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[Medical Care] [Mental Health] [California]
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Medical Malpractice in the PSUs

One of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's (CDCR) current problems is not enough bed space inside the psychiatric housing units. As a result of this consistent problem prisoner's health and federal rights are being compromised more and more. Currently there are 4900 prisoners in Enhanced Outpatient Program (EOP) programs, but a large number of EOP prisoners have been awaiting admission into the CDCR Psychiatric Services Unit (PSU) for way too long.

This problem could have been solved by the prison administration a long time ago, but with the CDCR, money takes precedence over prisoner's health and well being. They just do their best to camouflage that fact creating legal technicalities to prevent liability. EOP Security Housing Unit (SHU) prisoners who are currently in the PSUs are suffering and paying the cost of overcrowding. Due to the prison administration's desperation to create bed space for EOP SHU offenders awaiting admission to the PSU, many EOP prisoner's level of care is being lowered without regard to their medical needs by the interdisciplinary treatment team (IDTT) committee members.

Recently a fellow prisoner comrade of mine went to his IDTT hearing, which are held every 90 days. At the hearing he was told that because he is "high functioning" his level of care would be reduced back to Correctional Clinical Case Management System (CCCMS). He told them that he has many medical reasons to stay on EOP level of care to help control his symptoms, including hallucinations and inconsistent changes of behavior. They ignored his medical history and dropped him from the EOP program.

The CDCR takes a mental health patient who isn't functioning well at a CCCMS level of care, and changes his level of care to EOP, to help the prisoner function better. Then they see the positive changes the prisoner has made due to the level of care change, and so they decide to change him back to CCCMS. But there is no help for these prisoners to sustain their progress on CCCMS. That's what the IDTT members are doing to current PSU EOP prisoners simply to make bed space. There's a huge difference in treatment given when in CCCMS compared to being in EOP. there is no possible way a prisoner that requires an EOP level of care can cope at a lower inadequate non-suitable level of care CCCMS! That's medical malpractice! It's the same as forcing a disabled prisoner that can't walk to be restricted from using a wheelchair!

As a United Soldier from Within member I'm asking for the EOP prisoners who are experiencing this type of medical malpractice to come forward by sending a letter to Under Lock and Key and let us know your situation. If we can demonstrate that this is indeed a pattern someone from United Soldiers will be assigned to look into the matter and work on putting a cease to this form of injustice and inadequate medical care.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade demonstrates well the failure of the health care system in Amerikan prisons.

First there is the failure of care in general: prisoners receive abysmal health care services that amount to outright neglect. This got so bad in California that a federal judge put California prisons in receivership under a mandate to fix the health care services. Denial of adequate care leads to an unknown number of deaths and illnesses every year in Amerikan prisons.

In this case, the author is talking about inadequate mental health services. It's important to understand what is meant by "mental illness" under capitalism to put this neglect in context. Prisoners who are locked in isolated cells for years at a time are going to lose their ability to function in society. This is just one example of how the criminal injustice system literally drives people to mental illness.

We don't see mental illness as a fixed situation but rather a result of society. And in fact the definition of this "illness" changes based on who has power in a society. There are many examples in history of communists being labeled "crazy" for their beliefs in the equality of all people. Further, those who are angered and depressed by the exploitation, murder and oppression of the majority of the world's people are given drugs by the capitalist doctors to help make them happier.

There are many people in prison who have been abused by society and then abused by the criminal injustice system. And it should be no surprise that they now have difficulty functioning. We are under no illusions that a little "mental health" treatment is going to fix this problem. But neglect and punishment is certainly only going to make things worse. And the casual moving people from program to program with little regard for their well being described in this article is just a financial and numerical exercise for the prisoncrats.

As we have described in other articles on mental health, we need to keep in mind that we can't rely on the enemy to solve our problems. The criminal injustice system is behind many of the mental health problems in prisons. And so they can not be counted on to provide the solution, which requires more than some capitalist counseling and drugs. We support our comrade's call for adequate health care, but we know that this must be a part of the larger fight against the imperialist system, because the imperialists are the cause of many of our health problems.

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[Abuse] [Mental Health] [Dade Correctional Institution] [Florida] [ULK Issue 22]
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FL Grievances Forbid Helping Others

I am a prisoner currently incarcerated in the Florida department of corrections. At this time I'm being held at Dade Correctional Institution, in the mental health dorm transitional care unit.

This unit is for prisoners who have had, or who have developed serious mental health problems. This place is supposed to provide treatment such as counseling, one-on-one therapy, groups, etc. And it does that, but only to a bare minimum.

