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Under Lock & Key

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[Censorship] [Legal] [Illinois] [ULK Issue 37]
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Some Censorship Reprieve in Illinois

Revolutionary Greetings!

On 21 May 2013 I filed a Section 1983 Civil Suit against Illinois Department of Corrections employees S. Rhone-Plaskett (Counselor), A. Winemiller (Correctional Officer), Jackie Miller (Administrative Review Board Representative), and Grievance Officer (John Doe) for the unconstitutional banning of the November/December 2012 No. 29 issue of Under Lock & Key (ULK).

This lawsuit is the second one that I have filed concerning the bogus banning of ULK and I expect to file many more in the future. This lawsuit is based on the grounds that the Defendants cannot substantiate the banning of ULK and that the banning of ULK violates my Constitutional Rights to:

  1. Receive and own reading material;
  2. Have freedom of speech; and
  3. Have freedom of political expression.

Any material or support you can offer that would aid me in my battle against censorship in Illinois would be greatly appreciated. Specifically, I would count it a blessing if you would comb through your archives and send me anything you have regarding censorship of ULK in Illinois, especially the November/December 2012 No. 29 issue of ULK.

Filing lawsuits does work! Because of the pressure I have been applying by filing Section 1983s, I was allowed to have the March/April 2013 No. 31 issue of ULK, the first issue of ULK that I have received since November 2011. So keep your heads high and your hearts strong as we continue to fight the phenomenon of censorship. It is just another contradiction facilitated by the proletariat/bourgeois contradiction.


MIM(Prisons) responds: Some comrades in Illinois have been permitted to receive ULK without censorship, after much work on their end to defend their rights. In other facilities, it is still banned. Specifically, at Sheridan, Menard, Stateville, and Lawrence Correctional Centers, ULK is being censorsed for any reason from "banned in facility" (Stateville) to "promotes unauthorized organization activity" (Menard). Still, we are being banned without notice to publisher or prisoner (Lawrence) and mailroom employees at Sheridan inconsistently enforce a policy that labels are not permitted on mail pieces; we have yet to see this policy in writing in any official format.

Several prisoners in Illinois have stepped up to help out with the censorship battle in their state. We recently began engaging with these volunteers on an organized basis to help push this battle to a head. We need prisoners who are facing censorship to fight out their persynal censorship battles, like the author of this article has done. MIM(Prisons) and the Prisoners' Legal Clinic volunteers can assist, but we can't fight the battle for you.

The author of this article is correct that occasionally we will make gains, and expand space, for revolutionary organizing. We can use the legal system to make small reforms that make our job easier; for example, defending the right to receive revolutionary newsletters. But we don't expect to be free of all censorship, as it is a manifestation of the battle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat; it is a manifestation of the battle between the Amerikan oppressor nation, and the oppressed internal semi-colonies. We use the administrative procedures and courts when we can, but ultimately we know we can't rid ourselves of censorship, or any other social ill, unless we resolve the root problem: oppression of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie, and oppression of the internal semi-colonies by the Amerikan nation. We can only make this sweeping change by throwing out the entire capitalist imperialist system itself.

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[Abuse] [Legal] [Central Prison] [North Carolina] [ULK Issue 37]
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Prisoners' Lawsuit Makes Progress in NC Struggle Against Abuse

north carolina lawsuit victory
I would like to update my article in ULK 33. Our lawsuit against guard assaults on prisoners has gained attention and helped us win some protections. The pigs in Raleigh were ordered to install eleven new cameras and extra equipment to double storage capacity, set up a new policy to investigate assaults, and the court hired an expert to go into the prison to inspect it to see if blind spots are covered and other areas have been corrected. They have also replaced the entire unit staff.

We are now in discovery since the judge refused to throw out the prisoner beatings lawsuit. This case is getting some press, and the Herald Sun reported: "The judge made a not so veiled reference to the practice of punishing inmates by locking them up in dim solitary units." The judge said "your case is about sunlight where you claim there were systematic violations" to the lawyers for the prisoners. "What we need to do with this lawsuit is not bury it in a deep, dark hole and proceed with discovery."(1)

So one damn thing for sure we got a judge on our side. The same way they have taken from us (a little at a time) we all can do the same to them. It's just a matter of team work.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This is a good example of a winnable court battle that will result in some improvements in safety for prisoners. But it will not stop the inhumane abuse that continues throughout prisons in North Carolina. This is an ongoing contradiction of our fight against the criminal injustice system at this stage: we take on reformist battles to try to improve the conditions under which our comrades suffer, but we know that these reforms offer no more than minor adjustments to a system that is based on the oppression and suffering of those locked within.

