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Under Lock & Key

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[Censorship] [Legal] [Florida]
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Supreme Court denies PLN Florida censorship appeal

On 7 January 2019 the Supreme Court refused to take up a First Amendment case challenging the statewide ban of Prison Legal News (PLN) in the Florida Department of Corrections. The ban has been in place since 2009. This appeal was the final attempt to challenge the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which sided with the Florida DOC.(1) Each year thousands of cert petitions are filed with the Supreme Court and most are not heard. As is typical, no reasons were given for the PLN case denial.

The Florida DOC maintains that they are censoring PLN for safety and security reasons. The appellate court found this censorship justified related to certain advertisements in PLN including ads for pen pal services, businesses that purchase postage stamps, and third-party phone services.

We know there is no real safety and security justification for censoring PLN. It's an educational publication that helps many prisoners gain legal knowledge and fight back against injustices. PLN is, however, a threat to the institution of prisons in the United $tates. Prison Legal News fights for prisoners' rights and exposes injustices around the country. This is counter to the interests of a system that is focused on social control.

A number of groups stepped up to file or sign briefs in support of PLN. Of particular interest is one from a group of former Correctional Officers, including some from Florida. They argue, very rationally, that the complete censorship of PLN is an exaggerated response to security concerns and a constitutional violation.(2) Of course these former C.O.s, and many others who support allowing PLN into the Florida DOC, made very narrow arguments that still protected the DOC's "right" to censor anything they deem dangerous. These folks are just opposing censorship for something so obviously not dangerous as it exposes the falsehood that prisons are censoring mail in the interests of safety and security.

This PLN lawsuit sets a very bad precedent for others fighting censorship as the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision stands. Fortunately it should not directly impact ULK as we don't run these third-party ads. Though Florida did censor ULK 62 for "stamp program advertisement." While we do accept stamps as donations or to trade for literature, we run no stamp programs. This goes to show that when there is no justification for censorship, the prisons will just make up things not even in the publication.

Any ruling upholding censorship in prisons is a bad one. This ruling further exposes the reality that there are no rights under capitalism, only power struggles. The First Amendment only protects speech for those privileged enough to buy that protection.

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[Legal]
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To Grieve or Not To Grieve

I read with interest "Why Take Action?" by Texas Prisoner in Under Lock and Key No. 63. The article starts by encouraging resistance simply because of who we are, that it is our nature to stand up. While this makes for an excellent mythology, and I heartily agree, the sad truth is that the majority of prisoners are intimidated into doing nothing.

While I do not look down on those who do not resist, I am not content with the status quo. Only massive group actions has a chance to succeed. This article is an attempt to persuade more prisoners to fight. A Texas Prisoner then points out that action can make a difference, especially in numbers. This is quite correct.

One of the most powerful ways to effect change is the federal civil rights lawsuit (1346 and Bivens for federal prisons, 1983 for others). Courts often make good decisions. Then the prisons stretch the case law beyond the breaking point or simply disregard it. They do this because they can. They get away with it because not enough prisoners file.

In 1996, the Prison Litigation Reform Act (1997e) made lawsuits against prisons much more difficult and less likely to succeed. As a result, prisons and jails have gotten much worse than they were at that time. Most onerous is 1997e(a), which states, "no action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions [] by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted."

While it is sometimes possible to get a court to declare the grievance process (for administrative remedies) unavailable, this takes a lot of effort. For the most part, prisoners simply have to follow the grievance process, being careful to meet all the deadlines.

Though the process of filing grievances seems (and usually is) futile, it has to be done. "[W]e will not read futility or other exceptions into statutory exhaustion requirements where Congress has provided otherwise." Booth v. Churner, 532 US 731, 738 n. 6 (2001); (When only a date is in parentheses and no circuit or district, it's from the Supreme Court.) There is no way to escape. "[W]e hold that the PLRA's exhaustion requirement applies to all inmate suits about prison life," Porter v. Nussle, 534 US 516, 532 (2002). A prisoner simply has to exhaust the grievance process.

The trouble is that the prison can retaliate for filing grievances, even including beating prisoners. One might think that a prisoner could sue for such retaliation, but for decades the courts held that prisons are perfectly within their rights to retaliate for filing grievances, without fear of suit.