I am writing this because the prisoners here are being neglected. Not so much the ones who have good sense left, such as myself, but the severe cases of the prisoners who are so far gone they've lost touch with reality; the ones who are truly mentally disabled.

I've been writing grievances about this neglect, but the FL DOC has this rule that if the incident does not affect you personally then you cannot grieve the issue. This makes no sense to me at all. Some of these inmates are gone, and cannot grieve when they are done wrong.

There's an incident here that I continue to grieve of a prisoner who sleeps in the cell across from mine. This comrade has nothing in his cell except his being and a set of blues. He has no mattress, blanket, sheets, nothing. This guy doesn't talk at all. He makes noises sometimes that have no reasonable meaning but that's about it. He's lost to the world and he is mentally unstable. He cannot ask for these things, and he definitely cannot file a grievance. So this prisoner must continue to live like this because of some stupid rule that the DOC made up about this not affecting me directly.

There are a lot of prisoners here who are being literally warehoused. There are guys here who haven't taken a shower for months. They don't ask so it's not offered.

This is a mental health dorm. The staff are suppose to be helping these prisoners who cannot help themselves, and instead they are ignoring them.

I, fortunately, cannot be ignored. My mental health issues developed from doing long periods of time in close management settings (control units). I admit I became weak in a way. I picked up a bad habit that eventually turned into an addiction: self mutilation — I'm a cutter. But I am not beyond bouncing back. I do time how I want to do time. And that's the way I'm comfortable right now so it is what it is. I've got good sense though, trust that!

I'm going to continue to write up everything that I see these pigs here do, and I'm writing everything they're not doing up too. Someone will eventually listen. They cannot run a mental health unit like this. I'm going to keep on fighting for our rights until something is done.


MIM(Prisons) adds: Health care in prisons across the U.$. is terrible so it's no surprise to hear about the lack of even basic care in these Florida Mental Health units. We are also not surprised to hear the effect that long term incarceration has had on this comrade, leading to self mutilation. This is a good example of capitalism causing so-called mental illnesses. In reality, we should call these torture illnesses, as they are a direct result of torture in prisons. For more information about imperialism and psychology request a copy of MIM Theory 9: Psychology and Revolution.

This article referenced in:
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[Mental Health] [Control Units] [Ely State Prison] [Nevada]
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Ely State Prison: Depravity, Despair and Death

Ely State Prison(ESP) is a place of death, stagnation, misery, pain, loneliness and indeterminate lockdown. If you were to take a walk on one of these depressing tiers back here in "the hole," you would hear many disembodied voices ring out, yelling in anger and frustration, trying to tell you how bad it is for us in here, in between the isolated confines of steel and stone.

This is a maximum security prison, but not everybody here is a security risk, but if you were to ask these pigs that, they'd probably tell you otherwise, just to try to justify the fact that they're keeping us warehoused in here, whether we deserve it or not. With time things change, and usually for the worse. Deterioration is a normal occurrence in here. In fact, if you were to ask the prisoners around here if they think the conditions here will get better or worse, most of them will tell you things are only going to get worse. Pessimism and hopelessness permeate the minds and attitudes of the average prisoner in here. There's nothing much to look forward to, besides the next meal, and maybe a letter in the mail, if you're lucky.

Back in the day, ironically when ESP was opened (when we were allowed group yard, tier time, porters, etc.), the majority of the prisoners here were actually befitting of the status: maximum security. Back then, a man was sent to Ely State Prison for failure to adjust in another, less secure prison, violence, escapes and things of that nature. But even then, that could also mean he was disruptive, someone who organized other prisoners, led religious services, or filed too many legal writs or grievances.

Not every man at ESP is told why he's here these days, and not every man here has committed a violent crime. Not every man here has done anything serious to even warrant maximum security status. For example, I have a neighbor here in the hole with me right now who was transferred up here simply for contraband. A prisoner has no chance to appeal a transfer before being sent to ESP, and sometimes arrives in the middle of the night without warning. Brought into a world of darkness, locked into a cell, left to get stale and stagnant as he deteriorates, like a moldy piece of bread.

Nobody belongs in a world where they're buried alive, where they're in a tomb for the dead, basically. The police have total control, and many of them frequently abuse that control, either on a psychological level, or on a physical level. And over the days, weeks, months and years, a prisoner who is confined to this every day misery, begins to degenerate. I've seen it happen, over and over again. Nobody belongs in a world like this, where death permeates the atmosphere. Where pressure is applied so constantly that all it does is make these men hard and mean as time goes by.

