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Under Lock & Key

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[Medical Care] [Release] [California]
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Population Cap on California Prisons

In a May 23, 2011 decision by the United States Supreme Court in Brown v. Plata (2011) 563 U.S., the court held that a population limit of 146,000 prisoners was necessary to remedy unconstitutional medical and mental health conditions in California prisons. Although the Court recognized that there were other factors which contributed to inadequate medical and mental health care, the court nevertheless found that the primary cause of those deficiencies was overcrowding. There are just not enough qualified medical and mental health staff to effectively treat 175,000 prisoners in a system designed to house only 80,000 prisoners. These overcrowded conditions are leading to the spread of many diseases and delaying other medical conditions that are going untreated and resulting in unnecessary pain and death. Overcrowding is also affecting staff’s ability to properly treat prisoner’s mental health conditions. California prisons have a prison suicide rate 80% higher than the national average. 72% of suicides in California prisons involved some measure of inadequate assessment, treatment, or intervention, and were therefore most probably foreseeable and/or preventable had mental health staff not been overburdened with so many prisoners.

Because there was a concern with the consequences of releasing 46,000 prisoners into the community, the court ordered California to immediately start identifying those prisoners who pose the least risk of reoffending and offer them an expansion of good-time credits towards early release. Based on these concerns, it is most likely that those convicted of violence will not be afforded early release. The Court was concerned with the consequences of a previous Court ordered population cap on Pennsylvania prisons in which, during an 18-month period after their release, police rearrested 9,732 prisoners for committing new crimes. Those new crimes included 79 murders, 90 rapes, 1,113 assaults, 959 robberies, 701 burglaries, 2,748 thefts and thousands of drug related offenses. Based on that prior experience, which the Court did not want to repeat, the Court recommended that besides releasing those most likely not to reoffend, California could find other alternatives like diverting low-risk offenders to community based programs such as drug treatment, day reporting centers, and electronic monitoring, instead of releasing violent prisoners.

The California legislature was already working on such a proposal in Assembly Bill 109 which was recently passed and signed by the Governor. AB-109 includes 640 amendments to various California statutes, not all concerning prisoners. As for those that do address overcrowding, only two are worth noting.

The first is an amendment to California Penal Code (PC) 1170(h) which now allows certain persons sentenced up to 3 years to serve that entire sentence in a county jail. Before, only a sentence of 1 year or less was required to be served in the county jail. Those who will not be required to serve a sentence of 3 years or less in a county jail are: anyone who has a prior or current felony conviction for a serious felony as described in PC 1192.7(c ), a violent felony as described in PC 667.5(c ), anyone required to register as a sex offender, and anyone who received a sentence enhancement pursuant to PC 186.11.

The second change worth noting is the promulgation of “The Postrelease Community Supervision Act of 2011.” This Act added sections 3000.09; and 3450 through 3458 to the California Penal Code. The Act states that all those released on and after July 1, 2011 who have not been convicted of a serious felony pursuant to PC 1192.7(c ); a violent felony as described in PC 667.5(c ); sentenced pursuant to PC 667(c )(2); PC 1170.12(c )(2); or any person classified as a High Risk Sex Offender, will no longer be on parole nor under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Instead, those persons not convicted of violent or serious felonies as described above will now be released on what will be known as “Postrelease Supervision” and will fall under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff or Director of the County Correctional department for the County that person is released to.

Those persons who qualify for postrelease supervision will be on this new form of supervision for no longer than three years at which time they will be discharged from all supervision. Those on Postrelease Supervision will not be returned to prison for violations of their postrelease supervision conditions. Instead, they will be subject to a variety of other alternatives which will be known as “Community Based Punishment.” Such punishment could include what will be called “Short-Term Flash Incarceration” which means that a technical violation could subject the offender to County Jail time of no more than seven days. Other forms of community-based punishment include: intensive community supervision; additional monetary restitution; work, training, or education in a furlough program; placement in a substance abuse treatment program, community service; random drug testing; or home detention with Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) monitoring.

Those who are released on and after July 1, 2011 and do not qualify for Postrelease supervision because they were convicted of violent or serious felonies as described above will remain under the jurisdiction of the CDCR and will not see any significant change in their parole conditions and parole revocation procedures.

Those who were already paroled prior to July 1, 2011 will remain under the jurisdiction of the CDCR because they were paroled before the new law took effect. Except that those who were not convicted of violent or serious felonies will have a chance to have their parole reviewed so long as they complete six months of continuous parole without any violations. If the person has not violated parole within six months, he or she will be recommended for Postrelease Supervision and subject to Postrelease Supervision as described in PC3450 through 3458. Those persons also paroled prior to July 1, 2001 but were convicted of serious and violent felonies as described above will remain on parole under the jurisdiction of the CDCR because they would not have qualified for Postrelease Supervision even if they had been paroled after the new law took effect.

