too great. Two state Senators are calling for the whole ordeal to be investigated, including the Internal Affairs and Georgia Bureau of Investigation. I'm still at the so-called Special Management Unit.

To the brothers in California I salute you all! To all the fallen comrades: your sacrifice will not be in vain!


MIM(Prisons) adds: This is a good example of the power of media to expose injustice. Unfortunately, mainstream media has little interest in exposing imperialism or the criminal injustice system, as that would not sit well with their advertisers or their Amerikan readership. This is why we need an alternative press. ULK fills this role for prisons in particular. And we can best cover news when prisoners write about what's going on in their state. The 2012 Georgia hunger strike was not written about extensively in ULK because we had to rely on non-prisoner sources. Our ability to contribute to struggles like this one is greatly enhanced with comrades like this writing in with news about the struggle. Exposure does sometimes embarrass the pigs into making changes, and even when it doesn't, we must continue to educate people about the abuse and injustice going on across the criminal injustice system.

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[Hunger Strike] [Work Strike] [Calipatria State Prison] [California]
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Second Support Strike in Calipatria

We had another support strike here on Calipatria's A-Yard from Aug 26 to the 28th. The July 8th support strike went on for 7 days and involved all races. There was also broad refusal to go to work or school. This time around, however, only Mexicans refused food and people still went to work. On top of all that, the food strike was called off right after a race riot broke out on the yard between us (Mexicans), and the whites. We skipped 9 meals but I'm not even sure that the pigs reported this as a hunger strike.

The pigs have clever ways of manipulating our numbers here. During normal program we get a sack lunch as we exit the chow hall after breakfast and I believe they lump this together as one meal because during the July strike they didn't come around to acknowledge that we had skipped 9 meals and ask if we were participating in a hunger strike until after we skipped breakfast on the fifth day. By then about half of the strikers had started eating and going to work. They also followed their question of whether we were on hunger strike by asking if we would allow them to take the food we had in our cells. Many answered "no," others answered "yes." The following day the pigs came around and only bothered with the cells that answered "yes," going right by the cells that answered "no." CDCR claims that confiscating food is done in order to monitor our food intake. They can say that they couldn't start monitoring our food intake until they confiscated the food. If they start counting how many meals you skipped after they took the food then you're not even counted as a hunger striker because we only lasted a day and a half after that.

When they asked if they could remove food items they only accepted yes or no answers. I told the pig over and over that there was no food for them to take but that wasn't even a question. If you answered no then they could say that you acknowledged having food in your cell but wouldn't allow them to take it. They pretty much don't have to count anybody by using these tactics.

We need to go on an indefinite work strike that should last as long as they insist on having indefinite SHU terms, but there's not enough people with jobs in level 4 yards making it easy for CDCR to target those few inmates who refuse to work and replacing them with people from lower levels or PC yards.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This discussion of the latest action in Calipatria underscores the importance of our work to build unity and a United Front before engaging in serious actions. We commend everyone who stands up against the system and puts their lives and health at risk, but without unity we end up with small numbers of protesters and struggle to present a united position to the prison system. As we discussed at length in our article summing up the strike suspension, we don't anticipate the state will meet the strikers demands, but the struggle against torture continues.

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[Campaigns] [Control Units] [Hunger Strike] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 34]
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CA Strike Suspended: CDCR Will Not Meet 5 Core Demands

Red book prisoners

6 September 2013 — Yesterday, the Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective released a statement announcing they had ceased their hunger strike to end torture in California prisons after two months. This came about two weeks after San Quentin prisoners had ceased their strike, announcing they'd entered into negotiations with the warden about conditions in the Administrative Segregation Unit (Ad-Seg). We do not yet have information on strikers at the Corcoran SHU, or anywhere else prisoners may still be striking. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) reported that before the Short Corridor Collective stopped, 100 people were still on strike, 40 of whom had gone for two months straight.(1)

According to the Collective's statement, they have suspended their strike in response to a pledge by state legislators Tom Ammiano, Loni Hancock and Tom Hayden to hold a legislative hearing into conditions in the Security Housing Units (SHU) and the debriefing process. MIM(Prisons) is not optimistic of the outcome of such hearings. Ammiano held a hearing in August 2011 in response to the first of three mass hunger strikes around this struggle, and nothing changed, leading to the second hunger strike that October. Back in 2003, our comrades as part of the United Front to Abolish the SHU attended a legislative hearing on the conditions in the California SHU and the validation process. They published an article entitled, "CA senate hearings on the SHU: we can't reform torture." Ten years later, little has changed. These hearings keep happening, but they are little more than pacifying talks by those in power. The facts have been out there, the state has known what is going on in these torture cells. So what is the difference now? And how can we actually change things?

CDCR Done Addressing Problems

Before we look at how we can change things, let's further dispel any illusions that the CDCR or the state of California is going to be the source of this change. In the latest iteration of the strike, an additional 40 demands were drafted around smaller issues and widely circulated to supplement the 5 core demands. On 26 August 2013, the CDCR released a point-by-point response to the demands of those who have been on hunger strike since July 8. The announcement by the CDCR cites a 5 June 2013 memo that allegedly addresses many of these supplemental demands. Others are listed as being non-issues or non-negotiable.