Some of these guys in here feel they only have 2 or 3 choices now: escape, snitch or suicide. Nobody has escaped from here yet, but many turned into snitches, and many have committed suicide. And others have succumbed to psychotropic medications, which is a form of both escape and suicide. For so many of us in here, there's nothing to strive for, no aim, no goals, no hope, no light at the end of their tunnel, and they just give up; give in. There's no love here, just the artificial love that you'll find in the gang culture of prison life. This is a terrible place to be, especially for someone who has to return back to society.

All you have to do is read a little psychology to figure out what's going on, to understand what's being done to us in here. They try to break us down, sever our family and social ties, dominate us, talk shit to us, treat us like children, going out of their way to try to keep us stagnant and ignorant, and always out to break our spirits. Needless to say, I pass around books, articles and notes on psychology, so that prisoners can get a deeper understanding about things. Not just about being in prison, but also about how our minds work, personality, emotions, why we act the way we act, and why we are the way we are. It's very important to actually be able to come to an understanding of these things; to raise our level of conscious and to be able to elevate our thinking under these circumstances is very important in more ways than one, and it's also necessary for our survival in here, where psychological warfare is being waged on us every day.

The depravity and despair in this graveyard continuously pushes men to death or insanity. I wrote an article on November 18th, 2009, about the mysterious death of death row prisoner Timothy Redman. Nov 18, 2009, was the day he died, and I was there when it happened. This is a prime example of the daily depravity that takes place in this hellhole. Approximately an hour after Redman allegedly tried to grab a correctional officer by the wrist and pull his arm through the food slot (apparently the pig had to struggle to free himself), an extraction team of officers was made up to physically and forcefully remove Redman from his cell, or at least to try. Redman refused to surrender and to be placed in handcuffs, and he did so by displaying a weapon. What's cold about this whole thing is that the policy (administrative regulation) even states that any time a prisoner has a weapon in his cell, his water and toilet is to be shut off, an officer is to be stationed outside of his cell, and nothing is to come in or go out of his cell - not even meals, and this officer is supposed to stay stationed outside of his cell until the prisoner either gives the weapon up, or for 72 hours, and then they have to decide what to do from there, whether excessive force is to be used or not. Did this happen? No. These pigs refused to follow their own rules and a man died as a result.

A Story of One Man's Death

I can tell you exactly what took place. After Redman refused to surrender, the pigs then proceeded to spray one can of pepper spray into his cell. After that the senior officer in the control bubble commenced to open Redman's cell so the pigs could run in on him and retaliate, and then remove him from his cell. But the cell door was jammed from the inside, and they couldn't get it open. Obviously Redman was no dummy, he knew how to keep the pigs out, and he knew why it was so important to do so. That's a situation that you usually don't win. They come in and beat your ass, and after they've got you fully restrained, they beat you some more as they yell out "Stop resisting! Stop resisting!" So, over the course of two hours, the pigs emptied a total of 6 canisters of gas into Redman's cell, and then sprayed a seventh canister one time. They would spray him, and then go hide out in the upper storage room, so that the gas wouldn't affect them (Redman was housed in 3-B-48, right next to the upper storage room). When they were finally able to open Redman's cell to get him out, he was dead. His face was purple, his body was blue and blood was coming out of his nose. His boxers were stained with feces and urine and he had what appeared to be a smile on his face. The nurses and doctors tried to revive him, but to no avail.

What's mysterious about this whole situation was that when they pulled Redman out of his cell, there was no rope tied around his neck or anything. But they say he hung himself. They said it was a suicide. But did he really hang himself, or was he murdered by six cans of pepper spray? Was it a cover-up? People need to be concerned about this, and they should demand to see the video footage of the extraction, just to make sure. Because the whole things seemed mysterious to the majority of the prisoners who saw the incident take place.

All seem to agree that Redman died from the pepper spray. They think he was murdered. Who knows what happened. Death row prisoners have been murdered before under McDaniel's administration. I know this much: a couple of hours after they carried Redman's body out of the unit, two of the wardens, the coroner, and the investigator were all standing outside of Redman's cell laughing, smiling and joking around, thinking it was funny. I piped up and said, "What are you laughing at? If that was one of your own who died, you wouldn't find it very funny, now would you?"

The really cold, cold part about it was, when the coroner asked the warden, on two separate occasions, "How should I decide this?", "How do you think I should decide this, suicide or murder?" The warden looked around, seen that prisoners were standing alert at their doors and said "I can't decide that, that's your job." But what would even propel the coroner to ask such an odd question like that in the first place?