Here is the story.

Courts have held it is only possible to sue for civil rights violations over retaliation that chills the constitutional right. "Retaliation against a prisoner is actionable only if it is capable of deterring a person of ordinary firmness from further exercising his constitutional rights." Morris v. Powell, 449 F. 3d. 682, 686 (5th Cir. 2006). Also see Crawford-El v. Britton, 93 F. 3rd 813 (D.C. Cir.1996). The D.C. circuit is just under the Supreme Court in terms of power, and all other circuits have followed.

The question is whether filing grievances is a constitutional right. Up until recently, the courts have held it isn't. "[I]nmates do not have a constitutional right to have available or to participate in an effective grievance process. "Miller v Williamson, 2016 US List. LEXIS 63498 (4th cir. 2006). See also Adams v. Rice, 40 F. 3d 72 (4th Cir. 1994).

This idea can be traced back to an opinion in 1991. "[T]he prisoner's right to petition the government for redress is the right of access to the courts, which is not comprised by the prison's refusal to entertain his grievance." Flick v. Alba, 932 F. 2d 728, 728 (8th Cir. 1991).

The trouble with this is that a mere five years later, 1997e changed the situation, making it so that the right to access the courts very much depends on the grievance process. Yet until after 2016, courts did not recognize this extremely obvious fact.

Finally, they did. "Given the close relationship between an inmate filing a grievance and filing a lawsuit — indeed, the former is generally a prerequisite for the latter — our jurisprudence provided a strong signal that officials may not retaliate against inmates for filing grievances." Booker v. South Carolina DOC, 855 F.3d 533, 544 (4th Cir. 2017). Also, "The Second, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Eleventh, and D.C. circuits have all recognized in published decisions that inmates possess a right, grounded in the First Amendments' Petition Clause, to be free from retaliation in response to filing a prison grievance." id. at 544.

There are lessons in the fact that it took the courts so long to recognize the obvious.

The courts move slowly. More importantly, they only move when pushed. Seldom does a court decide anything on its own, not even something as obvious as this. They generally wait for litigants to make arguments and decide if the arguments are good.

So it is essential that we all push the courts, not only for our individual benefit, but for the benefit of all. We must make even obvious arguments, even ones so obvious we imagine should have been raised a hundred times before us.

The PLRA was sold as intended to improve the quality of lawsuits, but what it really did was reduce the quantity. Doubtless this was the real intention. "Congress deemed prisoners to be pestiferous litigants" Kerr v. Puckett, 138 F. 3d 321, 323 (7th Cir 1998).

This has worked. Far too many legitimate lawsuits have been quashed. Increasing millions of prisoners have suffered in worsening conditions. The courts have only sluggishly moved to correct gross violations of civil rights. Prisoners fearing retaliation have not pushed them hard enough.

It is up to all prisoners to push the courts. Even though it seems futile, grieve and sue anyway. You may not be the one to win, but if we all work together, we can improve conditions for all of us.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We respect and admire this comrade's resolve to fight the legal battles. Eir analysis of the value of making space for better conditions for prisoners through court battles is accurate. Courts are sluggish to respond to clear violations of rights, and certainly don't take action unless pushed through a lawsuit.

It's important that we also recognize that we will often lose court battles. For lack of funds, legal knowledge, political power, or just straight up bias, there are many reasons prisoner's lawsuits fail even when the case is good and righteous. We can't count on the imperialist courts to grant us liberty. But we can use them to gain some breathing and organizing space.

The trick is deciding when it's worth the time and expense to pursue cases in the courts. When it really is a potentially winnable battle. MIM(Prisons) doesn't have the legal resources to offer this advice. So we can only provide the broad guidance that everyone needs to analyze the balance of forces in any battle. Try to objectively evaluate our chances for victory, and what harm could come from defeat. In some cases, losing a lawsuit sets a worse legal precedent than not filing the lawsuit in the first place. But if you think you have a good chance at winning, and you have the resources to pursue an important case, then don't just file a lawsuit. Use the lawsuit to educate others and rally them around the cause you're fighting for. Build support and help for the battle, and tie it in to the broader struggle against the criminal injustice system so that everyone learns from this work whether this one battle it ends in victory or defeat.