As to the core demands, the CDCR once again disingenuously stated that they do not utilize "solitary confinement." Whatever they want to call it, holding people in tiny rooms for long periods of time (many have spent decades) without humyn contact, without being able to go outside, without any programs to engage in, is torture. They then put forth their new Security Threat Group (STG) program and Step Down program as answers to the central demands around long-term isolation and the debriefing process. We previously published an analysis of these programs exposing them as only offering more flexibility for the state to repress prisoners. In its short life, we have already begun to receive reports of prisoners being returned to SHU after participating in the Step Down program, confirming predictions that it would be the equivalent of a revolving door.

This CDCR announcement implies that we should not have hopes for negotiations or actions towards real change from CDCR. The Criminal Injustice System will not reform itself; we must force this change.

The Struggle Against Torture Continues

At first glance, the fact that this struggle has been waging for decades with little headway (especially in California) can be discouraging. However, our assessment of conditions in the imperialist countries teaches us that right now struggle against oppression must take the form of long legal battles, despite claims by the censors that we promote lawlessness. Sporadic rebellions with lots of energy, but little planning or longevity, do not usually create change and the conditions for armed struggle do not exist in the United $tates. We are therefore in strategic unity with the leaders who have emerged to sue the state, while unleashing wave after wave of peaceful demonstrations of ever increasing intensity. All of us involved have focused on agitation to shape public opinion and promote peace and unity among prisoners, and then using those successes to apply pressure to the representatives of the state. These are all examples of legal forms of struggle that can be applied within a revolutionary framework. Lawyers and reformists who can apply constant pressure in state-run forums play a helpful role. But make no mistake, prisoners play the decisive role, as the strikes are demonstrating.

Control units came to be and rose to prominence in the same period that incarceration boomed in this country. As a result, in the last few decades the imprisoned lumpen have been a rising force in the United $tates. Within the class we call the First World lumpen, it is in prisons where we see the most stark evidence of this emerging and growing class, as well as the most brutal responses from Amerikans and the state to oppose that class.

In California prisons in the last three years we've seen that with each successive hunger strike, participation has more than doubled. Just think what the next phase will look like when the CDCR fails to end torture once again! And as a product of this rising force in prisons, support on the outside has rallied bigger each time as well. As we said, this outside support is important, but secondary to the rising imprisoned lumpen.

Over 30,000 prisoners, one-fifth of the population in California, participated in this latest demonstration against torture. Many who didn't strike the whole time wrote to us that they, and those with them, were on stand-by to start up again. These grouplets standing by should be the basis for developing cadre. The 30,000 plus prisoners should be the mass base, and should expand with further struggle and education.

If you're reading this and still wondering, "what is it that MIM(Prisons) thinks we should do exactly?" — it's the same things we've been promoting for years. Focus on educating and organizing, while taking on winnable battles against the injustice system. Fighting to shut down the control units is important, but it is only one battle in a much larger struggle that requires a strong and organized anti-imperialist movement. We run our own study programs and support prisoner-run study groups on the inside. We provide Under Lock & Key as a forum for agitating and organizing among the imprisoned lumpen country-wide. We have study materials on building cadre organizations, concepts of line, strategy and tactics and the basics of historical and dialectical materialism. Each of these topics are key for leaders to understand.

Organizing means working and studying every day. In addition to the topics above, you can study more practical skills that can be used to serve the people such as legal skills, healthy living skills and how to better communicate through writing and the spoken word. Prisoners are surrounded by potential comrades who can't even read! We need Serve the People literacy programs. Combining these practical trainings with the political study and trainings promoted above will allow leaders to both attract new people with things they can relate to, while providing guidance that illuminates the reality of our greater society.

Principled organizing builds trust and dedication, which are two thing that comrades often report being in short supply in U.$. prisons. Principled organizing is how we can overcome these shortcomings. It is not an easy, nor a quick solution. The opponent we face is strong, so only by studying it closely and battling strategically will we be able to overcome it.

Whatever other tactics comrades on the inside decide to take to continue this struggle against torture, the need for building, organizing, and educating is constant and at the strategic level. Without that the movement does not strengthen or advance. If you're taking up this work, we want to hear from you and we want to support you in your efforts.

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[Hunger Strike] [Abuse] [Control Units] [Harris County Jail Facility] [Texas] [ULK Issue 34]
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Texas Comrades to Remember Attica September 9

I was confined to Ad-Seg in Harris County Jail while my case was under trial. Texas law requires the jail to give prisoners at least one hour a day for exercise and meaningful recreation. I stayed in segregation for nine months. Not once was I allowed out of cell exercise. I filed grievances, which were denied. I then filed a Section 1983 lawsuit for violation of my 14th amendment right to due process. The litigation is ongoing, however the jail refuses to stop this barbaric and inhumane treatment of 24 hour lockdown. The "justice" system is failing to protect the incarcerated individual. Again.

I traded several of my meals to other prisoners for a few stamps. I was only able to gather 5 stamps. I know it's not much, but I hope it helps some. I have been spreading the MIM(Prisons) campaigns, and have put together a small group of other prisoners to remember the Attica uprising. We have planned a fast for September 9, 2013.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade is organizing others to participate in the country-wide demonstration September 9. Calling attention to the treatment of prisoners, this demonstration coincides with the anniversary of the Attica uprising.

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