California has until May 23, 2013 to comply with the release of 46,000 prisoners unless it requests a five year extension. The extension may be granted only if California satisfies necessary and appropriate preconditions designed to ensure that measures are taken to implement the release without delay. Because California has already relieved its prisons of 9,000 prisoners through out-of-state-transfers, it now has 37,000 more prisoners to address. After the United States Supreme Court had finished hearing oral arguments and was getting ready to issue its decision, California informed the Court that it was working on AB-109. California did not give the Court a specific number of prisoners that would be affected by AB-109. California only said that “thousands” would qualify under AB-109 to serve 3-years or less in a county jail and be released on Postrelease Supervision. California will eventually have to give a specific number of persons who will not end up in prison as a result of AB-109. Once California gives a specific number of persons affected by AB-109, it will then have to introduce more legislation in order to release more prisoners or prevent them from coming to prison. As of right now, no prisoner has been released, they have just been transferred to another state or prevented from ending up in prison.

This is just a brief outline of what has recently taken place to address overcrowding in California. It is up to those of you who might be affected to do your own research into the information provided above. Because of space limitations, not every detail of the Court’s order or Assembly Bill 109 could be described in detail. So if you did not qualify under AB-109, you might qualify for release under another change in the law in the near future. If you will not qualify for early release in the future, you should at least see some improvement in medical and mental health care which was the whole purpose of the population cap in the first place. So everyone should be affected one way or another. Good luck with your struggles.


MIM(Prisons) comments: This is a good overview of the new court ruling about health care and overcrowding in California prisons. While we hope that the net effect of this ruling is the release of some prisoners and prevention of locking up others, we’re not optimistic that this will lead to any substantive changes. We have seen court rulings in the past about prison conditions, and as the pages of Under Lock and Key have documented, the Criminal Injustice System is very creative about worming their way out of restrictions to find new ways to oppress. The size of the California prison population represents job security and high wages for staff, and they will not give this up without a fight. It is a condemnation of the imperialist system that it enables people to profit off the torture and destruction of humyns. Only by ending imperialism overall will we be able to truly change the criminal injustice system. Until that time, we hope our comrades behind bars will find creative ways to use this court ruling to their advantage.

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[Medical Care] [Holman Correctional Facility] [Alabama]
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Healthcare in a Nightmare World

Most people are ignorant of the atrocities and tragedies taking place daily in these koncentration kamps. People listen and believe the lies spewed from the deceitful mouths of prison officials who put forth the ridiculous notion that prisoners receive superior medical care to free-world people, FREE! The reality is something far different, sinister and abhorrent.

The rate of prisoner deaths is unreal. Just in a 12 month period from ’08 to ’09, six prisoners at Holman prison have died. This is not including the deaths on deathrow from natural (i.e. negligent) causes. This is just at one kamp. Word is that it’s happening throughout the state.

Alabama is one of a number of states that has implemented “compassionate” release of terminally ill prisoners. There’s nothing “compassionate” about this. “Compassion” is not the reasoning of politicians or prison officials. This provision is as compassionate as G.W. Bush’s “compassionate” conservatism.

One prisoner had been approved for release under the “compassionate” release for terminally ill provision but died the day before his scheduled release. Imagine what the family went through, thinking and preparing for their loved one to come home “tomorrow” but find out he’s dead the morning they were to pick him up. Another prisoner was also approved and released, but died after one day of being released.

What’s deceitful, sinister and abhorrent about all these deaths is that with proper preventative healthcare, most, if not all, of these prisoners could still be alive today. Prison officials and the medical providers that are under contract with the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) are allowing these prisoners’ medical conditions to deteriorate to save money on medical bills.

People must be made to understand that prison officials and prison medical providers are killing people by their reluctance to send prisoners to free-world hospitals and specialists and provide necessary medicines that prisoners need to survive, just to save money and in return reap huge profits.

In 2006, there was a big scandal at Limestone Correctional Facility in Alabama. Limestone is a medium security prison that also houses the state’s HIV/AIDS prisoners. The scandal was about the medical service there. The doctor at the prison was complaining about prison officials interfering and dictating the treatment and medicines to be dispensed to prisoners. The doctor stated to the Birmingham News newspaper that the warden at Limestone had threatened her with locking her out of the prison if she didn’t stop complaining about prison officials interfering in medical matters.

Limestone was also the prison that in the 1990s housed dead HIV/AIDS prisoners’ bodies in the kitchen’s meat freezer next to the food fed to prisoners.

All prisoners in Alabama know that any time there’s a new doctor and that doctor shows any kind of humanity towards prisoners, and diligence in providing proper medical care such as sending prisoners to free-world hospitals, specialists, ordering costly tests, prescribing expensive medications, it won’t last long before that doctor’s gone.

Prisoners in Alabama have scheduled yearly physicals. Out of my 25 years doing time in Alabama prisons, I have had no more than my height, weight, temperature, and blood pressure measured, blood taken (every three years), TB tests and a few rapid-fire questions asked. That’s it!

