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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
22 August 2013 — I write to inform you that our hunger strike (in this unit for death row) has officially been suspended. In good faith we'll allow the warden to fulfill his promises of productive and positive change. It is these changes that will eventually improve death row for the best. It is a start and the right steps towards changing this whole system for the best.
Although we may have suspended ours, many more continue to struggle to bring about change in their torture dungeons. And we shall not stop exposing this place for what it is. We shall not stop sharing our stories, our truths and helping others end their plight. The battle has just begun and this exposure, this movement has united us even more. It has unmasked our captors and brought many individuals to our aid who have helped change things already. And with each passing day many more join the movement.
I want to thank you for getting us this far. For making it possible to put enough pressure on the warden and his administration to come to terms with our demands. Without your help, we wouldn't have made it to this point. Thank you for all you've done and continue doing in helping to end these injustice and torture dungeons. We are only half the movement, while you're the other half. Together we will change this world for the best.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We commend our comrades at San Quentin for their perseverance in this hunger strike. We know, however, that the prisoncrats have a long history of false promises. This comrade is right that this battle has helped to build unity, education and gained more activists for the movement. These are real victories, regardless of the outcome of the warden's promises.
While we don't have the details on the promises made, another report claims that the only written agreement at the time was that searches would not be done outside if it is raining. This came from a report from a striker who passed out from liver failure, who reported others in San Quentin were also facing difficult health conditions due to lack of food.(1) We posted the full list of demands developed at San Quentin back in June.
Here in the Ad-Seg unit at North Kern they've transferred a lot of us to A4 which is on the main level III yard, and half of the building is Ad-Seg, the other is orientation. All of us are on single cell status and validated members and associates of STG (Security Threat Group types) I & II but there's unity in here.
The hunger strike/work stoppage is over, and most if not all received 128 G chronos for participating. This will be used as validation points, but no one cares. We don't get our 10 hour a week for yard, no laundry exchange, or supplies being passed out, and our food is cold because they serve it on paper trays.
Our mail has to get rerouted from the other Ad-Seg unit and the IGI/ISU informed us that the SF Bayview, CA Prison Focus, The Rock, Revolution, Militant, PHSS, MIM(Prisons) and any of the literature that makes reference to our struggle behind these walls will be screened and withheld. I've been receiving mail that's 2.5 months old. We have a group 602 going around collecting signatures so we can show the yard captain we're not happy with this program we have here in the A4 location. Just yesterday they cell extracted someone and all of us above the incident on the top tier had pepper spray in our cells, because it came up through our cells, and the ventilating shaft.
I'm writing to give you an update on the protest back in June. The protest in June was just the start. The real protest will jump off in October. The one in June went on for six days, not two. It was on for two days before the south and north compounds took part. We really wanted to go off with the July 8 one, but things here were getting so bad the prisoners just couldn't hold back any longer. By October all should be ready. If not, those that are prepared will be ready to share the understanding of what is going on so all the population will be on the same page. And everyone understands this is a peaceful protest, too much is just not right. I'm not the one doing the talking but I'm surely a part.
MIM(Prisons) adds: As another comrade from New Jersey reported: "Although nothing has changed as of the writing of this report, it is important to highlight that the level of unity achieved across nations and groups, the effective organization of the protest, and the fearful response by the state demonstrate the power of non-violent resistance in a corrections environment." We agree this unity is critical. We are seeing unity in resistance in prisons across the country. We need to take advantage of this opportunity to educate and build. As this prisoner points out, those who are ready for October in New Jersey will share information so that all the population will understand. We call on anti-imperialist comrades in prison to expand this education and take this opportunity to educate others about the nature of the injustice system and its role in imperialism in general. Protests to improve conditions are important, but they are just the start.
19 August 2013 - Today, a federal court approved the force-feeding of people who are on hunger strike in California prisons to protest torture in the form of long-term isolation and group punishment. The force-feeding itself is considered torture by many, including those who have been on hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay since February and have been suffering through force-feeding for months.
The decision in California came shortly after we posted a report from a comrade who was denied liquid supplements and collapsed on July 21 in Corcoran State Prison. Many others have collapsed since then, and the state's behavior has made it clear that the health of prisoners has not been a concern of theirs. They apply very strict rules to how they count people as being on "hunger strike," knowing that strikers depend on the state to report their numbers to the public, forcing them to abide by these rules that don't allow for any electrolytes.
The state has consistently used health care as a weapon to manipulate prisoners into submission, rather than act as the custodians of health and safety that they claim to be. Now that strikers are approaching life-threatening conditions, the CDCR is acting to prevent them from exercising one of the strongest forms of protest that they have from within these isolation cells. The attention given to the situation inside California prisons right now is already unprecedented and they fear that if more prisoners die they may lose their power to torture prisoners in the future. The torture is important to them because it is what they believe to be their best tool to prevent the oppressed from fighting their oppression (the injustice system's true purpose). The ongoing hunger strike, decades in the making, has begun to turn the tables on that idea though.
This recent report asserts that 70 of 130 prisoners currently on hunger strike have been going since July 8, 2013. There are a number of groups of prisoners in California who are ready to restart hunger strike in support of the 70 (or more) who are in it for the long haul as the struggle heightens.
In the months leading up to July 8, there was some debate about the return to the hunger strike tactic, particularly as previous attempts were aborted prematurely without any changes from the state. But those first two strikes resonated among the oppressed across the country, and particularly in California where 30,000 prisoners stood up against long-term isolation on July 8, 2013. As we approach 50 days on strike, and repeated assertions from participants that they will not stop for mere promises this time, this struggle is approaching a crucial point. To date, control units have been a fairly effective tool of repression. But if oppression breeds resistance, then even these tools of total control can be overcome. At no other point have we been closer to that goal than we are right now. Those who have and will give their lives for this struggle must not die in vain. Those 30,000 plus prisoners who supported this campaign must take every opportunity over the coming months to build, educate and organize to prepare for the next phase of this struggle. A failure to seize this moment in the prison movement will mean much more suffering for the imprisoned lumpen in the decades to come.