It is ironic that the prisoners in North Carolina have to go to court to fight for their own safety within prison, while the state's justification for every repressive act is "safety" (including North Carolina's excuse for censoring Under Lock & Key for over three years straight). This exposes the reality of the criminal injustice system: a brutal tool of social control that endangers the safety of all who are captured in its broad nets. We need to take advantage of reform battles like this one, both to gain some breathing room for our comrades and to educate others and build unity. We can't end the abuse until we eliminate the criminal injustice system, but these reformist battles are important steps along the way in our ultimate fight against imperialism as a whole.


Notes: The Herald Sun November 15, 2013.

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[Legal] [Civil Liberties] [Connecticut] [ULK Issue 35]
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Connecticut Prisoners Lack Access to Legal Info

"The Supreme Court of the United States has held that the Constitution of the United States only requires a state to provide its inmates with access to a law library or access to persons trained in the law. Bounds v. Smith, 40 U.S. 817, 97, S. Ct. 1491, 52 L. Ed. 2d 72 (1977). The choice of which alternative to provide lies with the state, not with the inmate. Connecticut has chosen to rely on access to persons trained in the law in order to comply with the requirements of Bounds." - CT DOC form letter

One of the services that the Connecticut Department of Corrections offers to prisoners is the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services at Yale University. In a letter dated 17 November 2012 that organization responded to a comrade stating:

We received your letter requesting assistance. Unfortunately, this office no longer has the resources to provide information or representation to such requests.

This is similar to the situation in North Carolina where the state contracts with the completely useless North Carolina Prisoner Legal Service, Inc. But, as we know, in other states where law libraries are provided, the resources in those libraries are also grossly inadequate. Meanwhile, Bill Clinton's Prisoners Litigation Reform Act seriously hampered the ability of prisoners to get their grievances heard in U.$. courts. For those interested in this law we recommend Mumia Abu Jamal's book Jailhouse Lawyers.

Our response to all of this is two-pronged. The main lesson is that legal battles cannot win prisoner rights under imperialism. As Mumia exposes in his book, the belief that they can leads hard-working jailhouse lawyers to literally go crazy. To win, we must organize oppressed people to establish a joint dictatorship of the proletariat of the oppressed nations over the former oppressors. Under proletarian leadership, exploitation and oppression will become the biggest crimes, and prisons will become places for education and re-socialization rather than torture and isolation.

Our second prong is our Serve the People Prisoners' Legal Clinic. This is our short-term strategy. We know that legal information is difficult to obtain in the current system, and that providing access to this information in a useful way helps oppressed people in prison to survive this system. Just be careful that our legal work does not help prop up the very system that oppresses us, as Mumia warns. If you want to help prepare and share legal guides for anti-imperialist jailhouse lawyers write in and ask to work with the Prisoners' Legal Clinic.

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[Download and Print] [Campaigns] [Abuse] [Censorship] [Legal] [North Carolina]
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Downloadable Grievance Petition, North Carolina

North Carolina Petition
Click to download a PDF of the North Carolina grievance petition

Mail the petition to your loved ones and comrades inside who are experiencing issues with the grievance procedure. Send them extra copies to share! For more info on this campaign, click here.

Prisoners should send a copy of the signed petition to each of the addresses below. Supporters should send letters on behalf of prisoners.

Secretary, Division of Prisons
4201 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-4201

Director of Prisons
831 West Morgan Street
Raleigh, NC 27626

ACLU of NC
PO Box 28004
Raleigh, NC 27611

U.S. Department of Justice - Civil Rights Division
Special Litigation Section
950 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, PHB
Washington DC 20530

Office of Inspector General
HOTLINE
PO Box 9778
Arlington, VA 22219

Jennie Lancaster, Deputy Secretary of DOC
4201 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-4201

And send MIM(Prisons) copies of any responses you receive!

MIM(Prisons), USW
PO Box 40799
San Francisco, CA 94140

*PDF updated May 2012, July 2012, January 2013, and October 2013*

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[Gang Validation] [Legal] [California]
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STG Pilot Program Primer

Editor: Clearly there is nothing in these new rules that could be considered an advance for the plight of California prisoners who face torture (and the threat of torture) in the Security Housing Units. We print this for informational purposes for those facing this repression and hoping to understand it better.