There’s much more neglect, incompetence and denial I could list about healthcare in this nightmare world. The above should be enough to shock your conscious and your actions to fight for a world where exploitation, slavery and profit are not the motive for every endeavor. A better world is possible.

MIM(Prisons) responds:Overall, we don’t believe that Amerikans are inadequately informed about prison conditions, and that once we tell them how horrible it is their conscience will kick in and drive them to action. In Amerikans: Oppressing for a Living, we explained how the Amerikan constituents demand “tough on crime” legislation and representatives. Their subjective interests in the welfare of prisoners is reflected in the lack of education programming, support to releasees, as well as abhorrent medical care to people locked up. Damn the facts. Amerikans are gonna keep complaining that “criminals are getting better health care for free” than what they pay for. And they’ll ignore it if they pay government taxes that go to line the pockets of medical contractors who are letting people die of preventable causes.

Those of us who suffer at the hands of white Amerika, or commit national suicide should get on this comrade’s bandwagon to fight for a world where profit is not a motivating factor for any endeavor, because it’s true, a better world is possible.

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[Medical Care] [Abuse] [Mental Health] [Iowa]
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Psychological Torture in Iowa

It’s after midnight and I am exhausted but the racing thoughts in my head will not allow my body to sleep. My anxiety is at its absolute worst and therefore my insomnia is at its worst.

As a result of having to try to cope with these almost crippling conditions without medication, my depression is also quite severe. Most days I have to force myself to get out of bed. (Keep in mind that when I’m “in bed”, I’m not there because I’m sleeping but rather because I cannot find a reason to get up.) When I finally do get up I’m in a constant state of anxiety and panic. I’ve lived every day of the last year and a half on the verge of a complete nervous and emotional breakdown due to my untreated insomnia and anxiety/panic disorder.

Because of “DOC policy” the medications that were successfully treating these conditions prior to me coming to prison in 2009 were taken from me. The only medication I’m allowed is Cymbalta, which treats my depression.

I have complained to psychology staff and my doctor here that I need these medications back as my mental health is extremely unstable due to not having them. I mentioned to them that it is not unusual for me - since not having these meds - to only get 1-2 hours of sleep a night. I also told them about the panic attacks I’ve been having. (Anyone who’s ever suffered from one of these can tell you just how terrifying they can be.) I’ve told them all of this and they still refuse to provide me with adequate medications to treat my mental illnesses. Prisoners here do not receive any type of individual therapy to help them cope with such illnesses either.

As a result of IDOC’s negligence to my mental health I have suffered immensely. I was forced to drop out of a potentially beneficial academic program as a result of my untreated anxiety and the fact that I could not attend some days because I was not getting enough sleep at night due to my untreated insomnia. When my conditions got so bad that I was contemplating suicide they locked me in a tiny cell with no clothes and no blankets or a bed to sleep on and they left me there for about 2 weeks - the first time. They required me to eat with my hands and would not allow any tangible items in the cell with me, not even a soft covered Bible. Now lets be reasonable here, how am I going to harm myself with a soft covered Bible - or any soft covered book for that matter? They also forced me to let them examine my anus and genital area 3 times per day because they thought I may have had something hidden up there even though I never once left the cell and the door never opened once. It was closed and I never had any type of contact with anyone. Keep in mind someone was outside the cell monitoring me through a fairly large window 24/7.

I believe they secretly thought that keeping me in there for so long under such harsh and inhumane conditions would discourage me from bothering them with my mental health problems anymore as I heard one of the pigs say to the prisoner they appointed to monitor me that “if he wants to keep plain’ these fuckin’ games he can just stay in there awhile.” When he used the word “games” he was referring to me becoming suicidal as a result of their negligence to my mental health needs.

I was recently told by a psychology staff that they could not afford to give me the medications I need because of the recent budget cuts here in this state. I write this letter because I figured people should know that Governor Culver, who claims to so concerned about the safety of Iowa’s children, is also the one responsible for the budget cuts that put a barrier between prisoners and adequate mental health treatment which would help all mentally ill prisoners, including pedophiles and other sex offenders, be better rehabilitated and prepared to live as responsible citizens upon release.

So I’ll close this letter by posing a few questions. What is more threatening, pedophiles or mentally unstable pedophiles? A domestic abuser or a mentally unstable domestic abuser? A drug dealer who sells drugs to kids or a mentally unstable drug dealer who has a history of selling drugs to kids? I think I’ve made my point.


MIM(Prisons) responds: As we’ve written in previous articles about mental health, we look primarily to the environment as a cause for mental health problems like this prisoner describes. It is no wonder that s/he is suffering problems, as s/he is subjected to the torture of isolation that has a documented history of bringing mental health issues. Under imperialism we are forced to accept band-aids for mental health problems, and so many people end up using drugs to bring symptoms under control. As we explained in ULK 13, “As with most problems we face, we can find answers to mental health problems through dialectical materialism and in having the correct political line. In the 1950s the Chinese eliminated the more backwards psychological practices in their society and replaced them with ones focused on getting individuals to connect with and help shape the material world through applying dialectical materialism. Mental health care, like much of Chinese society under Mao, emphasized the importance of both self-reliance and collective help, with the understanding that patients can fight their diseases and lead productive lives in the new society.”