Related Articles:
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[Legal] [Organizing] [Missouri] [ULK Issue 63]
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Broader Impact of prisoners' legal work

Revolutionary greetings of love, dedication and resiliency to all freedom fighters and fearless front line generals, soldiers and warriors who dare to struggle and sacrifice for liberty, freedom and equality from behind the walls, fences and cages of genocide and oppression. As we continue to raise awareness and lift up our voices so that we may be heard on the issues of systematic racism and economic exploitation in the criminal justice system, as well as prison slavery, police killings and brutality. We continue to see an evil and determined enemy dig in its heels in the name of white supremacy.

I am a Missouri prisoner who has been imprisoned for 32 years. I am educated with a paralegal degree. With my credentials, I have a legal clinic of 10 comrades. We have taken it upon ourselves to do separate booklets of individual civil complaints such as: censorship, religion, cruel and unusual punishment (prison conditions) etc. We will be sending those to MIM(Prisons) upon their completion. We have made censorship our first priority, and already sent this one in to MIM(Prisons).

However, we only have an ex-amount of time in the law library, so we have to copy case-law (hundreds of them) and take them back to our cells and work on our booklets. Our resources are limited and we need help! So if any of my comrades know of places that will send "unlimited" printed caselaw to us, please contact MIM to pass the message on.


MIM(Prisons) responds: These comrades are setting an example of how to make your work impact more than just one persyn. Many can benefit from concise information on how to fight specific legal battles. The first guide created by this group, fighting censorship, is a good example of this as it ties directly into a problem that the revolutionary movement behind bars faces regularly — the censorship of our literature. Under Lock & Key and other lit that we send in is often rejected and our only recourse is grievances and legal challenges. Because of the critical role that revolutionary education plays in our organizing work, we prioritize this legal battle. And we distribute a censorship guide to all who have our lit rejected.

We have a few cautionary notes to those working on this legal project and others who are interested in taking up similar legal work. First, there are many guides already out there for prisoners, so anyone putting time into this type of project needs to start by making sure you're not duplicating work.

Second, as with our anti-censorship work, it's important that we tie our legal work to our revolutionary organizing. There are many legal battles that prisoners are fighting, but these can be a distraction from the larger struggle if we don't tie them to the reality that the legal system isn't going to make real or substantive change for us. We might win a few censorship battles, but we'll never effectively stop censorship through the imperialist courts. We use the censorship struggle to highlight the hypocrisy of imperialism and underscore their fear of revolutionary education, while making some room for us to reach people with politics.

We need to be organizing people to use legal battles as a part of the larger campaigns that the movement prioritizes. We can attempt to use the courts to our advantage, but our goal in the long run is to dismantle the imperialist courts and replace them with a system of people's justice.

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[Legal] [Campaigns] [Abuse] [Texas] [ULK Issue 62]
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Active Lawsuits on Texas Conditions

2017 DECEMBER — My beloved comrades at ULK, please take whatever steps necessary to convey this information to your readers, particularly those on the Texas plantations. It is my hope this will move a few to join in this all-out attack against mass incarceration, which those brothers on the Eastham Plantation are being persecuted for.

First, we have launched an attack on the totality of the living conditions on this plantation: double-celling, sleep deprivation, extreme heat, contaminated water, no toilets in the day rooms and rec yard, overcrowded showers. At present we have 5 lawsuits filed and hoping to have 5 more by the first of the year. They are listed at the end of this missive for those who might want to obtain copies and/or file for intervention. I would urge each plantation to file because each plantation has different violations, which in their totality are cruel and unusual.

Next, we have launched an at attack on the symbiotic-parasitic-relationship between Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) and the American Correctional Association (ACA). Last year we sent numerous letters to the ACA headquarters in Virginia with various complaints including the delayed posting of scheduled audits. Apparently someone was moved to do the right thing. Then notices for the January 2018 audit were posted here in October. As a result, we of the Community Improvement Committee (CIC) here on the unit have sent petitions with hundreds of names with numerous complaints of ACA violations and requests for a Q&A in the gym or chapel. This is being done with individual letters as well. Plus, we have sent the actual notice to various reform organizations requesting them to visit the unit during the audit and act as overseers pointing out particular areas of violations such as the giant cockroach infestation beneath the kitchen.

