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[Legal] [Censorship] [Arizona]
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Advice on Censorship Fight in Arizona

I am a Jailhouse Lawyer of the High Rolla Jailhouse Law firm. I was appointed by the chief Jailhouse Lawyer of the Jailhouse Law Firm to aid and assist the MIM(Prisons) Legal Clinic. I have reviewed the Prisoner's Legal Clinic letter dated October 4, 2010. Upon review I have taken the opportunity to offer my legal experience to assist MIM(Prisons) in responding to the statement made by the Director of Arizona's Department of Corrections.

According to the Director of Arizona's Dept. of Corrections, he states Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 369 (1974) was overruled and your reliance on that case is misplaced. The Director of Arizona's Dept of Correction further states that there is nothing that gives rise to a publisher's right to appeal a decision to exclude its material on an administrative appeal level and you are not entitled to a forum within the prison system.

The Arizona Dept. of Corrections Director is partially correct and partially wrong. Basically what the Director is telling MIM(Prisons) is that it does not have an entitlement to use the prison grievance system to appeal administrative decisions. The Inmate Grievance System is a forum within the Department of Corrections for prisoners to avail themselves of if they are dissatisfied and wish to appeal an administrative decision. This system is for use by prisoners, not publication companies. The Director is correct, in that there is no case laws that gives rise to a publisher's right to appeal on an administrative level. If MIM(Prisons) wishes to challenge the administrative decision of the Director to exclude its publications, the proper forum would be for MIM(Prisons) to file a §1983 Civil Rights action in Federal Court, or to provide the prisoner with the appropriate arguments, case laws and legal authorities and have the prisoner himself file the appeal by going through the Grievance System and then the Administrative Law Court.

However, MIM(Prisons) should notify the Director that it is fully aware of the fact that it does not have the right to appeal on an administrative appeal level. MIM(Prisons) should notify the Director that it is fully aware that it is not entitled to a forum within the prison system. MIM(Prisons) should notify the Director that it was only making an effort at an informal appeal or request for the Director to reconsider its decision. Because contrary to what the Director stated Procunier v. Martinez 416 U.S. 396 (1974) is still applicable in part. Just as prisoners have a first Amendment Right to receive and send mail, so does publication companies and publishers. When the complaining party is the prisoner, then Turner v. Safely 482 U.S. 78 (1987) is the applicable standard, however when a publisher complains that its first amendment right has been violated then Procunier v. Martinez and Thornburgh v. Abbott 490 U.S. 401 (1989) is the appropriate standard.

I say all that to say this, if the Director cannot show that the restrictions placed on mail received by a prisoner is rationally related to a legitimate penological interest, then the Director's reliance on Thornburgh v. Abbott and Turner v. Safely is unsupported and misplaced, then the correct standard would be Procunier v. Martinez. The United States Supreme Court clearly held in Thornburgh v. Abbott, that prison officials could reject incoming mail if it was deemed detrimental to security, but if no such penological interest is involved, the Director can not rely on this case nor Turner v. Safely to justify its restrictions on incoming mail. The question is now "Is there a legitimate penological interest to justify its restriction of the MIM(Prisons)'s Under Lock and Key??" The only way to force the Director to answer this question and identify the penological interests involved is to file a §1983 Civil Right Action against the director making him accountable to the Federal Courts. The prisoner has the additional alternative of the Prison Grievance System which we know is unreliable. At this moment my advice and suggestion to MIM(Prisons) is to challenge these censorships from a different angle. From my research dealing with a recent line of cases i.e. Beard v. Banks 126 S.C.T. 2572 (2006), Overton v. Bazzetta 539 U.S. 126 (2003) Ramirez v. Pugh 486 F. Supp. 2d 421 (M.D. Pa. 2007), Brittain v. Beard, 932 A.2d 324 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2007). The Courts seem to be interested in whether the regulation challenged promotes rehabilitation. Recently the term "Rehabilitation" has been used by prison officials to uphold prohibitive regulations and thus far have been successful. It would be a strategic legal maneuver to argue that such restrict regulations actually discourage rehabilitation, and expert testimony from a psychologist or sociologist would help to support this argument. This would be a more strategic angle to strike from.