I knew Redman personally. He wasn't really a friend of mine, but someone I talked to occasionally. I don't know what set him off to go after the pig, but i do know this: Redman was a death row prisoner who had had to endure 23-hour lockdown while on HRP (High Risk Potential status) for 16-17 years straight. I heard him talking once about how the administration is stripping one privilege away from us each year. Tobacco, milk, scrambled eggs, hot lunches, food packages, clothing packages, etc. They just take, take, take and keep you locked down in a cell with a death sentence hanging over your head. Oh yeah, and I know that they were messing with Redman's mail too. He seemed to think that his wife left him due to this; because certain letters never got to her. So i think it's safe to say, with all those things taken into consideration, you have a man who has nothing to lose, and no hope in sight, who has basically been driven to a point where life doesn't even matter anymore.

Systematic Problems Require Organizing

There's a lot of people like that in here. They weren't always like that though. They've deteriorated, and have been broken, and just stopped trying, stopped caring, with no one or nothing to help pull them through. It's a sad sad story, about depravity and despair. Some of us fight and struggle trying to make it through this, trying to better ourselves and better our positions in life, and some just give up all hope. It's easy to give up in a filthy, foul-ass place like this, where nobody cares about what you're going through, or about what happens to you, one way or another.

The guards who work here don't care about us, they're not trained to care about us, they are only trained to control us. Ely State Prison is an unproductive, unhealthy environment, even for these pigs. it has been documented that prison guards have the highest rates of heart disease, drug and alcohol addiction, divorce - and the shortest lifespans - of any state civil servants, due to the stress in their lives. Prison guard are in constant fear of injury by prisoners, and the fear of contracting diseases always lingers in their minds, since prisons are normally flooded with all kinds of diseases, from hepatitis C, tuberculosis, to AIDS.

From the first day in the academy these guards are trained to believe that they are the "good guys" and that prisoners are the "bad guys." They are pretty much programmed into fearing and despising us - before they even come into contact with any of us! They are led to believe that all prisoners are manipulative, deceitful and dangerous, and that all prisoners are the scum of the Earth. So no, they don't care about us, they are not even allowed to care about us. We are not even human to them. Needless to say, none of this leads to rehabilitation, but on the contrary, it only contributes to the everyday depravity here in this hellhole.

I'm writing about all of this for a reason. I'm here to expose the abuse, the disparity and hopelessness. I'm here to raise awareness about all of these things, and I'm here to help seek solutions. One of the things I'd like to help Nevada prisoners understand is that the situation for us out here is deplorable. There is a real problem with this whole system, and if we don't recognize these problems, we will never find solutions, not to mention the possibility that we ourselves could even be contributing to many of these problems. Please believe, the way they've got us doing our time is not the way we're supposed to be doing our time. This whole prison is "the hole"; there's no general population here at ESP, there's no incentive, no programs, no rehabilitation, nothing. We have way more coming to us than this! We are not supposed to just lay down and accept this, we have to start finding ways to come together, we have to start striving to make the necessary changes that will help better our positions in life, so that we don't have to keep coming back to these dead ends.

Furthermore, there's no real level of activism in Nevada. Prisoners do not have any available resources, bookstores for Nevada prisoners, no prisoners' rights advocacy groups, no solid help from the outside, whatsoever. In order to make changes on the inside, we need support from the outside. We must take it upon ourselves to build a proper support structure for Nevada prisoners, and we have to do this from the ground up!

So, if you're a prisoner doing time in Nevada and if you have family/friends out here in Nevada - or anywhere else on the outs - I would like to encourage you to explain to them how bad the situation is for you/us in here. Let them know that we cannot expect any type of real rehabilitation from this system; explain to them that the administration is not going to do anything to help us further our growth and development, or push us close to becoming reformed, socially functioning individuals. We have to take it upon ourselves to do these things and we can't do it without a proper support structure from people on the outside.

Talk to your families talk to your friends, talk to your loved ones out there (show them this newsletter if you have to), see what they would be willing to do to start up programs for Nevada prisoners. Something needs to be done, but nothing will improve unless prisoners start taking the initiative.

The guys who have to do life sentences, or who have to be here for the duration, I encourage you to start learning the law, use it as a tool to make changes for everybody; start stepping up to the plate, instead of waiting for others to do it for you. As long as we keep trying, sooner or later something has to give. It's better to try than to do nothing, especially when we're living like this! We can do anything we put our minds to, it all starts with a thought, and what we think about we become, so let's get cracking!