Next we have and intend to continue to urge the public to stay on top of their legislators to change the law, making it mandatory that prisoners be compensated for their labor.

Finally, we have filed an application for Writ of Habeas Corpus requesting to be released immediately due to the fact that the time sheet shows one has completed 100% of his sentence – that even without the good time, the flat time and the work time equals the sentence imposed by the court. In addition we are drafting something similar for those sentenced under the one-third law. We are submitting to the court that these prisoners have a short-way discharge date. The application for Writ of Habeas Corpus was first filed in the state court in Travis County and denied without a written order in the Texas court of criminal Appeals (#WR-87,529-01 Tr.Ct. No. D-1-DC-02-301765A). We are now in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District Tyler Division (McGee v Director, #6:17cv643). This info is supplied so that those with the means may download the info and/or keep track of the case. The following are the case numbers for the totality of living conditions complaint, which is also in the U.S. District in Tyler:

Walker v. Davis, et al., #6:17cv166
Henderson v. Davis, #6:17cv320
Douglas v. Davis, #6:17cv347
Burley v. Davis, #6:17cv490

The Devil whispers: "You can't withstand the storm"
The Warrior replied: "I am the storm." - The Mateuszm


MIM(Prisons) responds: These comrades are pushing the struggles to improve conditions inside Texas prisons along its natural course. Countless prisoners have sent grievances, grievance petitions, letters to the Ombudsman, letters to elected officials, and letters to various TDCJ administrators on these same issues. We have seen some victories, but mostly we've had barriers put in our way.

The next step laid out for us is to file lawsuits, which is another kind of barrier. Lawsuits take years and sometimes decades to complete, and innumerable hours of work. When we do win, we then have to go through additional lawsuits to ensure enforcement. And on and on it goes...

If we expect the lawsuits to bring final remedy, we must be living in a fantasy. A quintessential example of how the U.$. government behaves regarding lawsuits can be seen in how it totally disrespects treaties with First Nations. When the U.$. government, or its agencies, doesn't like something, they don't really give a shit what the law says. This has been true since the beginning of this government. We don't see any evidence that this will ever change.

Yet, lawsuits aren't all bad. They can sometimes create a little more breathing room within which revolutionaries can operate. Lawsuits can also be used to publicize our struggles, and to show just how callous the state is, if we lose.

Yet, most importantly, lawsuits keep comrades busy. Before any lawsuit, there needs to be a solid analysis of winability, and the likelihood of other options. While we are relatively weak as a movement, lawsuits are a fine option, and building a movement around these lawsuits will give them strength. But if your legal strategy doesn't also include building up collective power to eventually protect people without petitioning the state to do it, then your legal strategy is as useless as a feather in a tornado.

The comrades fighting these battles inside Texas have done a great job of spreading the word to outside organizations to garner support and attention for their lawsuits. We support their efforts to make Texas prisons more bearable for the imprisoned lumpen population, and we support their efforts to link these lawsuits to the greater anti-imperialist movement. And when they decide that lawsuits aren't enough to bring a real change in conditions, we'll support that too.

The U.$. legal system's role is to keep the United $tates government as a dominant world power, no matter what. The extreme heat in Texas prisons isn't just an oversight by administrators. And it's not even just about racism of guards. It is directly connected to the United $tate's role in the oppression and repression of oppressed nations across the world. If the legal system fails, don't give up. Try something else to bring it down. Lawsuits are not the only option.

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[Abuse] [Legal] [California State Prison, Sacramento] [California] [ULK Issue 60]
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Only Snitches & Privileged Getting Good Time in New Folsom EOP/GP

culture

I've come to recognize here at California New Folsom State Prison, that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated and the condemned.

Prisoners housed at New Folsom EOP/GP mainline are being denied the right to earn good time/work time credits, and therefore can't get paroled or released. We are being denied the opportunities and support which are given to every other prisoner and at every other prison within California.