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[Mental Health] [Medical Care] [Utah]
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Say No to Escape Drugs

It’s funny because back when I was more of a knucklehead escapist I wanted medications to help me zone out or sleep through this Auschwitz. And they told me I wasn’t crazy enough then for drugs. Now that I’ve discovered reality, and am snapping them in the ass with it daily, they’re crying for me to be medicated and psychologically tested!

Well, they had their chance to turn me into a zombie. Now it’s my turn to show them they’re hypocrites. I do not believe forced medications are in the picture. But I wanted to give everyone a heads up just in case some curve ball comes my way. If you start receiving letters from me, talking about UFOs and my new brand of comfy diapers, writing in a child’s hand, you’ll know something’s up.

They’ll have to wrestle the poison into me each time though. Maybe I shouldn’t be dwelling on this, or even speaking about it, but I’ve spent my fair share of time force medicated, cramped up and yelling/moaning uncontrollably on the cold cement for months at a time, as COs laugh and kick you in the side. Sweating, being spit on and only fed a sandwich bag of dry cereal and an apple a day. Not being even able to chew with your jaw locked up from the Haldol.

The pigs do this sort of torture to break a person. But what they don’t know is a small percentage will always become very still inside after being treated like that. So still they perceive him/her as broken. Silent. And they’ll move on to the next victim.

But this quiet one will wait and learn and watch. He/she’ll smile when they expect a smile. And laugh when they see something as funny and need verification it’s so. But this person’s not… there’s not the same individual “in there” anymore. I mean, how could there be?

There are two roads one can take. One is of poisons and suicide. The other is of sweat and a sort of intelligent number$ where everything petty, insignificant, small, and worthless is what it is and rolls off his/her back.

You continue. But not for you do you do this. Something deep inside understands when nine suited up weightlifters beat a chained soul, your soul, inside you’re turned into this time bomb. Sort of. And of such a magnitude, that if you learn to control it, so it doesn’t detonate and destroy yourself, it works wonders at getting you through. Through anything. You walk and the sea of people part because they feel and see what’s inside you.

It’s dangerous. But it’s so dangerous not because it seeks to hurt. Oh, It’ll hurt, but only if it’s to help another in the same type of the situation where he/she was tempered. Seeing totally outnumbered people being beaten. Whether in groups of ten, or nations of ten million. These numbered captives who were raised as parasites, only to be fed to fellow parasites, are dangerous, are in my opinion the true revolutionary force in this nation of $nake$.

We just gotta get to them before they explode. Before they manipulate themselves some Seroquel or Effexor [psych drugs]. Before they stop caring and actually start becoming entertained by the simple, mundane, petty-pussy-patriotic slogans and shiny bloodstained third world baubles dancing merrily in front of their questioning eyes.

This is coming from one saved by the scruff of my neck because of MIM(Prisons) and comrades’ tireless work ‘out there’ to pull the wool from captives eyes ‘in here.’

I owe my life to the anti-imperialist struggle. I just hope, and train my body and mind, to contribute positively each day, and in the future, to the struggle.

Because I must, or I’d already be dead.

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[Medical Care] [Abuse] [Texas]
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Pepper Spray for the Mentally Ill

Here in our Texas prison system, prisoners with mental health issues are being abused, mistreated, assaulted, and forced into harming, hurting, endangering themselves as well as other prisoners and officers. The unit officials are negligently using chemical agents against mentally ill prisoners by spraying pepper spray (OC) directly on us and then leaving us in our contaminated cells as a form of punishment. They leave us there to suffer as they watch with gas masks on. OC cause you to burn for days, and by the cell not being decontaminated, it’s an ongoing torture. Every time you touch something in the cell it starts all over again.

Mentally ill prisoners are constantly written bogus disciplinary infractions, which we are automatically found guilty of. The mental health and medical departments are co-defendants with the administration’s corrupt misuse of disciplinary policy and procedure by falsifying documents, and signing off on these cases without any sort of support on the prisoner’s behalf.

This causes mentally ill prisoners to max their sentences because every major case is automatically a year set off by parole, plus the fact that it’s also a year’s wait before you can receive eligibility for the appropriate line class all over again. So if you are bipolar paranoid, or have another psychotic disorder, you are constantly in harm’s way.

And as I’ve mentioned, the psych staff corroborates with the administration to keep you down and in the last place. There are not any successful programs for prisoners like myself who are provoked to act out in order to receive immediate help and relief. Our ADA rights [granted by the Americans with Disabilities Act] are being stomped on.

MIM(Prisons) adds: For more on mental health abuses, causes, and cures check out Under Lock & Key issue 15.