This is in regards to "the new rules for deciding who is a gang member or associate and whether those prisoners are placed in a Security Housing Unit."

Prisoners in California: you must request and insure that your institution makes the new rules concerning "gang validation" available to every prisoner as they are not currently making them so. In the meantime if you wish to receive them independent of CDCR, then you can request them directly from the California 'Prison Law Office.' You should also request the new 'Pilot Program Memorandum' concerning the new validation process as this has also not been made available to many prisoners. You can also request the newly revised criteria for the 'Step Down Porgram' (SDP) as the Title 15 California Code of Regulations has not yet been changed to reflect these changes. "The new rules are being phased in between October 2012 and summer 2013 and will be in effect at all CDCR prisons. The pilot program will last for two years while the CDCR evaluates whether it is "effective."

What are the main changes under the Pilot program?

  1. The validation and housing rules now refer to a broader category of "security threat groups" STG which includes prison gangs, disruptive and/or street gangs;
  2. When validating prisoners as STG affiliates, the CDCR will continue to take into account similar types of "source items" as under prior gang validation rules. However, there is a new "point" system by which different sources carry different weights. There must be three source items adding up to at least 10 points to validate a prisoner as a STG affiliate, replacing the old rule that just required three source items. To be current, evidence of STG behavior must have occurred within the previous four years.
  3. STG behavior or possession of STG contraband are now listed as administrative rules violations. STG related directing, controlling, disruptive or violent behavior is a serious rule violation. STG behavior is that which promotes, furthers or assists a STG. There is a matrix setting forth the consequences of STG related rule violations on housing and program status for validated STG affiliates or former affiliates.

What will happen to prisoners who were validated as gang affiliates before the pilot program took effect?

"According to CDCR headquarters staff, the DRB (Departmental Review Board) reviews will be conducted at each prison and prisoners can attend their review hearings. The reviews have already started, but it is not known how long it will take to complete review of approximately 3000 prisoners who were validated as gang affiliates prior to October 2012. Although there are no rules regarding when current SHU prisoners will be reviewed, it appears that the CDCR is starting with the associates who have been in the SHU the longest.

"Prisoners who are released from SHU as a result of the case-by-case DRB reviews (or who were released from SHU under the old rules for inactive gang members) can be placed in SDP for confirmed STG behavior, for getting one serious STG-related rule violation, or for getting two STG-related administrative rule violations within a 12 month period. Prisoners can also be sent to the SDP based on newly received information from other law enforcement agencies or from outside CDCR's jurisdiction; the STG behavior must have occurred within the last four years and the source information must total at least 10 additional validation score points.

"Validated prisoners who were already serving indeterminate SHU terms prior to the enactment of the pilot program will not be re-validated under the new process and criteria. Instead each of those prisoners will be reviewed by the DRB to determine if the prisoner will remain in or be released from the SHU."

What are the criteria for validating prisoners as STG affiliates under the pilot program?

"Validation as either a member or an associate requires at least three independent source items with a combined weighted value of 10 points or greater coupled with information/activity indicative of membership or association. At least one of the source items must be a direct link to a current or former validated STG member or associate, or to a person who was validated within six months of the activity described in the source item.

"The types of validation source items that can be considered are the same as those used by the CDCR in the past. However, the different assigned so that some items are weighted more heavily than others. The points assigned more heavily than others. The points assigned to the various categories are as follows:

"Two points: symbols e.g., hand signs, graffiti, distinctive clothing), written materials that are not in the personal possession of the prisoner (e.g. membership or enemy lists, constitutions, codes, training material)
Three points: association with validated STG affiliates information information, debriefing reports
Four points: written materials that are in personal possession of the prisoner, photos that are no more than four years old, CDCR staff observations, information form other agencies, visitors known to promote or assist STG activities, communications (e.g. phone conversations, mail, notes)
Five points: self admissions
Six points: crimes committed for the benefit, at direction or in association with an STG, tattoos or body markings
Seven points: official legal documents showing STG conduct"

What is the process for validating prisoners as STG affiliates under the pilot program?

"The process for validation under the pilot program is quite similar to the CDCR's previous validations process, although the titles of some of the staff and the names of the forms have been changed."

Where are validated STG affiliates housed?