The 4th and 14th Amendment declares that "equal protection of the law" cannot and must not treat prisoners differently then others without reasonable and probable cause. People who are eligible for an earlier parole hearing under Senate Bill 260 and Senate Bill 261 pc 3051 (Youthful Parole) shall and must earn credits toward reducing time on their new parole date, not their original parole date or false reported date.

Snitches are benefiting. Lifers are getting time knocked off such as 9 to 10 years due to reasons of Prop 57. It doesn't even matter to them because they still will be labeled as lifers by the CDCR/DOC. Also those with money and/or are white have been benefiting.

Without dehumanizing or snitching or becoming SNY, we want to secure the Prop 57 rights granted us under law. We continue to struggle not to be set up and framed with charges. Many of us have caught fake cases because we've stayed silent and solid.

Please send us advice and materials so we may continue to organize.


CA USW Council Comrade Responds: The only thing I can say is that CDCr made promises that they're not living up to, once they let us all out of SHU. I can attest to the truth of the above statement. You will get privileges if you go SNY, as I met a few people while in Ad-Seg that were going SNY so the board can release them. They're not releasing anyone who has the gang label or STG label on them.

What I can say is that anyone wanting material concerning Prop 57 can write to: Initiate Justice, PO Box 4962, Oakland, CA 94605. This is the litigation team that's fighting for the changes in the regulations so that people can get parole.


Another CA USW Council Comrade Responds:

First, I don't think we should waste our time organizing around these reforms because we are not a reformist org, we are a revolutionary org. Secondly, according to Prop 57 guidelines, everyone who hasn't served a SHU term is eligible for good time/work time credits, however they are not retroactive but only go towards the remainder of one's sentence. So if you've been incarcerated for 20 years and you still have 5 years left on your sentence you will only be able to be awarded good time credits towards your remaining 5 years. As soon as Prop 57 was enacted, case records began re-calculating everyones sentence who qualified. The entire process took about four or five months here.

Also, according to Prop 57 people who fall under any of the Youth Offender laws SB9, 260, 261 & 262 cannot receive earlier parole board dates than that which they already qualified for under the various State Bills. The only thing that changed is your MERD (Maximum Eligible Release Date). For example, under Prop 57 my MERD went from 2030 to 2028 but under SB261 my parole board date dropped from 2030 to 2021 at the soonest but no later than 2023.

For more information on Prop 57 people can write to the San Quentin Law Office which sends free legal materials to prisoners or they can contact Initiate Justice, Lifer Support Alliance and many other reformist orgs. By the way the final regulations on Prop 57 already came out and NOTHING CHANGED! But what else could we expect from CDC? Fuck reforming the system, smash it!

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[Legal] [ULK Issue 60]
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U.$. Supreme Court: No grievance forms? No problem.

I'm writing in response to an article in ULK 58, "Illinois Budget Doesn't Include Due Process." The Illinois prisoner states he cannot get a grievance form from staff. The U.S. Supreme Court has addressed this issue in Ross v. Blake 136 S.Ct. 1850 (2016) which states "An inmate need exhaust only such administrative remedies as are available," as stated in the Prison Litigation Reform Act. The Supreme Court named three cases where this might be true:

  1. "an administrative procedure is unavailable when (despite what regulations or guidance materials may promise) it operates as a simple dead end — with officers unable or consistently unwilling to provide any relief to aggrieved inmates."
  2. "an administrative scheme might be so opaque that it becomes, practically speaking, incapable of use. In this situation, some mechanism exists to provide relief, but no ordinary prisoner can discern or navigate it."
  3. "the same is true when prison administrators thwart inmates from taking advantage of a grievance process through machination, misrepresentation, or intimidation."

When grievance forms are not provided, prisoners need to use any available paper and write the grievance, clearly titling the form "Grievance" and explain why no official grievance form was used. Staff will either accept it or reject it. If it is rejected, get it in writing if possible. If not possible, document the date, time, location and the person rejecting the form. Include this info and/or rejection letter with the legal suit. The courts will accept this the majority of the time. If not, appeal and reference Ross vs. Blake from the US Supreme Court.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This is a helpful citation for reference since we know many prisons offer virtually useless grievance systems. This Supreme Court opinion should help some take their appeals beyond the non-existent appeals processes in their prisons. We are also adding this information to the cover letter that comes with petitions demanding our grievances be addressed, which we mail to prisoners upon request.