Until then, we are just going to sit here, warehoused in this misery, as the years go by, more people losing their minds, more deaths and suicides, more repression, more rules being placed on us, making it harder on us, more restrictions, more losses of privileges and whatever else they want to take from us. We will sit here with sad looks on our faces, as anger and hatred eat us up inside. The despair will lead to depravity , and the depravity will do us in. Death is the only outcome tomorrow, for those that don't start taking action today.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This is a good discussion of the need for activism in the context of concrete examples of repression and brutality in the criminal injustice system. Further, this writer is correct that there is a bigger context to the repression that is an inherent part of the system. We do not believe that psychology is the appropriate place to look for answers, but it is useful to understand systemic motivations and factors. See our article on mental health in ULK15 for more analysis on this.

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[United Front] [Mental Health] [ULK Issue 19]
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The Subjection of the Incarcerated

I read in the September/October 2010 issue, an article written by a prisoner in the Pennsylvania structure. He said, "[guys in this jail] are only concerned with BET, sports, 40 cent ice cream tickets and who's sucking whose dick... they don't stand up for shit except count time."

I believe these statements are very correct. Not only for the Pennsylvania structures, but all penal structures throughout the United $tates. I've read every single article in that issue by many different prisoners throughout these structures. I can relate to every last one of them, and I'm pretty sure that all prisoners within the system can relate to every single article just the same.

These structures differ only so slightly, only by name, location and modeled design, but their inner mechanisms pretty much work the same way. Everyone complains of the disunity and betrayal between their fellow prisoners. Noone wants to stand up against the powerful structure that has the ability to deploy swarms of guards equipped with body armor shields and pepper spray to counter any resistance from its 'subjects.' Even though we outnumber them, in the end, they still seem to come out on top. They seem unstoppable, victorious, and mighty. Prisoners give these "warriors" seemingly honorable names such as "The Goon Squad", "The Turtles," "The Team," "The Run Down Boys", and "The Squad."

Riots and uprisings are quickly squashed with no positive results, other than more lockdowns, revocation of good time and parole, restrictions on telephones and visitations and all other privileges of the prisoners that were provided by their "structure." I relate and share in the suffering and pains of every one of my comrades.

Psychology

But do you know why there is so much disunity between prisoners? Do you understand how the human mind works? Do you understand what I mean by the term structure? Do you know how dangerous and manipulative your institutional psychologist or "psych" could really be? Do you know why all modern prisoners must be built and structured into many individual pods? Do you know what your mind frame is being subjected to, by the master psychologists and anthropologists who designed and masterminded the inner workings and mechanics that make these structures work so differently from those of the 70s and 80s?

In the world of psychology, there's a basic and very fundamental term known as "Classical Conditioning." Classical Conditioning means any type of learning through which an organism learns to associate one event or object within the environment to which the organism or person responds with another. For example: when we see or smell delicious food we are tempted to eat, or feel hungry. Or when we see a very attractive person, we become sexually aroused, thanks to certain hormones that are being secreted within our bodies.

These natural responses to events or objects in our environment are our Classical Conditioning. It is in our nature to respond in this way to these types of stimuli. (Ivan Pavlov 1849-1936, Conditioned Reflexes: An investigation of the physiological activity of the cerebral cortex.) [ULK Editor: Classical Conditioning is actually the replacement of the natural occurring stimulus (like the smell of food) with an unrelated stimulus (like the ringing of a bell). Pavlov famously made dogs salivate with this method by ringing a bell. The idea that anything that triggers a physiological response is "natural" is often used to imply that humyns are hard wired to respond this way. On the contrary, most, if not all, of our sexual arousal is triggered by socially conditioned responses (see Operant Conditioning below). A scientific approach would be to overthrow the patriarchy and then see what triggers sexual arousal in humyns. Things that trigger sexual arousal under communism and under the patriarchy would be good candidates for "hard wired" responses. Similarly, the smell of certain fast food might make some Amerikanized humyns salivate while making other people nauseous.]

The next most basic and fundamental term in the world of psychology is known as "Operant Conditioning." Operant Conditioning means a type of learning in which the consequences of behavior are manipulated so as to increase or decrease the frequency of an existing response or to shape an entirely new response. For example, in order to be paroled and released back into society, you must respond with good behavior throughout your incarceration. Or, if you break the law, the response of the controlling authorities will be to convict you and then send you to prison.