MIM(Prisons) also was inquiring about cases concerning prisoner's rights to read newspapers as well as write for them and concerning inmate to inmate correspondence. Well I do not know right off top a specific case that involves prisoners rights to read newspapers as well as write for them, but there is a case that states "prisoners may not be punished for posting material on the internet with the assistance of a third party," I don't think it's what MIM(Prisons) is looking for though.

I do know as far as inmate to inmate correspondence is concerned, that the United States Supreme Court held in Shaw v. Murphy 532 U.S. 223, 121 S.Ct. 1475 (2001) that a prisoner who was working as a prison law clerk claimed his First Amendment rights were violated when he was disciplined for statements he made in a letter to another inmate in which he gave legal advice. He was disciplined for violating a prison policy prohibiting insolence and interference with due-process hearings. The court found that inmates do not possess a special First Amendment right to give legal assistance to other inmates. If they did possess such a right, it would mean enhancing the usual protection given to inmate to inmate correspondence. Thus his letter, regardless of its content, was subject to the same regulations as all other letters sent between inmates. At least as far as South Carolina is concerned inmate to inmate correspondence is only allowed if the inmates are immediate family members or if the inmates are involved in a joint legal action and the correspondence is related to the legal action only. SCDC Policy 10.08 Section 18.

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[Legal] [Missouri] [ULK Issue 17]
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Campaign Update from Missouri

Censorship Campaign Update

In April 2010, we embarked upon a legal campaign to protest the Missouri DOC's decision to place a blanket ban on all CDs and tapes which carry a parental advisory label. We suggested that prisoners send in a complaint to DOC and government officials, and other prisoners' rights organizations.

On 29 June 2010 the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri responded to the letter I sent to them. In short order, they said they couldn't represent "me" in the complaint set forth in Our complaint letter, although I stressed that this was an issue that affected the entire class of prisoners in this state.

On 13 July 2010, Natania Gazek, Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division of the U.$. Justice Department responded to Our complaint and letter. Her response was that the U.$. Justice Department would not get involved in "individual" cases, but does have the authority to initiate civil action in the name of the Unite $tates. against state and local officials to remedy conditions of confinement which violate the constitution.

We shouldn't be surprised by these responses. These officials represent the interests of the state, which is imperialist in word and deed. However, what surprised me was that I wrote to over 40 organizations and groups which have memberships in these prisons including but not limited to the NAACP, NOI, Missouri CURE, Human Rights Watch, Critical Resistance, rcp=U$A, ASPS, the Fortune Society and not one of these groups had enough respect for Our struggle to even respond to Our call for help.

From this you should take that it is exceedingly important that we support groups such as MIM(Prisons) and USW who have shown in their actions that they support our struggles. We must withdraw all moral and financial support of groups and leaders who don't give a damn about our repression, yet want our membership dollars.

Legal Work

I have current federal litigation filed that alleges that the censorship policy is a violation of Our 1st and 14th Amendment rights. This case deals specifically with DOC officials' censorship of issues of Under Lock & Key and other MIM publications.

What will strengthen this case and the new case that I'm preparing is if those of you in Missouri who have had issues of ULK and other literature from MIM Distributors censored would write out declarations or affidavits stating when and what was censored and send them to the MIM(Prisons)-led Prisoners' Legal Clinic, who will send them to me. I will present this evidence to the Asst. Attorney General as proof that these illegal actions are happening in other prisons and it is not just me as an "individual" who is suffering.

In all, the lesson here is that we can't expect "justice" from our enemies and that we must organize ourselves and build independent institutions that speak to our needs. Rest assured that our enemies know full well the social implications of their policies. A persyn can only proceed as far as their knowledge will carry them and they plan to keep prisoners ignorant, addicted and coming in and out of prison as a constant source of income.

Ups to all of those who took the time, energy and efforts to send in complaints, file grievances and educate fellow prisoners on these issues and others. If you have other ideas, suggestions or strategies please send them in. Keep your heads up, stay strong, unite and organize.

This article referenced in:
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[Control Units] [Legal] [High Desert State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 17]
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Keep Fighting Gang Validation

I would like to comment on the "Legal Tips to Fight Gang Validation article that was printed in ULK 16. This comrade's tips are greatly appreciated and will help a lot of prisoners who are not familiar with our rights in the validation process. Here's the thing though, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is aware of such due process rights and we get a 114-D lockup order, a chance to reboot our validations, and to be put up for the Security Housing Unit (SHU) by classification. However, it's all just a big charade without any meaningful review given at any time and no matter what we say or what evidence we present to show the source items are insufficient, unreliable and can't be used as source items per the Title 15 and relevant authority, we are ignored at every level.