"Under the pilot program, some STG affiliates must be placed in the Step Down Program which generally requires placement in SHU. However, some STG affiliates can remain in the general population. Where the validated prisoner is housed will depend on the level of STG involvement and/or the prisoner's behavior:

"An STG-1 member will be placed in the SDP

"An STG-1 associate will be placed into the SDP if any of the validation source items involve serious rule violations for STG behavior that are SHU-able offenses.

"An STG-II member or associate will be placed into the SDP if at least two of the validation source items involve serious rule violations for STG behavior that are SHU-able offenses. Otherwise, and STG II member or associate shall be housed in the general population or other appropriate housing (This also applies to the previous STG-1 definition)

"And STG-II member or associate will be sent to the SDP if found guilty of two STG related rule violations which are SHU-able offenses per 15 CCR 3341.5 (c) (9). Prisoners can also be moved to higher validation levels based on newly received information from other law enforcement agencies or from outside CDCR's jurisdiction; the STG behavior must have occurred within the last four years and the source information must total at least 10 additional validation score points.

"Once a prisoner is in the SDP he/she must complete four steps to return to non-segregated housing. However, a prisoner does not need to acknowledge or admit to being an STG-affiliate"

Can validated STG affiliates debrief?

"...Prisoners who are validated as STG-II affiliates can debrief while they are in the SDP, although they may also be allowed to debrief if they are housed elsewhere such as in general population or a regular SHU. The procedures for debriefing are somewhat similar to those under CDCR's previous rules in 15 CDCR 3378.1 through 3378.3. One important difference is that there is no longer a requirement that a debriefing prisoner serve an observation period prior to being in the Transitional Housing Unit (THU).

Note: "In a recent court case, a court held that a jailhouse lawyer's possession of a validated gang associate's chronos for use in preparing legal documents could not serve as validation source item. Since CDCR rules say that prisoners can possess other prisoners documents to assist them with legal work. Because none of the other source items in the validation packet provided a direct link to gang members, the court vacated the validation and ordered the CDCR to release the prisoner from segregation." See: In re Villa (2012) 209 Cal. App. 4th 838 (a de-publication request and consideration for review are pending as of 12/17/12)

The aforementioned new criteria and rules and regulations as listed here is in no way comprehensive, but is merely the most pertinent to the prisoner population. For a more comprehensive copy of the new STG validation, placement and debriefing memo get at your MAC reps and make them do their jobs! or do it yourself and request these documents from the administration at your prison or write the prison law office at:

Prison Law Office, General Delivery, San Quentin, CA 94964-0001

And once you get a copy, try to make enough copies for every building, dorm, etc. on your yard and put them somewhere everyone can see them, such as the dayroom; and spread the word!

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[Campaigns] [Legal] [California Correctional Institution] [California]
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Petition Gets Response

A while back I had sent the petition MIM(prisons) circulates to the director of CDCR, Internal Affairs, the Department of (In)justice, and the ombudsmen.

First I got a response from the third level (Sacramento), J.D. Lozano (chief), saying they received my complaint. I had checked 3 boxes in the petition for: 1) screening out appeals to delay, 2) detaching documents and refusing to process 602 due to missing documents, and 3) using dishonesty to screen out 602s. In fact one 602 filed kept getting sent back for 3 months until I had to water it down!

A while later I was interviewed by a Lt. E. Noyce. Word is he was a former IGI (Institutional Gang Investigation). Well at first he asked me about the grievance petition: where did I get this "form" and did I make it. He had never seen it before so it astounded him that a prisoner could get something like this. After this he went on a tirade saying the people who sent me this are making money and I should have sent this petition to the institution appeal coordinator instead of Internal Affairs, and how I should just ask staff to "solve" the problem. That is the problem, but he's too deep in oppression to care. Finally he told me I am not a lawyer.

When I was returned to my cell I wrote to internal affairs again but this time I put it on an Inmate 22 Request Form. This way I can have a copy of what was said and if they didn't act I could move forward with 'legal' action. Always leave a paper trail!

I wrote internal affairs and told them that Lt E. Noyce had intimidated me, chilled my right to redress or file a grievance and I'd like to talk to someone from internal affairs. Days passed by and I was approached by a Sgt. and asked if I'd like to add anything to my "citizen complaint." I told him that everything's on the paper.

So to wrap this up the petition seems to rattle some piggy nerves. I recommend it to be used when applicable. And at least here in Tehachapi we're getting responses now.