The most notable researcher of Operant Conditioning is a psychologist by the name of B.F. Skinner. In his book, "Beyond Freedom and Dignity" (1971) Skinner quotes "free will is a myth and a person's behavior is always shaped and controlled by others - parents, teachers, peers, advertising and television." In this book, Skinner argues that society must systematically shape the behavior of their members for the larger good.

Now that we are familiar with the terms Classical and Operant Conditioning, we will lean more towards the Operant Conditioning within the walls of these structures because Operant Conditioning deals strictly with the manipulation of human behavior.

Operant Conditioning in Prisons

As of right now, I'm confined to solitary confinement, in a single cell for 23 hours a day for a total of 570 days. My original time was 90 days for a "shank" or "shaped weapon" that was allegedly found in my cell during a shake down at a time when we were having a lot of stabbings within our structure. When they brought me down to the hole, they tried to give me a cellmate, but I refused. Due to this refusal, I was issued a ticket, which was then reviewed by a hearing examiner, who gave me an extra 30 days in the hole for "refusing to obey a direct order." Every day, the guards would order me to take a cellmate, but I refused. Within one month I totaled 570 days, and counting.

One must be thinking, why is he putting himself through all of this unnecessary punishment? Why don't he just take a cellmate and get out of the hole?

The truth is, I'm actually avoiding extra punishment, not physically but mentally. The hole is a behavior modification mechanism within the structure that employs a form of deprivation to manipulate human behavior. It is not meant for two human organisms to occupy for any period of time. But due to overcrowding in all of the Pennsylvania's structures, people are being forced to cell up and co-exist with each other under these harsh conditions. A man needs privacy and time to himself in order to cope in the best way he can during this time of extreme deprivation. But instead prisoners within my structure are forced into these conditions. Under these conditions cellmates are known to fight with each other for something as minor as using the bathroom at a certain time of night. Whereas in general population if the same two individuals were cellmates an unorthodox or out of timed bathroom break would never have been a problem.

After their fight these same two prisoners are then forced to kiss and make up and endure each other's differences as well as their deprivations. Under these conditions, stress and mental anguish are always present. This type of stress results in bad health and hair loss. It is much healthier to remain in solitary where one doesn't have to deal with the next man's deprivations as well as his own. I see and hear cellmates argue and fight each other every day from where I'm at. A lot of the cellmates do not get along and "pull stunts" to force the commanding shift officer to move them in with someone more suitable.

Another form of Operant Conditioning used to manipulate behavior employed by the penal system is food. Though food is a necessity for the human organism and is classified as Classical Conditioning, when used in behavior modification - it becomes operant. For example, in the hole, we get fed less portions of the meals than those in general population.

The food, that all of us prisoners consume is laced with monosodium glutamate (MSG). Our tongue has four distinct taste sensations: bitter, sweet, sour and salty. The fifth sensation is called the umanmi, which is triggered by the substance glutamate. When this fifth sensation is triggered by this glutamate substance, it stimulates the other four sensations on the tongue's taste buds, creating a strong urge for more glutamate substance. Try eating a handful of salt and vinegar potato chips and then bite into an apple. Which product will you crave more?

To supplement the effects of monosodium glutamate in the lunch and dinner meals, the penal system provides the prisoners with a commissary that has food available upon purchase in its inventory. The prisoners are now led to purchase items on commissary to supplement their chemically induced hunger at night after the prison feeds him/her their dinner. Ninety percent of the prisoners I know can't live without ramen noodles every night. So now the prisoner becomes dependent on the commissary.

Then, penal systems will provide the prisoner with privileges, but only if his behavior is in compliance with the rules. The prisoner is allowed to have a radio and a television set with cable in his cell. Then there are the phone calls, the visits, parole, the weight room and the yard. But let's go back to the television set. A TV is major time killer. You could do your entire bid in the cell just watching TV. The TV is a major stimulus if you want to control the weak prisoner. Most people in the hole say "I can't wait to get back out and watch TV., I've missed 3 episodes of Jersey Shore (or whatever program) already." Even I miss the television and a good honey bun every now and then.

The manipulation of Operant Conditioning can be so powerful, many prisoners take abuse from their structure's establishment in order that they may make parole and go home to their families. Within my structure, the prisoners are forced to take programs and work jobs that start at 19 cents an hour, otherwise they won't make parole. Would you stay in prison for 10 years, or adjust your behavior and go home within 5 or 4 1/4 on pre-release.

These individuals who are trying to go home, as well as the weak prisoners, are then placed within the same housing unit along with the strong, long term more militant prisoners - who, by the way happen to be our comrades in the struggle. With these different individuals with different goals in mind, any type of unity or grouping together for one common cause is gonna be difficult.