I 602ed [grieved] my validation and clearly showed why my validation is false on all levels but was just given a general response at the 2nd and 3rd levels, as all prisoners are, saying I'm wrong and my validation meets the department's requirements. CDCR refuses to follow their rules and is just rubber stamping prisoners' validations and going through the motions that are nothing more than a front in an attempt to dupe the courts into believing we got our due process.

Now in my optimistic attitude I thought the courts would see the arbitrariness of my validation and actually, you know, follow the law. But when I sent in my habeas corpus to the Lassen County Superior Court it took them all of 6 days to deny my petition without holding any hearings, which is the only way the court could have determined that my source items showed "some evidence" and were reliable as they stated. So I sent my habeas corpus to the court of appeals hoping I can get a real review, which I have yet to receive. My case is no different from all other prisoners being validated here at High Desert State Prison and it won't change until we shed light on this dark process. So my question is, what do we do when the officials and courts that swore to uphold the law are disregarding it without a second thought? We all will continue to 602 and petition the courts about our fake validations for they can't ignore us forever.

Another case that is vital for validated prisoners to get their hands on to study and apply to their situation is the Lira v. Cate, No. C-00-0905 S1 (N.D.Cal. Sept. 30, 2009) which is regarding a former validated prisoner who challenged his gang validation and lack of due process and won.


MIM(Prisons) responds: They can't ignore us forever if we team up. As pointed out, people are facing the same situations all over. Legal battles are an important tool in the struggle, but we know the whole system, including the courts, is set up to oppress certain groups. Part of these struggles is making connections and working together. With enough unity around the right issues our reliance on the courts becomes less and less necessary.

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[Legal] [Abuse] [Western Correctional Institution] [Maryland]
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Grieving Leads to Brutality, but Staying Strong

I have been in disciplinary segregation since August 2004 and I am currently at Western Correctional Prison, Maximum Security. On 26 January 2008, I wrote an Administrative Remedy Complaint (ARCs) on six officers who attacked me while coming from the showers on the 4 - 12 shift. This was due to me writing grievances (ARCs) on them for not abiding to DOC policy and procedures. The ARC has stayed its course through the process and it is now in the Court of Special Appeals where it has been since February 2009.

On 13 March 2009, I was assaulted by officer Broadwater, which precluded the above ARC. All these officers at the time were working SHU #4 Disciplinary Segregated Isolation tiers.

On 25 March 2008, I was assaulted by officers Rice, Brambles, and McKenzie. I was sprayed with chemical pepper spray all over my front body, from my waist to my head. This chemical was literally dripping off my body. The officer said in his report that he gave me a one second burst! This ARC went through the process and is in the Court of Special Appeals as of February 2009.

To relieve themselves of an injunction that I won, they transferred me to Eastern Correctional Prison, which is classified as medium security. I am classified as Maximum #2 level, so I made out really good from the injunctions.

I've lodged numerous ARPs:
1. Concerning the wearing of hair nets while serving our food to us. I won this ARP and the Gestapo hates it.
2. Serving us cold food all the time. This ARP is at the Inmate Grievance Office (IGO) now, which is the last step before going to court.
3. ARP about tiers having food and trash on them, which the guards encourage. This ARP was addressed at the IGO level in December 2009, and now they have to come around to each individual cell and collect unwanted food and trash. Gestapo hates it because they have to do a little work.
4. ARP concerning filthy showers and the tier floor not being mopped regularly as stated in the DOC policy and procedures, "It is imperative that good sanitation be maintained at all time!"

I also have two cases in local courts. As you can see, I am very adamant about these Gestapo security guards doing their job correctly. Whatever you can think of that these Gestapos can do to me, they've done it over the years. So whatever they do to me, they're not getting a cherry. Been there and done that!

As far as the grievances go towards censorship of incoming books, magazines, and literature such as Under Lock & Key, I fought the censorship of incoming literature from Book 'Em and Books to Prisoners. Basically I wrote an ARP because when the books came in they sent them back without notifying me that the books were even here. I found out via Books to Prisoners writing me and telling me about it. So the prison violated not only mine, but Books to Prisoners' due process rights.