MIM(Prisons) responds: It is interesting that the interview of the prisoner included a criticism of him for not being a lawyer. That's the point of the grievance petition: it makes these battles accessible to prisoners who don't need to know the details of the law. This is a key contribution that jailhouse lawyers participating in the Prisoners Legal Clinic can make to United Struggle from Within organizing work. If there is no petition for your state, write to us to get a sample that you can customize for use there.

We know these individual battles to address grievances will only gain small victories, at best. But the fight to improve conditions for prisoners, especially conditions that impede prisoner's ability to organize and educate themselves and others, is a critical part of building the anti-imperialist movement. Through campaigns like this one we plug new comrades into broader education and ultimately build communist leaders.

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[Abuse] [Legal] [Central Prison] [North Carolina] [ULK Issue 33]
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NC Prisoners take 23 to Court over Assaults

Sitting here I thought I would touch base and let you know that the pigs in Raleigh got caught red-handed. I'm in an eight-plaintiff lawsuit against 23 defendants, including the former and present wardens at Central prison.

Last year they put a guy in a wheelchair. Pigs were aware that the cameras didn't record or even have the capacity to record in certain areas and would put prisoners in restraints and then beat them down. They broke several of my ribs.

We are working on getting new cameras and a video retention policy, which currently they don't have. I have been working like hell to get a light shown on these corrupt pigs so as the hunger striker said in ULK 24, "Let's Rock!!"

The case is: Stanley Earl Corbett et al., v Warden GJ Branker et al., U.S.D.C. Eastern District of NC Western Division, No. 5:10-CT-3135

Defendants

  1. Warden GJ Branker
  2. Warden Kenneth Lassiter
  3. Sgt. James Reed
  4. Sgt. Mildred Prado
  5. Off. Doyle Holloman
  6. Off. Melanie Lancaster
  7. Off. Timmie Hicks
  8. Off. Samuel James
  9. Lt. Michael Norris
  10. Lt. Brent Soucier
  11. Off. Moore
  12. Off. Press
  13. Off. Summerlin
  14. Off. Arthur Marsh Jr.
  15. Off. Oates
  16. Off. Bidwell
  17. Off. Lassiter
  18. Off. Marcel Colleymore
  19. Off. Tyson
  20. Off. Alexander
  21. Off. Jared Welch
  22. Off. Ben
  23. Off. Hunt


MIM(Prisons) adds: We commend the prisoners who came together to organize this suit against difficult odds in a state where law libraries do not exist. Yet, demanding cameras to address this one instance will do nothing to stop the inhumane, physical abuse that is meted out at a conspiratorial level. Abuse like this has led to multiple hunger strikes and other demonstrations in recent years in North Carolina prisons.

Of course, the Department of Public Safety turns around and accuses ULK of promoting violence and lawlessness, having censored every issue we've put out since November 2011. As the rampant abuse and corruption of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety comes to light, we have comrades struggling against these abuses on many different fronts including censorship, grievance procedures and physical brutality, as well as education and recruitment on the inside. And despite all the censorship, as one reader points out, it seems interest in Under Lock & Key only continues to grow.

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[Legal] [Texas] [ULK Issue 31]
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Texas Lawsuits Dismissed, Keep Filing Lawsuits

Since my earlier letter I have now come across many prisoners who are existing members. It is encouraging to know that other prisoners want a revolution recharge to Texas's prison environment. In my past years of confinement, in the units I have been assigned to, not many prisoners saw the need for revolutionary prison reform. On this unit, I am coming across more prisoners who are seeing the need and attempting through civil litigation to see this reform come about.

Texas still wants to deny prisoners the right to have the government redress our grievances for violations of our constitutional rights. The right of a prisoner to petition the government exists in theory only, but not in practice.

The poorer and less educated prisoners have to face a two-front battle just to get into court. As an indigent prisoner I have to fight access to courts officials just to get the legal correspondence supplies that I need to litigate my claims. After I get them into court I have to battle court authorities and judges just to keep them in.

When I write to judges of my treatment by officials I face retribution by other prison officials. Judges and court authorities want to deny my right to exercise my claims in court under proper due process and equal protection rights. If I had funds, family or friends who could help me out with legal correspondence supplies, then the prison officials would not be able to place me in a figurative full-body straitjacket.

It is so bad that many prisoners' claims being filed in court are being stolen right out of court by magistrate judges, dismissing lawsuits on which they do not have the right to render a final judgement. When prisoners appeal it, they send it to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. District court judges' judgements are nothing more than a court directed verdict. The rendered judgements do not fit the evidence filed in court in complaints, evidence and exhibits.