This grievance campaign is just one piece of the larger battle to demand basic rights for the millions of people locked up in jails and prisons in the United $tates. And these demands for basic rights need to be connected to the larger struggle against the criminal injustice system as a whole. While we might win individual battles in some cases, we will never stop the injustice until we put an end to the system. This is because prisons under imperialism aren't built to rehabilitate or reeducate people, they are built as a tool of social control. And so oppression of prisoners, and denial of their rights, is just part of the system.

We urge everyone interested in fighting to get grievances addressed to join our campaign, and use it to educate others about the injustice system. Mobilize people to do something, even if it's just mailing out a few petitions. And help them make the connections between this battle and the reason for the conditions they are fighting. Through this campaign we can build and educate for the larger fight against the imperialist system.

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[Legal] [ULK Issue 60]
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Grievance Battle Tactics Updated

[MIM(Prisons) has received some well-researched information on filing grievances and fighting the grievance system from several readers. Various court cases and rulings can be contradictory. This is in part due to local court differences, but it's also important to know when a particular decision has been overruled by a higher court. This is hard to stay on top of! We rely on our legally savvy readers to let us know when something important has changed because we don't have the money to pay lawyers to do this work for us.

You will see in these two updates some court cases that appear contradictory. We want to put this information in the hands of our jailhouse lawyers, but we caution everyone to do your own research before relying on a citation for your legal work. This information is just a starting point. - Editor]

Caselaw on legal protections

The First Amendment protects the right of the people "to peaceably assemble, or to petition for a governmental redress of grievances." These rights are severely restricted in prison. Prison officials may ban prison organizations that oppose or criticize prison policies, and court decisions have generally upheld restrictions on those prisoner organizations that are permitted. There is no constitutional right to belong to a gang, or "security threat group" as prison officials often call them, and officials may impose restrictions or take disciplinary action based on gang membership.(1) In some instances courts have declared religious organizations to be security threat groups.(2) Courts have disagreed on the Constitutional status of petitions in prison. Some courts have held that they are protected by the First Amendment, while others have approved restrictions or bans on them.(3, 4) Whether prisoners can be punished for circulating or signing petitions will depend on whether prison rules give notice that such activity is forbidden.(5)

Grievances filed through an official grievance procedure are constitutionally protected(6), even though there is NO constitutional requirement that prisons or jails have a grievance system(7), or that they follow its procedures if they do have one (8), or that they issue decisions that fairly resolve prisoners' problems(9).