Plus the prison had a list of 34 companies where you could order books from. This list is called a "blackball" list and it is illegal. I charged them with a restraint of trade and discrimination. Once the ARP got to the second level of the process, Commissioner's Office, they withdrew the list of 34 companies.

I have a very good track record for winning ARP cases, and my first two books were from Books to Prisoners.

I want to put Maryland on the map, so to speak! There are numerous upon numerous violations that are at fault in this Gestapo Security Guard Concentration Camp. I'd like to see more prisoners in this state get involved in any movement that stands against this Draconian style suffering towards those who are imprisoned.

Nothing and no one will stop me from exercising my absolute right to litigate from anyone refusing to adhere to giving me those few basic rights that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights of the United States of Amerikkka says that I have!

MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade domonstrates that following through on appeals and filing court cases can actually lead to winning cases and that building your experience fighting such legal battles can pay off.

Though prisons are one of the most fascist elements of U$ society we don't use the term "Gestapo" to describe the pigs. The Gestapo was the official secret police of the Nazi government, and to call U.$. prison guards a Gestapo tends to let imperialism off the hook. The petty bourgeoisie likes to believe that bourgeois democracy is a more humane system than fascism. But part of the importance of exposing what is going on in U$ prisons is demonstrating that imperialism can be just as oppressive when it needs to be. Fascism happens when the imperialists decide they need to be that oppressive all the time.

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[Legal] [California] [ULK Issue 16]
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Legal Tips to Fight Gang Validation in California

I am writing in regards to an article titled "False Gang Validations to Repress Latinos" featured in your Under Lock & Key, May/June 2010 newsletter. The author "seeks advice, assistance or referral on how to get word out about biased racial profiling, mass validations, and [officials'] failure to follow their own policies and laws." I am somewhat familiar with the validation process and can only offer advice on that subject. Hopefully it is enough to help steer anyone interested in the right direction.

For starters we have to address the fact that officials are knowingly violating your rights because they know that prisoners are not familiar with the validation process and because appeals coordinators will prevent your CDCR-602 [grievance] appeal from being processed. This is accomplished by screening-out 602s by either applying false rules that don't exist in the California Code of Regulations, Title-15, or the Department Operations Manual (DOM), and by also manipulating current rules by applying them to situations that don't justify the use of that particular rule. The Federal Court in Nunez v. Duncan , 591 F.3d 1217 (9th Cir. 2010) and the State Court in In re Hudson (2007) 143 Cal. App. 4th 1, 49 Cal.Rptr.3d 74, have caught on to these obstructionist tactics and now deem a 602 appeal exhausted if the appeals coordinator prevents you from exhausting your appeal. But you must still follow legitimate and established rules and regulations. The exhaustion exception only applies when officials are the ones who are preventing you from exhausting. So don't be discouraged if the appeals coordinator repeatedly screens out your appeal. Challenge their screen out decision two or three times in order to create a record for the Court that will show you made a good faith effort to exhaust and that it was officials who were the obstructionists.

DOM § 54100.8, only allows the appeals coordinator to: (1) screen appeals to determine if you followed proper procedural rules. They are not to use the screen-out form to discourage you from pursuing your appeal by addressing the issue on part "A" of the 602. The issue is to be addressed by a reviewer not the appeals coordinator; (2) this section also prohibits the appeals coordinator from construing the appeals process in any way that would place an unreasonable burden on your right to file a 602; and (3) the appeals coordinator is to provide you with clear instructions needed in order to have your appeal processed. They always screen-out a 602 by telling you what rule you allegedly violated but they don't tell you how to correct the problem. Make sure you insist on clear instructions needed to overcome the screen-out decision. With this in mind we now turn to the validation process.

When a prisoner is being considered for validation, at the minimum, the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and Article 1, Sections 7(a) & 15, of the California Constitution, require prison officials to provide you with: (1) meaningful notice of being considered for validation through a CDCR-114 lock-up order; (2) an opportunity to express your views to the Institutional Gang Investigator (IGI) prior to your validation package being submitted to Sacramento for approval; (3) CDCR-1030 Confidential Disclosure forms for each source of information they intend to count as a validation point (the 1030s must be provided 24 hours prior to IGI interview); (4) officials must designate you as being a current active member or associate by identifying specific gang activity or conduct allegedly performed by you on behalf of the gang; and (5) if Sacramento approves the validation package, you have a right to be taken before a Classification Committee. (see Toussanint v. McCarthy, 926 F.2d 800, 803-05 (9th Cir. 1990); Madrid v. Gomez, 889 F.Supp. 1146, 1276-77 (N.D. Cal.1995); the terms of a settlement agreement in Castillo v. Alameda, Case No. C-94-2847-MJJ (N.D.Cal.), which became binding on the CDCR in September 2004; and California Code of regulations, Title-15, Sections 3378; 3000 (see definition of "gang"); and 3023.)