Prisoners in Texas have filed so many individual lawsuits that Texas does not want any more to be filed because, whether a lawsuit succeeds or fails, it leaves an electronic paper trail. Texas prison officials are scared that the feds will step in and take their prison system away. This to me is an encouraging sign so I say keep up the good work and soon we can see the Texas prison walls come crumbling down.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this comrade that lawsuits are an important part of our current strategy to fight the criminal injustice system. But this will never bring about revolutionary change, because the legal system is a part of the criminal injustice system as a whole, as this comrade's experience demonstrates. The imperialists will never relinquish control of this critical part of their internal system of national oppression through legal battles. We can use their system against them to an extent, and even win some key battles in the legal arena, but we will do that as a part of the broader struggle which must build for independent revolutionary change.

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[Censorship] [Legal] [California]
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CA Gov. Brown Threatens to Further Curb Prisoner Lawsuits

Jerry Brown CCPOA
As all oppressed nations within the U.$. injustice system know there is no such thing as justice or rehabilitation, let alone rights!

In prison is where we see fascism getting out at its harshest.(1) Recently governor Jerry Brown spoke about how prisoners' lawsuits are costing the tax payers (parasites) money.(2) We should know better than this as it's a coverup to implement more restricted measures in prison. Not only is he seeking support to curb lawsuits but now Brown wants to implement policies limiting what prisoners can actually sue about. Like an enemy telling his combatant he can only shoot at the ground. Perhaps the recent events of prisoners waking up has caused prisoncrats to put a gag order on us. If tax payers really want to save money they should realize how much more officers (pigs) get paid for working in the SHU (ASU, PSU) than working in general population.

As a comrade wrote in ULK 30 about a case concerning the suppression of Black Panther literature, (Tani Toston v. Muchael Thurmer et al. no#10 cv 288) "The ruling is a joke and more about suppression and control." Here in California the state apparatus is gearing up for repression and suppression of our so-called "freedom of speech." This time they are attacking our right to redress a grievance. Prisoners should be aware of the consequences this plan can have on our fight against repression. Once this policy is implemented it'll be much more difficult to rectify issues we face. Of course when push comes to shove the state will not hold back to silence the resisters, as the Attica prison rebellion has shown us.

Time should be taken to study and realize the hows and whys. Giving them an inch will only do us harm and further sink us into the hole of doom. Combating the issue of censorship should be one of the top issues we fight right now.


Notes:
1. MIM Theory 11: Amerikkkan Prisons on Trial.
2. CBS Evening News. 2/11/2013.


MIM(Prisons) adds:
Jerry Brown knows how to rally the Amerikan tax payer against the imprisoned lumpen. Not a difficult task we might add. The federal government already passed the Prison Litigation Reform Act in 1996, which severely restricted prisoners' ability to file lawsuits. Yet Brown claims California still can't afford the lawsuits that make it past these restrictive measures. He claims lawyers are just scouring prisons looking for problems. Well, MIM Distributors was officially banned from sending mail to prisoners locked up by the CDCR for years, a ban that still comes back to haunt us every so often, by bureaucrats who didn't get the memo that it ended in 2008. Yet no lawyers came out of the woodwork to fight for our constitutional right to free speech (Brown claims these constitutional issues are easy money). And we've got a long line of prisoners with serious grievances, of not just censorship but physical abuse and neglect, who would love to talk to these lawyers looking for this supposed easy money. We'd be happy to put them in touch.

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[Censorship] [National Oppression] [Legal] [Waupun Correctional Institution] [Wisconsin] [ULK Issue 30]
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Court Rules BPP Program is Gang Material

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." - Thomas Jefferson

"Give me liberty or give me death." - Thomas Pain

The above two quotes are admired citations that most Amerikans with any educational degree deem to be master slogans this country's freedoms are based on. But these same quotes or those similar, if stated by Black men or Black women, are deemed contraband and gang related.

On August 2, 2012 the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a decision aimed at silencing and caging the spirit of the Panther. The court ruled that the ten point platform that the Black Panther Party (BPP) cited in every newspaper and later put forward as the core demands of the New Africans in the Amerikan ghettos, is gang-related when found in the possession of Black men. This decision was rendered from a case in one of the most racist and oppressive prison systems in Amerika: Wisconsin DOC.