1. Westefer v. Snyder, 422 F. 3d 575 (Segregation of gang members and their transfer to supermax prison did not violate their First Amendment rights)
2. Fraise v. Terhune, 283 F. 3d 506, 518-23 (3d cir. 2002) (Courts have upheld classification of The Five Percenters as a "security threat group" and the segregation of prisoners who refuse to renounce all ties with it.)
3. Bridges v. Russell, 757 F. 2d 1155, 1156-57 (11th cir. 1985) (Allegation of transfer in retaliation for a petition stated a claim); Haymes v. Montanye, 547 F. 2d 188, 191 (2d cir. 1976); Stoval v. Bennett, 471 F. supp. 1286, 1290 (M.D. Ala. 1979)
4. Duamutef v. O'Keefe, 98 F. 3d 22, 24 (2nd cir. 1996) (Holding petitions may be prohibited as long as there is a grievance process.) Wolfel v. Morris, 972 F. 2d 712, 716-17 (6th cir. 1992); Nickens v. White, 622 F. 2d 967, 971-72 (8th cir. 1980) (Upholding regulation forbidding "mass protest petitions". Noting that prisoners have alternate methods of expressing their views, I.e. correspondence and an internal grievance procedure.) Edwards v. White 501 F. supp. 8, 12 (M.D. Pa. 1979) (dictum - stating that a ban is permissible because the process of gathering signatures might lead to violence.)
5. Gayle v. Gonyea, 313 F. 3d 677, 680 n. 3 (2d cir. 2002) (Questioning whether prison rules gave notice that petitions were forbidden.) Farid v. Goord, 200 F. supp. 2d 220, 236 (W.D.N.Y. 2002) (Petition was constitutionally protected where no rule forbade it.) Richardson v. Coughlin, 763 F. supp. 1228, 1234-37 (S.D.N.Y. 1991) (Prisoner could not be punished merely for gathering signatures on a petition where prison rules did not specifically prohibit such action.)
6. Hoskins v. Ienear, 395 F. 3d 372, 375 (7th cir. 2005) (per curiam); Gayle v. Gonyea, 313 F. 3d 677, 682 (2d cir. 2002)
7. Lopez v. Robinson 914 F. 2d 486, 494-95 (4th cir. 1990) (The failure to make grievance forms readily available and officers' practice of requiring inmates to tell them why they wanted the form did not violate "clearly established rights".)
8. Wildberger v. Bracknell, 869 F. 2d 1467 (11th cir. 1989); Spencer v. Moore, 638 F. supp. at 316; Azeez v. DeRobertis, 568 F. supp. 8, 10 (N.D. Ill. 1982); Watts v. Morgan 572 F. supp. 1385, 1391 (N.D. Ill 1983)
9. Geiger v. Jowers, 404 F. 3d 371, 374 (5th cir. 2005) (per curiam) (A prisoner does not have a federally protected liberty interest in having those grievances resolved to his satisfaction.)
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[Legal] [National Oppression] [Civil Liberties] [California] [ULK Issue 58]
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Case Law to Help Those Facing Unjust Gang Enhancements

In response to "CALIFORNIA: Challenges and Reports" (in ULK 56), the comrade/s at MDF, Contra Costa County Jail being hit with gang enhancements and other unjust treatment. Faulty gang allegations was a major error in my trial as a southern [email protected], hence my return on appeal, which also made case law (Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 3, California. The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Jerry RAMIREZ and Catherine Rodriguez Villarreal, Defendants and Appellants. G052144 Decided: February 05, 2016). I hope this can be of assistance. Should be in the lexus by now but is also attainable via internet. They have been trying to turn our culture into a crime for the last 500+ years. It's going to take a lot more than a STEP act to get rid of us. In commemoration of "Black August" and the "Plan de San Diego", I send mine to all comrades North, South, East and West.

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[Legal] [Allred Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 58]
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Inspired to Act

I just finished re-reading in ULK 53 page 12 "Texas Reform Updates." It sufficiently raised my ire enough to put pen to paper and submit my 14-page memorandum which I had the balls to place into the "Head Warden's" hand personally. I enclosed a copy of the same with this letter.

As a result of that act, 90 minutes later I had a member of the Law Library staff in my cell going through my legal paperwork, devoid of the prerequisite authorization (I-186) of a Warden to do so. Whereas, other copies of my own writings — which I sent out, had duplicated, and returned via the U.S. Postal Service — were filched and used to administer a disciplinary case claiming additional fictitious contraband.

This memorandum outlines in detail how the law library (L/L) is run "out of compliance" with BP-03.81, ATC 020, 030, 050 and the Offender Orientation Handbook (I-202).

Among other things, participants of the L/L, i.e. prisoners, are disallowed the right to vocally interact in assisting each other in legal matters.

Since that fateful day, harassment and retaliation in the L/L has steadily intensified. Not being one to take this illicit conduct, I have sent a copy (oh, about eight of 'em) to various entities akin to "60 Minutes," Texas Attorney General, Texas Governor, Access to Courts (ATC) Administrator, Houston Chronicle and other prisoner-assisting organizations.

A multitude of the L/L patrons had no idea the actual truth of how a TDCJ L/L is intended to be operated and run. The staff are actually obligated to facilitate us (prisoners) in assisting one another in legal matters. Not harassing us for spreading the litigious knowledge — as per the ATC Rules.