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[Medical Care] [Abuse] [Mt Pleasant Correctional Facility - 1113] [Iowa]
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Control units used to torture mentally ill prisoners

I received your pamphlet on control units and the introductory letter. I enjoyed it and am in favor of any campaign calling for the abolition of such cruelty and torture as is inflicted by the DOC’s control units.

These torture chambers are also used to monitor mentally ill prisoners who are at risk of suicide. They force the man (I don’t like to use the term “inmate” if it can be avoided - we’re human beings who have worth and value. Words such as “inmate,” “offender,” and any other titles that have been given to incarcerated individuals are very degrading as they have very negative stigmas attached to them) to strip completely naked and put on a suicide smock, which is basically comparable to wearing a cardboard gown. They do not allow the person any tangible items whatsoever to be in the cell with them - not even a bible or some other book - until a psychiatrist determines that he/she is no longer a danger to hself.

Now, let’s think about this: How is somebody going to kill themselves with a book? Now, if one wants to play the “what if” game, they could ask, “what if they got a hold of a hard cover book and bashed their heads in with it until they were dead while the guy who gets paid to sit right outside the cell and watch them through a window 24 hours a day takes his eyes off them for a split second for the purpose of looking at the booger on his finger before flicking it?” (And trust me, this is the kind of ludicrous crap these DOC pigs use to justify some of their absurd policies.) But this problem is very easily solved; don’t give them hard cover books! Give them soft-cover books.

Anyway, while in the cell the individual is forced to do 3 strip searches per day per IDOC (Iowa Department of Corrections) policy even though he/she may never have left the cell or even had their cell door opened for any reason. In one particular facility of the IDO , the Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility, the prison officials won’t even allow the mentally ill person to shower, on the grounds that they “might drown themselves.” I have personally experienced this kind of humiliating and dehumanizing cruelty as I was placed in a control unit cell when I temporarily lost hope in life and became suicidal. They called it “mental health observation status.” (MHO)

MIM(Prisons) responds: As we pointed out in the issue of ULK 15 on Mental Health in prisons, the brutality of prisons causes mental health problems. It’s no surprise that prisoners, facing daily humiliation, brutality and oppression, and cut off from family and friends, become depressed and even suicidal. And by keeping these prisoners from access to reading material and subjecting them to strip searches, things can only get worse. Join MIM(Prisons) in organizing against this oppression.

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[Medical Care] [Abuse] [Dixon Correctional Center] [Illinois]
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Dixon's Disabled done wrong

Dixon STC (Special Treatment Center) Correctional Center is a facility that abuses, verbally and physically, Illinois’ fathers, nephews, cousins, uncles, brothers and sons, while failing them on a regular basis. It doesn’t fail them in a rehabilitation manner because this isn’t a regular facility. This facility is for the physically and mentally challenged.

How does it fail them? It fails them by constantly breaking these men’s civil liberties. An abused man can stand up for himself, but many of these men, like lost sheep, are left to the wolves, the guards, and fall right over. These men, Illinois’ family, are slaughtered by a system that protects the abusers, the guards, and slowly destroys the abused. Some of the abused even try to kill themselves because of the situation.

It starts with the guards, which are composed of, in rising order, correctional officers, sergeants, lieutenants, and majors. They all come from around the Dixon area and are a tightly wound group. Most, not all, of the guards treat the STC prisoners with constant badgering or demeaning names and comments. In groups, the guards will make fun of or belittle an individual’s disability; especially if the individual has no other witnesses. However, that is just the beginning.

The abused men here have three options: take the pain, retaliate, or do paperwork. Sadly, the choice taken is usually one of the first two.

If they are quiet, then the verbal abuse continues until they get out or, like some choose, they exit by suicide.

The other route, retaliating, is what the guards love and the system is made for. If the abused counter with words then two things can happen. The first is disciplinary action can and will be taken. The second, which some guards do, too often, is they take it farther. A guard might strike or even gang assault a prisoner. However, it doesn’t end there. They then write reports claiming a whole different story occurred and a whole new case will be given to the individual.

How can this happen? Because three or more officers versus a man that is deemed low in society, forgotten, and disabled isn’t hard to crush in the courts.

What courts? Lee county, whose main area, Dixon city, is built around Dixon CC and it’s precious guards.

Anyone would say ” Why at Dixon STC and not other joints?” The answer is simple. It happens at other joints, even the General Population side of Dixon CC, but rarely as often because it’s a Special Treatment Center, on the other side. The prisoners here don’t either know how to use, don’t believe in, or don’t trust the system. Being disabled they don’t know better.