Whenever the penal system changes a policy that we are in opposition to, only a few will be able to stand up while the majority of these strategically placed so-called convicts will turn their backs and endure the abuse in order to be released from prison or maintain possession of their privileges.

We can't shut down the kitchens, because a majority of the prisoners who are working there are parole mandated. They would rather deal with the abuse and go home. Hunger strikes are iffy. A riot these days will consist of no more than 300 people, which is easily contained as soon as they seal off the individual pods or units and lock the prison structure down. Then they turn us against each other by offering the unfortunate and the "have nots" a radio or television set, in return for spying and telling on their comrades' movements.

The ones who designed the program structure, the parole structure, the commissary and privilege rights (the "brains") are the college educated psychologists who we will never see. They are the ones who created this form of behavior modification.

Because of this, a division is wedged in between our factions, causing a chain reaction of adversary and conflict amongst ourselves. The ones who have a little bit of money, shun and look down upon the one who is broke. Even if the one who doesn't have any money on his books had lived more prosperous in the streets. The young prisoners take our older comrades for granted because they are old. Thus creating a huge intellectual and traditional gap between the two.

Phillip Zimbardo is a psychologist most notable for his work on social roles. A social role, as defined by Zimbardo is a "socially defined behavior considered appropriate for individuals occupying certain positions within a given group."(P.G. Zimbardo, "Pathology of Imprisonment" (1972) 'Society,' 9, 4-8.) The Stanford Prison Experiment is an experiment in which Phillip Zimbardo simulated a prison experience. College students were randomly assigned to be either guards or prisoners. The guards, wearing uniform and carrying small clubs, strictly enforced harsh rules. The prisoners were stripped naked, searched and deloused. Then they were given prison uniforms, assigned numbers, and locked away in small bare cells. The guards quickly adapted to their new role, some even to the point of becoming heartless and sadistic. One guard remembered forcing prisoners to clean toilets with their bare hands. And the prisoners began to act debased and subservient. The role playing became too real - so much so that the experiment had to be ended in only 6 days.

That was just an experiment, play acting. But you see once an individual becomes wrapped up in a certain social role how far it can lead. Zimbardo conducted this experiment back in 1972, but we are in the real thing today. Once these guys adapt to certain roles and behaviors, the result is what we see being acted out today.

One day, a guard burnt one of our comrades for a meal right here in the hole. Only 7 of us held our food trays and refused to return them in protest of the injustice that was carried out. Those that gave their tray back all stated that they didn't want to get a ticket, that they were trying to get out of the hole as soon as possible.

So, what are we left with? The answer is simple - it's knowledge. My comrades, prison is a mental struggle, it always was. We must evolve mentally. Study psychology, get good at it. Study political science, get good at it. Study anthropology, get good at it. We must evolve and turn our cells into think tanks. Learn and understand how the penal system structure controls and manipulates human behavior.

Stop taking psychological medication in any form, be it a sleep inducer or antidepressant. For when you are released you will be subjected to withdrawals whenever deprived which may lead you into narcotic abuse. If you can't sleep, read and learn meditation and breathing exercises, heal yourself.

If you're depressed, meditation and inner calmness works wonders on the mind. The structure is a very powerful establishment designed and put together by some very smart college educated veterans, who get paid a lot of money to make sure that the prisoners advances are easily thwarted.

When we are able to show and prove that our solution is better, the younger ones will follow and we will grow in numbers in time. For now, my comrades, we are all in the same boat. Let's not be upset with the younger ones or the ignorant who refuse to unite. The manipulators who control these structures have made sure that the consequences will outweigh the rewards by far.

The weight of the structure sits heavy on those who need to get home to their families. The younger ones are easily manipulated, just give them a television and some food, and the jail could burn to the ground for all they care. As long as the power don't shut off.

For the rest of us, my comrades, if we continue to apply ourselves and stick to our disciplines, in time we will grow in numbers. Understand the importance of the right knowledge for the right battle. This is a psychological war. Learn the fundamentals of psychology, please.

Prison today is more like a mental hospital. With the number of the mentally ill growing in numbers every year, psych meds dim the intelligence of the individual, making him/her slow as the years go by. Understand what you're really being subjected to within your structure. Learn to adapt and adjust, be independent.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This analysis of prisons using classical psychological tools is useful for revolutionaries because it helps to uncover the methods and goals of those who design and run the Amerikan criminal injustice system. This comrade is right that the system is built to discourage and prevent organizing and unity. It's not that prisoners who are passive are inherently evil, they are just doing what the system is pushing them to do, and resistance is no easy task. Similarly, brutal COs are not just evil individuals. They are playing a role like the students in the experiment. This role cannot be abolished until capitalism itself is abolished.