Once in segregation for validation reasons, the State and Federal Due Process Clause also guarantees you the right to periodic reviews by the Classification Committee on at least a weekly or monthly basis during the first two months of segregation and then once every 120 days thereafter. (see, Toussanint v. McCarthy, 926 F.2d 800, 803-05 (9th Cir. 1990); and Toussaint v. Rowland, 711 F.Supp. 536,540 fn.10 (N.D.Cal. 1989).)

If validated you could challenge each validation point under the Due Process Clause by alleging that each point is unreliable because it does not meet the "some evidence" standard and do not have an "indicia of reliability" as there is no corroboration, the information is hearsay obtained through someone else, or the information is completely false. (see, Superintendent v. Hill (1985) 472 U.S. 445, 105 S.Ct. 2768; Cato v. Rushen, 824 F.2d 703,705 (9th Cir. 1987); and Cal. Code of Regulations, Title-15, Sections 3321; 3084.5(h)(2)(C); and 3378(c)(8)(A)-(M)

If officials allege that you committed a specific act of violence on behalf of the gang, then you are entitled to greater Due Process protections: (1) they must issue you a CDCR-114 Rules Violation Report outlining in as much detail as possible, who, what, when and where this alleged violation took place; (2) they must state what evidence they have to support the CDCR-115; (3) they must allow you an opportunity to present witnesses and documentary evidence; and (4) they must assign an Investigative Employee (IE) to assist you in preparing your defense. (see Wolff v. McDonnell (1974) 418 U.S. 539,563-66; and California Code of Regulations, Title-15, Sections 3315-3319.)

This information is only a basic starting point. You should make every effort to research these cases. Good luck with your struggles.

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[Legal] [State Correctional Institution Muncy] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 15]
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Obstruction of justice at SCI Muncy

I'm facing some harsh conditions here at SCI Muncy when it comes to fighting for what I believe in and our rights. I have several lawsuits against the DOC and pigs here, and I am constantly facing obstacles that they try to put in my way. One lawsuit I have is against the grievance coordinator of Muncy, Troy Edwards. This lawsuit is why Edwards does everything in his power to prevent me from exhausting my administrative remedies, so I can't sue him because of the requirements of the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act.

One trick Edwards uses is he tells me he doesn't get my grievances, when I know he really does get them. He stole numerous grievances, my lawyer's letter, and mail my mom sent to me. He had the search team confiscate all my property and legal work and it was never given back to me.

I was approved to take declarations (which is like a statement) from several prisoners here. One of the prisoners I requested to take a declaration from told me this: Edwards called h and about 5 other prisoners and told them I wanted to take their declarations. He continued to say it was a waste of their time because my lawsuits are frivolous, I don't have a lawyer, I am representing myself, and other bullshit! That scumbag bastard tried to deter these prisoners so they would refuse to let me take their declarations, and I would not have proof of my claims, which would lead to the prison winning judgment.

I was furious when I was told this, but I was not surprised at Edwards's pathetic attempts. He does this all the time! He and the superintendent backdate their grievance appeal responses so it looks like I am too late and I can't exhaust my administrative remedies. They also backdate their requests. They have this stamp they can rig to put any date they want on anything.

In December 2009 and January 2010 I sent over 19 grievance appeals and never got one response back. I kept writing this grievance coordinator and the superintendent and got nothing but run-arounds. Even a few of my initial grievances were not processed. Troy Edwards picks and chooses which grievances he does and doesn't want to answer. The ones he doesn't want to answer, he lies and says he never got them. I have copies, though!

Prisoners do not have a right to court-appointed lawyers for their civil suits against prison administration. When it's clear a prisoner needs one, the judge can appoint one. A good case I recommend you read if you are asking for a court-appointed attorney is Tabron v. Grace, 6F.3d 147, 155-58 (3d Cir. 1993).