These family members of ours need our help. They need the help provided at this facility, but not treatment like this. Even if they choose to fight back through paperwork the system’s a joke. You first need to fill out the paperwork, which most of them can’t do or don’t realize what rights have been broken. Then, you send it through the mail, which the guards sometimes have access to at different points, to the counselor. Then, a week or two later you get it back. You send that to the grievance officer who gets it done in a month and then gives it to the chief administrative officer to agree or disagree with. Then, you can finally send it to Springfield. That wait is a long time and after that you can finally sue for your rights being broken. Like that, if you can prove it, can make up for pain, humiliation, and for the fact you have to go back. With such a long process, where most are done with their sentence or punishment by then, it’s a joke.

They have an Internal Affairs here, but today in May I’ve been asking for over a month to report a beating where I only retaliated with words, yet I still haven’t seen them. I even sent them a slip 10 times already, but no response.

They even have guards who are crisis Correctional Officers for men who are feeling really depressed, but these are the same guards who most don’t trust because of what they do. When counselors are available, a guard, who isn’t trained or trusted by the individual to discuss the issue, may not give consent and call the counselor for the patient when asked.

Notice not once did I refer to these men in any kind of criminal or demeaning term. They, like myself, made a mistake, but we are the people of Illinois family and we should be treated like people with rights. When they ridicule us without reason it isn’t fair to punish us if we do it back, just because they are officers. Provoking fights and laying your hands on the disabled, when not attacked first, is wrong and illegal. No one has the right, no matter how much power they may have, to lay their hands on someone and then lie about it, especially the disabled.

Just ask yourself - why aren’t the guards being arrested?

This is what’s occurring to your fathers, nephews, cousins, uncles, brothers, and sons at Dixon Special Treatment Center. The fact is, what is occurring at Dixon STC is wrong.

MIM(Prisons) responds: As we’ve reported in ULK 15 on Mental Health in prisons, “In imperialist prisons, the ambiguity of diagnosing people as mentally ill becomes very pronounced. Part of the problem is that imprisonment causes mental health problems, so people who may not have had symptoms that would lead to a diagnosis often develop them.” Prisons cause health problems, but revolutionary study and organizing is the best option to fight this oppression. Don’t give in to the system, work with MIM(Prisons) to organize against the criminal injustice system and fight for the rights of all people.

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[Theory] [Medical Care] [Gender] [ULK Issue 15]
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Mental Health: a Maoist Perspective

What is Mental Health?

Starting with the basics: what is often referred to as the “mind” is a complex collection of biochemical reactions that occur in the humyn brain, a physical object. To take a materialist approach to mental health, we must not talk about the “mind” as a separate entity from the physical body. The belief that there is a mind or spirit separate from the physical being is a concept called dualism and is at the basis of most idealist philosophies in the world today.

Applying a basic concept of probability to genetics and biology we can accept that there are going to be humyns that are born with brains that have physical characteristics that lead them to function different than normal, and in some cases that will mean these individuals are less capable of basic humyn functions. That said, the complex biochemistry of the brain is susceptible to all sorts of outside influences from even before an animal is born. These include chemicals in the form of food, medicine and environmental pollutants, as well as physical conditions that induce biochemical responses within the body, such as stress, isolation, and irregular daylight cycles. Therefore, most discussions of inborn psychological disorders lack a scientific basis, as scientists cannot control the myriad of outside factors that influence the brain throughout an animal’s lifespan.

A sociological approach shows that mental health has strong connections to gender oppression. In, Getting Clarity on what Gender Oppression is, MC5 defined gender as being found in leisure-time, related to pleasure. Therefore depression, an extreme lack of pleasure, and the alienation that leads to it is largely shaped in the realm of gender. In MIM Theory 9, there is a focus on the disproportionate mental health struggles of wimmin and youth. As we laid out in more detail in Gender Oppression in U.$. Prisons (ULK 1), lumpen youth are gender oppressed by Amerikan biowimmin, and are some of the most gender oppressed within U.$. borders. We suspect prisoners suffer more from mental health problems than wimmin and youth in the United $tates.

The Scientific Method

The bourgeois approach to conflict and problem solving is individualistic. When problems are dealt with on the individual level, only a few problems are solved and then held up as examples that “anyone” can achieve, but most problems are either not solved in the first place, or recur soon after they are solved. Communists, on the other hand, work in the interests of the vast majority in the world today who are oppressed by the powerful. Our strategy is to solve problems at the group level, and mental health is no exception.

While dialectical materialists often refer to themselves as scientists, this does not mean that all scientific work is for the benefit of the people. A more pointed attack would be asking questions like, “what type of science spends millions of dollars studying the effects of long-term isolation on brain waves?” Maoists abolished isolation as a form of psychological treatment in the 1950s. Prior to that time, psychological work in socialist China was criticized by the people because it consisted largely of scientists in labs doing studies isolated from the real world. For a discipline that is supposedly about the mental state of people, which is very dependent on society, this is a very backwards approach. As a result of criticisms, the Chinese practice evolved to focus on improving people’s understanding and engagement with the real world. But today, under imperialism, we are still stuck in these archaic forms of mental health research.(1)

As the 1st Crown of BORO describes in h article on psychology, scientific theories are often wrong and often guided by the interests of the group to which the scientist belongs. The theories that subspecies of humyns existed were developed by nations that were in the process of expanding their domination over other peoples. Prior to the development of genetic testing it was harder to argue that theories about different races or subspecies of humyns were incorrect as we can today. Criminology today is similarly tainted by the interests of the oppressors.