The 7th Circuit Court's ruling in Tani Toston vs. Muchael Thurmer et al, no# 10 cv 288 stated that Waupun prison officials in Wisconsin could punish a Black man who allegedly has a tribal background (they used the pejorative, "gang") and who checked out two BPP books from the prison's own library, and purchased a 3rd book (To Die for the People) and copied from all three the Panthers ten point platform.

The oppressors argued that these ten points were being used to construct a gang structure simply because of the DOC's slant that he had a tribal background of defunct Gangster Disciples. They offered no evidence but their ethnocentric opinions. They punished the prisoner and gave 90 days segregation for learning Panther knowledge.

The plaintiff, who I call the Panther seeker, argued to the 7th Circuit Court that the ten point platform could not be a gang related security concern because the two books in the library recited the same program, and prisoners are permitted to get the books and to buy them. They were not on the state's book ban list.

In opposing the Panther seeker and rationalizing their reactionary measure, the prison defenders in the 7th Circuit stated: "...prison librarians can not be required to read every word of every book to which inmates might have access to make sure they contain no incendiary material. There is no reason to think that a librarian or other employee of the prison read cover to cover any of the three books that contain the ten point program."

Yet, they expect prisoners to know they could not write down the same, though they did reverse and remand the due process claim that the prison never told him he could not do so.

They further stated: "And even if the prison read the books and made a determination the book was not gang lit. on whole, that does not preclude disciplinary proceedings if an inmate copies incendiary passings from it."

It seems the court took issue with point #8 of the program, which calls for "freedom for all Black men held (implicit also women) in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails." The court states the seeker is Black and that the BPP were implicated in many acts of violence including murder, and Huey himself may have killed a cop. Their source is Hugh Pearsons The Shadow of the Panther: Huey Newton and the Price of Black Power in America.(p. 145-46 1995). They also cited the case People vs. Newton, 87 Cal. Rptr, 394 (CA), app. ct. 1970) and the case in which Black Panther leader Richard Moore was convicted of assault in a shootout between Black Panthers and Oakland police (Clener vs. Superior Court, 594 p.2d 984, 985-86 (Cal. 1979), In Re Cleaver, 72 Cal. Rptr. 20, 23-24 (Cal. App. Ct. 1968)).

They even went so far as to cite a coloring book as their source research in coming to this ethnocentric ruling. "Black Panther coloring books" depicting children murdering police, which were developed and distributed under their own FBI's COINTELPRO.

Then they had the disrespect to cite our beloved brother Fred Hampton's estate lawsuit which was filed after the Chicago pigs' assassination of the beloved. Hampton vs. Hanrahan 600 F. 2d 600, 654 (7th Cir. 1979) (dissenting opinion).

They wish to project they are fair. But how fair are they when they cite all these biased cases and omit the fact that the police, FBI, and others were actively seeking to destroy the BPP and even pacifists like MLK, and these incidents were self-defense. The BPP was a self-defense response to a racist system. How can you fault a people who stand up for their human and constitutional rights and label them criminals for defending the same principles this country was established on? The answer is clear: what white leaders say, Black ones cannot say.

The court defended their ruling by saying: "The BPP is history. But the ten point program could be thought by prison officials as an incitement to violence by Black prisoners - especially since there is a new BPP active today, which claims descent from the original. And like its predecessor both advocates and practice violence."(Citing: Southern Poverty Law Center, New BPP).

They go on to cite disputing evidence to their conclusion by stating: "In context, in the book of Huey's writings, point #8 is much less inflammatory than when read in isolation on the paper the plaintiff wrote down and had in his foot locker." They claim, in all three books, there are explanatory commentary around each of the ten points and that explanation is "innocuous" on point #8. "We believe that all black people should be released from the many jails and prisons because they have not received a fair and impartial trial." (To Die for the People. Bk. At. p5)

They seek to soften the blow of their ethnocentric cudgel: "...although Newton's book advocates revolution, it could no more be regarded as a criminal incitement than the Communist Manifesto could be. But this underscores the difference between a book as a whole and an arguably inflammatory nugget plucked from it." So what say they if we cite Thomas Pains "give me liberty or give me death"? Same as Huey's statement in point #8.

The court went on to justify their favoritism to a ethnocentric/racist prison by stating: "Not being experts in prison administration, but aware of the security problems in American prisons, judges sensibly defer within broad limits to the judgements of the prison administration."