MIM(Prisons) adds: One of the most active campaigns being led by United Struggle from Within comrades in a few states is to demand that prisoner grievances be heard. If one were to accept the pretexts of the existence of the U.$. "justice" system one would think they would want prisoners to have avenues to address any injustices or problems they face while incarcerated. Instead, we see the same story all over the country and the hypocrisy of the injustice system is exposed. While we appeal to those in power to recognize the importance of granting everyone basic humyn rights, we must organize the oppressed to demand those rights.

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[Organizing] [Legal] [Campaigns] [California] [ULK Issue 14]
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Address Our Grievances! Campaign Spreads

In Under Lock & Key issue 13, we published an article announcing a campaign about the improper handling of grievances by prison staff. Below is an update from the California comrade who originally turned us on to the campaign.

I initially mailed out my own petition to the CDCR Director Level back in Nov./Dec. of '09 as part of the first wave of petitions. This was done under the auspice of its originator. However some time after the first wave went out, the persyn who devised this plan was subsequently taken to the hole. It was rumored that it was exactly because of this persyn's legal maneuvering that he was sent to the hole. Anyway, back in January '10 I received a response. As it turns out, these petitions were never investigated or even looked into as we requested. The Appeals Coordinator at the Director Level simply re-routed my petition back to the Warden's office here at this institution, at which time the warden here implied that the appeals which I had pending were screened back to me because I basically failed to comply with inmate appeal regulations. This is of course total bullshit! The "W." pretty much just issued me a de facto "695 Screen Out Form" without ever really looking into the matter, thereby sweeping the matter back under the rug.

I then decided that someone needed to step up to the plate and pick up where this petition's originator left off. I began by tracking down as many people as I could find who'd participate in the legal action. I tracked down about eighteen people, of which only three others besides myself received responses. As it turned out, we all got the same document with seemingly no other action taken.

I then proceeded to make as many copies of the original petition as I could obtain. I was only able to make 20. Of these 20 I only had twelve more people agree to mail the petitions out. As of today nobody's received any responses.

I contacted the Ca. Prison Law Office, useless. The Ombudsman, useless, no response, and a few other organizations claiming to offer inmates assistance (Critical Resistance? critically useless). I didn't bother with Internal Affairs or the Inspector General as they are both connected to CDCR and seemingly cover their asses. The DOJ is a different story. However, they will only take action if it can be proven that civil rights abuses are taking place en masse. Since only four of us received responses, the DOJ will not take action.

So it hasn't turned out as we hoped [with an investigation into the failed CDCR grievance system]. I suppose it wasn't a total failure, though, as we have proved yet again that the inmate appeals procedure in the Ca. Dept. of Corruption is nothing but an obstacle placed in front of prisoners' path to the U.$. judicial system.

MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade's initiative to pick up a worthwhile project, after state repression stopped the original leader, is commendable. Others who have this kind of initiative should be working with the United Struggle from Within, the MIM(Prisons)-led anti-imperialist prisoner organization. Comrades have been working diligently to expand the scope of the campaign and we now have petitions prepared for CA, MO, OK and TX. If you are filing grievances about any issue and they aren't being handled properly by staff, consider becoming a part of this campaign and spread it to your people inside.

This comrade's analysis of the success of the campaign is completely accurate. We can hope for an investigation into the corrupt grievance system, but if it doesn't happen, then we have instead successfully exposed yet another flaw in the Amerikkkan "justice" system. It is important to not give up even if we feel like nothing will happen because these exposures are agitational points that we can rally people around. Also, like this comrade pointed out, if we send in enough petitions to the DOJ s/he believes that they may respond. So continue to send in your grievance petitions and get with MIM(Prisons) to get involved!

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[Legal] [Campaigns] [California]
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Prison Law Office and Grievance Petition

https://www.prisoncensorship.info/imgs/20100311.jpg

Above is a response from the Prison Law Office (PLO) to the petition for proper handling of grievances in California. Without addressing the systemic reasons for oppression, the PLO's efforts to fight against parole denials and revocations is futile on the group, and especially international, level.