I have several Step 2s [grievances] under review and am just awaiting their return so I can initiate State Tort action, because the Federal Courts do not have jurisdiction to make the State of Texas follow their own laws and rules. Only the State can make the State conform to its own rules.

If you think that I'm pissed, you're right! After all, I am convicted wrongfully, and wrongfully convicted in this pissant of a state. Being former military, I do not give in. I will prevail(!!) in getting things straightened out and being exonerated. In the course of accomplishing that, I will altruistically get the L/L in this POS unit to come into compliance with the legislatures' intent and the Board Policies intents too.

Other prisoners in Texas I am certain will have use for my memorandum. Go ahead and offer it up. If we prisoners in TDCJ don't start pulling together we are destined to end up fucked off. Expose these people for what they are!


MIM(Prisons) responds: TDCJ's long-term goal seems to be to hide all relevant policies from the people who are interested in them most, and then just operate its facilities however it pleases. That's why we created the Texas Campaign Pack, and why this comrade sent us eir memorandum to the Warden. If the state won't provide this information, we have to do it ourselves. Send in $2.50 to get the Texas Pack.

Exposure and lawsuits are worthwhile approaches, but can't be our be-all-end-all. We fight to not only get the law library back in compliance, but to change society to the point where these problems are no longer possible. We want oppression to become obsolete, and we want oppressed people to have the power to make this a reality!

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[Control Units] [Legal]
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Tier II Challenges in Court

I am on the Tier II Program in Georgia. I am confined to an isolation cell 24 hours of every day. I'm not allowed outside my cell for any reason, other than to shower three times a week. I'm not allowed ANY phone calls, visits, photos (of either friends or family), nor am i — unlike other prisoners — allowed to posess the recently distributed electronic communication device.

My entire waking moment is expended ONLY on either legal or political endeavors (this includes assisting others in such endeavors), even if it simply entails me devouring some relevant item of legal or political literature. In light of the intensity of my torture and the urgency of my struggle — our struggle — nothing else is relevant enough to warrant my attention or time.

The enemy succeeded in depersonalizing me — in dehumanizing me — in emotionally and psychologically MURDERING me! — a long time ago, before i even became aware of the fact of my systematic, gradual death. But as a result of my "death" i've grown to be as militant (and stoical) as they come. My creed is simple: "If it doesn't concern the political, it doesn't concern me." Frantz Fanon in his Wretched of the Earth stated that "any torture deeply dislocates, as might be expected, the personality of the tortured." I cannot state, with certainty, that i would have — or that i even could have — grasped the gist of Fanon's statement were it not for my own continual involuntary subjection to torture.

But to return from my digression, my lawsuit concerning the Tier II Program raises a number of colossal implications. For one, my case is the leading case attacking the inadequate due process procedures attendent upon both a prisoner's initial and continued assignment to the Tier II Program, as well as contesting, in the so-called civil and human rights context, the totality of the Tier II program confinement conditions. What this means is that my case is inevitably going to set the precedent (the criterion) by which all other subsequent Tier II cases are to be handled in the judiciary.

Moreover, with regard to my motion requesting to be released from the Tier II Program, that issue is currently pending in the court of appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. If i am successful at the appellate level — and it looks as though i will be — the favorable ruling would provide prisoners with a vehicle through which to remedy "unlawful" or otherwise erroneous assignments to the Tier II Program (and ALL assignments of prisoners to the Tier II Program are arbitrary and intentionally carried out by prisoncrats in derogation of formal Departmental policy).

But most importantly, my case — because it is the test case — is going to settle (for better or worse) important questions with respect to both the civil and human "rights" of prisoners nationwide. Such is the significance of my case. But even a string of "bad" decisions would still be "good" for the anti-imperialist movement, because it would only further "expose the fallacies of the reactionaries"(Mao), here, the futility of the Amerikkkan court system.

In any event, i will be forwarding the Prisoners' Legal Clinic some relevant court documents from my case within the next week or so, if only to keep you abreast of developments. Actually, the trial court, to its credit, has already condemned the confinement conditions of Tier II as "so egregious that a constitutional right was clearly violated."(Nolley v. Nelson, No. 5:15-cv-75-CAR(M.D.Ga.), Doc. 50, p. 29.

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