How can the court make a fair ruling if they don't acquire some expertise in prison administration? That is the court's job as arbitrators of the case. We as prisoners need to present evidence on the expert level of how prison administrators exaggerate the facts and cite spookisms in their affidavits and summary judgement motions. As prisoners we are and should be experts in prison administration operation and the lies they tell. So why are we not illustrating the same in our litigation.

On the question of the "security problems in american prisons," again, these perceptions are all based upon what the prison officials report and claim; hardly a fair assessment as to what is really going on. This is possible because we are not disputing and putting the truth out there. We are not uniting and pooling our resources to fight the lies the prison system puts out.

The Beard vs. Banks case illustrates this fact. The lawyers/prisoners did not submit anything disputing the alleged facts in the defendant/prison official's summary judgement motion. As such, the court accepted all their exaggerations as true. Though they probably would have accepted the prison exaggerations anyway, we cannot make it so easy or allow them to justify it without exposing their favoritism and bias. The fact is that this case had lawyers, so the court could have given the disputes more weight than pro se disputed facts. This is the litigation war we are engaged in. No capitulations allowed.

The Van den Bosch case shows how censorship is allowed when we write articles like this one here. There, an article on how Wisconsin is #1 in creating conditions in segregation for petty stuff and these conditions leading to what I call intentional conditions for "suggestive ideation" (suicide). The court accepted the Wisconsin prison administrator's exaggerated security claim that criticizing these conditions could be viewed as incitement because people were killing themselves and the article stated officials were to blame. We cannot even complain or express our opinions.

We see how the court forgets that the BPP was attacked by the pigs and FBI, and they also forget all the cases in which the prison administrations have been proven busted and exposed for presenting lies. However, I stress again, it is our job to present such overwhelming facts/evidence to not allow the courts to easily accept the judgements and defer to the prisons, because we know they are straight up liars. This is war in facts.

This fact is shown by what the court wrote: "The nexus between plaintiffs copying the ten point program from "To Die for the People" and gang activity may seem tenuous, but the defendants argue that the likeliest reason the plaintiff copied the ten point program was to show it to inmates whom he hoped to enlist in a prison gang, a local cell as it were of the Black Panthers, the ten point program would be the gang's charter". They go on to say "this is merely a supposition, but it is not so implausible that we can dismiss as groundless the prisons concern."

They support that racist logic on the affidavit submitted by the prison's so-called gang coordinator, a racist named Bruce Muranski, who has been discredited in at least one case as possibly manufacturing so-called informant statements. "In the U.S. the main organizations that monitor intolerance and hate groups are the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) have deemed the new BPP as a hate group... there would be no other purpose...in the ten point program other than recruiting group members and establishing, reinforcing and maintaining an organizational structure for furthering gangs..."

In another part of the affidavit Muranski claims: "isolating the ten point from these library books allows it to be taken out of context, easily circulated and simultaneously possessed by gang members and changed or adopted for the specific needs and activities of the group... (another prisoner, other than plaintiff) was alleged to have unsanctioned security threat group items in his cell...(including) a hand written paper titled 'notes on African American leaders'. This sheet of paper contained the ten point which was identical in content to the ten point found in plaintiff cell..."

There we have it. All Black leaders who were willing to say in their own words or actions "give me liberty or give me death" are deemed contraband. Yet, I can have all the quotes I wish of white revolutionaries and Amerikan founding fathers. White "inciteful" language against the British crown is protected expression while George Jackson, or a Hoover or Malik, or Huey Newton is contraband.

The fact is that damn near every BPP or associated case, in law books or on the computer, has the same ten point program in it. So all we would need to do is buy a Panther case and circulate it if we wanted to share the ten point program. We see this decision is about intimidation and instilling inferiority. For even the cases the court cited have the ten points in them. Surely they knew that.

Still more, the case in which they made this racist ruling itself can now be used to promote and propagate the ten point program. So it's clear: the prison has no lawful reason to exclude the ten points even if they subsequently ban the books, which I'm sure they might try. The ruling is a joke and more about suppression and control.


MIM(Prisons) adds: While it is a set back for revolutionaries when important historical literature is banned or access limited to sharing this literature, it is something of a public admission of the strength and value of the Black Panther Party political line that this court felt the need to decree it as gang material. Prisoners who are labeled as part of a "Security Threat Group" are often actually organizing for the betterment of oppressed people, and promoting the peace and security of prisoners. This exposes the lie of the prison's claim that they want security. The only security prisons promote is job security for the guards and other prison workers. Prisoners' lives are far from safe and secure, due to conditions created by the guards and the criminal injustice system in general.

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