The PLO "represent[s ] all California prisoners who have 'a major mental illness' under the class action lawsuit known as the Coleman case." In effect, Coleman v. Schwarzenegger led to the conclusion that "severe" overcrowding of prisons is the reason why most prisoners have no access to mental health care, and nominal efforts are being made to reduce the prison population. However, we know that imperialism, capitalism and national oppression are why mental health resources are inadequate within CDCR, and why prisons in Amerika lead to mental health issues in the first place. Prisons in China under Mao led to greater social awareness and responsibility, not mental illness.(1)

We challenge single-issue organizations to broaden their perspective. Parole assistance may lead to "freedom" for hundreds or even a few thousand individuals. But if we are organizing as internationalists, we can affect more people in a more profound way, and for a longer period of time. We do this by building communism. The least the PLO can do is recognize the importance of the grievance campaign and join it.

Notes:
(1) Prisoners of Liberation, Allyn and Adele Rickett

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[Legal] [California] [ULK Issue 13]
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No "Class Actions"

The days of finding relief via the "class action" lawsuit are over. The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) and countless other rulings have essentially castrated the "class action." The worst part is, under certain protocols, if a class action loses, every person in the "suspect class" is prohibited from filing in the future on similar grounds!

Only a fascist or a moron will file "class actions" because they have been eliminated. The proper methodology is to bury the bastards with litigation from individual litigants. Whatever the issue, rather than "joining forces" officially, we need to coordinate from the periphery. If 20 individuals file relatively similar actions in the same Court, the Court will occasionally attempt to coerce them into becoming a de facto "class." That can be refused by a litigant who wishes to proceed "as a class of one." Failure in this case does not affect other individual litigants. The decision might be harmful, but it cannot completely deflate the opportunity to seek "redress of grievances," as are protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

The only way to fight in a corrupted system is to use those remaining rules that ostensibly still exist and turn them against the persecuting agencies. The only way to win requires seriously thinking outside the box; but doing it with a rationale they're required to accept. If they try and blow smoke up your ass, take it to the next level. To borrow from Churchill's address done at Princeton: "Never give in. Never give in. Never give in..." It doesn't need to be eloquent: it just needs to be.

MIM(Prisons) adds: The PLRA is one way that prisoners are legally stripped of their rights as u.$. citizens. During the first wave of the Prison Movement, class actions were a crucial tool for prisoner activists to fight battles on behalf of all prisoners. The state didn't like that. We wouldn't go as far as this comrade to say that class actions are completely obsolete, but they are now extremely complex and should be brought by a lawyer. Since most of our comrades cannot afford lawyers, class action suits are functionally useless to us.

This comrade is correct that despite the difficulties we face today, we must keep finding ways to fight legal battles until they take all such rights away. And there are still ways for us to work together and work strategically. Issue 13 of ULK will focus on how to do this, so comrades should write in with their ideas.

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[National Oppression] [Legal] [California] [ULK Issue 11]
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Foreign Nationals Face Brunt of Population Crisis

The State of California faced a "two-pronged" problem this year with regards to housing "alien" prisoners. The first came as a result of the economic calamity which eliminated most forms of tax receipts, which in turn finance various State programs. Secondly, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), has been ordered to reduce the massive number of prisoners held (often more than twice design capacity).

Unfortunately, any perceived relief will be looked upon not as "safeguarding human rights," but being "soft on crime." Regardless of political party affiliation, if a legislator can be shown as being remotely compassionate to criminals, his life in politics is in dire straits, almost certainly at an end. This creates a rather hypocritical dogmatism between being "financial stewards," and "tortuous demagogues." So, the "powers-that-be," have chosen a rather stealth-like hypocrisy that appears sound to the tax-payers, and helps continue the ethnocentrism of the post-9/11 era: Deportation of Aliens Who Completed Their Prison Terms.

Consider this for a moment:

If "Jose Garcia" [arbitrary name] is arrested and convicted of any criminal offense, he will face deportation only after serving his time in an American prison. In some cases, it makes no difference, because the "Alien" is serving an Indeterminate Sentence (Life; Life Without Parole; Death; etc...), and will not be released. It does not matter whether his "papers were in order," or if he waded the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juarez, he still faces deportation. In some rare cases, the prisoner will not be deported because he faces death in the receiving country (Libya, Syria, Iran, China, etc...), but this is also open to "political interpretation." An Iraqi citizen may be sent "home," because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power, and there is a "legitimate government in Iraq" (Bush #43's words, not mine) and the threat of torture has been lessened (compared to what?). So, "Jose", serves his term and is hustled to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) gulag, pending decision to deport.