Who is Mentally Ill?

In MIM Theory 9, MCB52’s review of psychological practice in revolutionary China gives an excellent overview of the subject.(1) S/he prefaces h article by pointing out that those who are diagnosed with mental health problems are mostly “pissed off people rationally resisting the hegemonic culture one way or another. This especially affects youth and women, and rather than trying to ‘cure’ it – we celebrate it!” However, many people struggle to function as a result. And therefore, there is a great overlap of people struggling with mental health and interested in communist politics, both inside and outside prisons.

In imperialist prisons, the ambiguity of diagnosing people as mentally ill becomes very pronounced. Part of the problem is that imprisonment causes mental health problems, so people who may not have had symptoms that would lead to a diagnosis often develop them. Yet it is not in the oppressor’s interests to recognize this problem, so staff feel that they must draw a line between the truly ill and the “fakers.” Rather than seeing the prisons as causing mental illness, they see people acting out for attention in contrast to those who were born with “real” mental illness. Such silly exercises allow them to keep some prisoners sedated while pushing others to suicide.(2)

Short-term Solutions

As with most problems we face, we can find answers to mental health problems through dialectical materialism and in having the correct political line. In the 1950s the Chinese eliminated the more backwards psychological practices in their society and replaced them with ones focused on getting individuals to connect with and help shape the material world through applying dialectical materialism. Mental health care, like much of Chinese society under Mao, emphasized the importance of both self-reliance and collective help, with the understanding that patients can fight their diseases and lead productive lives in the new society. This required the participation of the patient’s family, doctors, and revolutionary committee at their place of employment.(3) Unfortunately, today we don’t have that kind of support in our society, and prisoners as a group are even worse off. So keeping your political line right to stay sane requires even more effort.

One article in this issue of ULK gives an example of sleep deprivation being used as a means of social control. While some have claimed to have trained themselves over time to require very little sleep, such as George Jackson, medical research has demonstrated the importance of regular sleep. Ultra-leftism leads one to take the weight of the world on one’s shoulders, and push the purist and extreme line without recognition of one’s conditions of struggle. While we encourage comrades to strive to improve their efficiency, we should also take an approach that promotes our health and longevity, as we have a long struggle ahead of us.

We often get letters from comrades in isolation, who are clearly well-read and want to change the system, but their articles are mostly confused and hard to decipher. These comrades have been lost to the system, and at this point there’s not much we can do to bring them back. So we must work together with those who aren’t lost, to keep them sane and on point. Ultra-leftism can feed into one’s isolation, which can be a very bad combo for someone who is already in a prison cell. Develop routines, set goals, and track your progress. All of these things can help you stay sharp mentally when you are physically isolated. But do not let the lack of control you have over your conditions lead you to take up extreme behaviors that threaten your physical or mental health.

The topic that triggered the call for an issue focused on mental health was suicide, which can be associated with a political line of defeatism. We’ve been getting a number of responses and stories on the topic after a mention in Ra’d’s obituary a few months back. One prison censored Under Lock & Key for talking about suicide. While the motivation was not clear, the numerous stories we receive show that these institutions encourage people who are locked up to commit suicide. Censoring open discussions on preventing suicide is just one more way to do this. Yet, at another prison the psychological services staff are giving out our address as a resource for people with suicidal tendencies. This is good news, but probably not common across the country where prisoners are twice as likely to commit suicide as the general population.(4) Overall, suicide rates are higher in the United $tates than many other countries, and comparisons to socialist China in the 1970s showed suicide and schizophrenia to be hundreds of times more common in the United $tates.(5)

If you or someone you know is dealing with suicidal thoughts, write to MIM(Prisons) to get a copy of our struggle with a comrade printed in ULK 13, as well as the self-criticism by a suicidal comrade printed in MIM Theory 9. These are good starting points for re-evaluating your own life in relation to the struggle.(6) In general, we prescribe study and political work. Come up with ways to contribute more to the struggle, while doing any little things you can to improve your immediate situation such as exercise, eating better, meditating, writing people on the outside, forming local discussion groups and staying away from negative influences.

And remember, the purpose of these prisons is to control certain populations. Getting you to end your own life is the ultimate form of control. Therefore, suicide and mental health are closely linked to other forms of control including beating people into submission, drugging them, denying them due process and sexually assaulting them. Exposing and struggling against these abuses is part of the struggle against suicide in U.$. prisons.