The insidious nature of this legislation/Court Order, is that it neither provides relief for the refugee who has fled his country's economic abyss, or provide "security" for prisoners who are existing in nightmarish dungeons that lack essential medical and mental health services. Meanwhile, the state legislators continue to support prisons in their districts for their own profit and for jobs for their constituencies.

State courts are simply an extension of their political friends hypocritical policies, and generally refuse to accept reality as a guiding principle. The Federal Courts, while not without their flaws, are more likely to answer the complaints of the down-trodden with something similar to justice. The problem with the Federal Court is that they drag on forever and create such insurmountable complexities that most people are incapable of succeeding in their quest for "justice." The recent cases noted before (Plata v. Schwarzenegger, and Coleman v. Schwarzenegger) have been active for eight years and eighteen years, respectively. The recent court order was for the reduction of the prison population by 40,000 over the next two years. On the surface it seems like a victory for the Prison Abolition Movement, but the State has twisted it around and essentially no relief will be seen. Instead of a legitimate reduction in sentences, or other mannerism which might have a perceived legitimacy, the CDCR has announced that they will start sending people to ICE more rapidly, and will shuffle papers and falsify reports until the State implodes.

I personally know a man who has lived in this country for most his life, but due to his extensive criminal record, may be deported to Iraq (he's Armenian). ICE is kind of in a "Catch-22": Politically, to send someone back to Iraq would show "faith in the new Iraqi government"; but to refrain, would keep a "Career criminal" on American streets. Do they recognize the absolute surreal failure of the American "gulag archipelago?" No. They proclaim a lost war won, and sacrifice someone who might well be killed upon arrival, as a sign of "success" in Middle-East policy.

Needless to say, the "California Dream" is now excluding non-naturalized foreigners, and any attempt at succeeding without the appropriate documentation is hazardous to your "Freedom."

Handling Deportation Threats

When asked by foreigner prisoners, on how to proceed, I examine several factors before making any recommendation:

1. Where are you from? (What is the political climate there?)
2. What offense brought you to prison? (Murder, rape, etc. are hard to defend. Petty possession, shop-lifting, etc. are easier to bring "mitigating circumstances" into the question.)
3. What kind of skills do you bring to society? (A dope fiend with no education will find little sympathy, where an engineer or a doctor will be of some interest.)
4. What political affiliations do you have? (The "Red Scare" still exists, as does massive disinformation about anarchism. If you are perceived as a possible threat, you will be neutralized.)
5. Finally, are there any advocacy groups who specialize with your country, region, political group, religion, et al.? (Being from Mexico will only help you if you can convince your captors that you face death if returned to Mexico (drug war). Guatemala and Honduras have significant political strife that can be used to prevent deportation back there. Other places have different circumstances that should be publicized by the U.S. State Dept. or various news agencies. Reach out early for help and publicity.)

Seek out copies of Prison Legal News and the addresses of whatever embassy or consulate is pertinent to your citizenship. Most nations require "detaining nations" to notify them of having possession of one of their citizens (see: "Consular Notification and Access," U.S. State Department). Within this guide, are the "basic instructions" of political rights, printed in 13 languages, along with the telephone numbers of most consulates and embassies. In a few circumstances where the United States does not have "Diplomatic Relations" with a country, you have access to either the United Nations Delegation or a Neutral Country (Sweden, Switzerland, etc.), who will contact your nation of origin (if you so wish).

The key point for anyone facing deportation to remember is that the political climate of the United States is precarious at best, and if you are facing deportation to a reasonably stable area (no warfare, drug gangs, massive infectious disease issues, kidnapping, rape, etc.), and you are not facing extra detention as a result of being deported "home," it may be better to utilize what contacts you've made in the United States and improve the conditions of your "home" country. If, while incarcerated, you learned how to repair computers, or used more modern construction techniques, perhaps you can be of value there. Further, if you developed friends in this country, possibly they can continue communicating with you and possibly bring relief to the economic scene in your locale.

Regardless of the circumstances, you are not alone. There are scores who have faced the same crisis before, and likely even more will face similar in the future. No matter what, keep your dignity. A coward dies a thousand deaths. A brave man only one. Fascist, sociopathic lunatics may be ruling most countries, but their effect upon you is where you can limit their power. If you refuse to bow down to their nonsense, they lose the battle over your will. You hold the power to determine your fate: use it wisely and with honor.

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