Notes:
(1) MCB52. “Psychological Practice in the Chinese Revolution,” MIM Theory 9: Psychology and Imperialism, MIM Distributors: 1995. p.34.
(2) U.S. Prisons Prove Maddening: review of Terry Kuper’s book Prison Madness by MIM
(3) Sidel, Victor & Ruth. Serve the People: Observations on Medicine in the People’s Republic of China, Beacon Press: 1973. p. 156.
(4) Kupers, Terry. Prison Madness: the Mental Health Crisis Behind Bars and What We Must Do About it, Jossey-Bass Publishers: 1999. p.175.
(5) HC116. The Imperialist-Patriarchy’s phony Anti-Stigma, 22 April 2005.
(6) For more testimonies and strategies from control unit survivors see: Survivors Manual compiled by Bonnie Kerness Coordinator AFSC Prison Watch Program 89 Market Street, 6th Floor Newark, NJ 07102

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[Medical Care] [Texas] [ULK Issue 15]
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Refused medical treatment in Texas

I’m writing in reference to the mental health and overall medical conditions in the Texas pri$on $y$tem. Here recently they’ve been taking several mental health patients off their psych medications even though these individuals need these medications. They say these individuals don’t need these medications anymore, even though they’ve been diagnosed with mental disorders prior. Since they’ve started taking these individuals off their medication there’s been several of them attempting suicide (one successful).

They’ve refused me treatment for a rash I had spreading over my body. I had to raise hell just to get some medication for it. It’s to the point now where it’s extremely difficult to get any kind of treatment for anything.

The big picture is these pigs could care less about our mental or physical well being. It’s all about making a dollar to them. If they got to cut back on our medical care, to make more money they will. That’s why we got to make a stand comrades, we can’t just sit back and let these pigs f**k us over. Sad thing is a lot of these prisoners don’t know how to fight back, that’s why those of us that do need to step up and show our fellow brothers how to stand up to this injustice system here in Texas and everywhere else for that matter. Once these pigs see that we won’t be run over and mistreated, they will stop their B.S!

MIM(Prisons) responds: We are printing this report in our issue focused on mental health. While medical care is often tied into mental health in our society, we are putting forth an approach that looks at mental health as a social issue and problem. While in the narrow sense, these prisoners may have acted on their suicidal tendencies because they stopped receiving certain medications, these medications were only a band-aid to begin with. And while suicide is the ultimate destruction of a humyn being, the fate of many people who are victims of this oppressive system of incarceration, isolation and drugging is little better. So, rather than see the lack of medicine as the cause of death, we would say that the oppressive system of imperialism caused this death and the other suicide attempts.

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[Medical Care] [Wisconsin] [ULK Issue 15]
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Pleas against brutality following suicide attempt

I write to you in regards to a sexual assault, battery and abuse that I am a victim of. I would have written to you sooner, but my resources are limited, and I have just very recently received your info and address from the psychological services staff here at the prison.

On April 13 I made a suicide attempt by trying to hang myself, which the officers here at the prison responded to by removing me from that unit and bringing me to DS-1, the segregation unit. As we arrived on the unit the officers asked me if I would comply with the strip search, to which I responded “I need help,” referring to psychological help or treatment. As I stated no, one of the officers slammed my head into the steel shower door and I fell to the ground. After falling to the ground the officers piled on top of me and rolled me over on my stomach and began tearing and cutting my clothes off me. Then they spread my legs and arms out and the officers began to punch me and twist my arms and wrist behind my back. The officers also choked me and placed their knees on my back and in my face and told me to stop resisting, though I had never resisted, nor had I ever become physically or verbally abusive or hostile. After all this, the officers then began to poke and insert their fingers inside my anus and squeezed my testicles after lifting them up while laughing at me during this unlawful and unconstitutional assault.

I’ve written to numerous prison officials and have also spoken with several white shirt lieutenants about this matter and about being transferred to another institution because I’m not safe in this prison and the officers are still harassing me. I’ve done all that I can possibly do and now you are my very last and only hope for help. I respectfully ask you to please please please publicize my story.

MIM(Prisons) adds: We publish reports like this as a small service to some of the most oppressed people in the United $tates who send us these pleas. We hope that our readers are appalled by these injustices and driven to work harder to end imperialism. However, we also recognize the limitations of these moral appeals, and want to reiterate that for the oppressed who write these letters and hope for their conditions to change. Recently, USW comrades discussed the question of appealing to the emotional sympathies of the oppressor. In that discussion comrades recognized the primacy of class and national interests. Emotional appeals may strike a chord in a small minority who may commit class/nation suicide and fight for the oppressed. But overall, Amerikans are aware of what is going on and they support it, even if they don’t like to think about it.

As one comrade put it, “we shouldn’t base our strategy of building public opinion on whether we can guilt trip amerikans into not being parasites.” Our strategy should be based on the vast majority of the world who are the victims of this parasitism. The difference for the oppressed is that they don’t have a choice whether to think about the brutality of this system when they are seeing it on a daily basis. It is only a minority in the United $tates that faces this level of oppression, and that is the minority that should guide our strategies for anti-imperialist organizing here.

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