For our comrades who do stand up against all this, we must know that the struggle is long and difficult. But as this comrade points out, we will grow and unite others as we stick to our message and discipline. For more on MIM(Prisons)'s position on psychology, check out the magazine MIM Theory 9 or our article Mental Health: a Maoist Perspective.

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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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[National Oppression] [Mental Health] [ULK Issue 15]
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Psychiatry and Psychology as National Oppression

When revolutionaries begin discussing and conducting a concrete analysis of the particularities of national oppression and how imprisonment is used as a tool of imperialist social control, we invariably must engage in discussing and analyzing how the so-called sciences of psychiatry and psychology are used to further legitimize and give moral reasoning to the national oppression and racist extermination of oppressed nations by imperialist nations.

The Maoist Internationalist Movement wrote about and critiqued in great detail psychiatry and psychology as pseudo-sciences. For those who wish to do an exhaustive study on the subject, I highly recommend that material.(1)

Forced Psychotropic Medications

The Missouri Department of Corrections has a policy entitled, "Forced and Involuntary Psychotropic Medications," that is reminiscent of Nazi Germany. This policy gives administrators the authority to force psychotropic medications on a prisoner who is a danger to her/himself and/or others, or is gravely disabled, among other things. This same policy further states that a prisoner can refuse this medication and psychotropic medication should never be used strictly for behavioral control in the absence of a mental disorder. Yet, all of this is done without the prisoner having legal counsel or representation at a medical-psychiatric hearing with staff.

Ultimately, the question is, who is it that determines what a mental disorder is? How do they determine who, how or when someone is a danger to themselves or another? I answer, all of them are determined by the imperialists!

Racist Pseudo-Science

From our study of history, we can see that the oppressors have always used pseudo-science to justify the oppression and genocide of oppressed nations. Whether the "savage" First Nations, "heathen" Africans or "feeble-minded" Jews, psychiatry/psychology were the social sciences that the oppressor nations used to legitimize the oppression and exploitation of others who were considered a different "race."

While much of the language has changed, the essence remains the same — white supremacy uses psychiatry/psychology to further their aims of imposing their will upon others. Those who oppose them are often labeled "extremists," "terrorists," "radicals," "criminals," "crazy," etc.

Take, for example, the theory of eugenics. Eugenics was a term coined by Charles Darwin's cousin Francis Galton in 1883, which referred to the attempt to "improve the human species by affording the more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of prevailing speedily over the less suitable."(2)

This false scientific theory postulated that there were genes within oppressed nations that were leading to the deterioration of the humyn race and that oppressed nations were predisposed to committing crimes. The resolution to this contradiction was to isolate these people in institutions (i.e. mental hospitals, prisons, reservations, ghettos, barrios, slums, etc.) or sterilize them. The state of California was one of twenty-nine Amerikan states to pass laws allowing sterilization, and conducted more forced sterilizations than anywhere in the United $tates. These sterilizations were justified as efforts to prevent the passing on of mental illness and criminality. Today, criminality is still treated as an inborn psychological trait even though links to race are usually only implied, not explicitly stated.

Eugenics research was funded by the Carnegie Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. The Rockefeller Foundation helped to finance German researchers at an extremely high level all the way up to 1939 before the onset of World War II, and was aware that German scientists were gassing people in mental institutions. The Rockefellers and Prescott Sheldon Bush, George W. Bush's grandfather, were partners with I.G. Farben, the German chemical giant that built the death camp at Auschwitz. (see resources at end of article)

Eugenics was approved by the National Academy of Sciences, Amerikan Medical Association and National Research Council, and of course many Amerikan political and business leaders of the time. But after Hitler killed millions of Jews, nobody wanted to be associated with that horror, so they changed the words. In the 1990s, eugenics became the Bell Curve Theory.(2)

Pseudo-Scientific Credence

Pseudo-scientific credence means providing credibility to an issue based on flawed science. White supremacy is based on a false contention derived from a pseudo-scientific application of biology. Race-based theories were also given credence by flawed science in the form of psychology. For example, Samuel A. Cartwright, a prominent Louisiana Physician claimed that he discovered two mental "diseases" (his word) in 1851 that were peculiar to the "negro" race: 1) drapetomania and 2) dysaethesia aethiopica. In brief, drapetomania was a disease that caused Blacks to have an uncontrolled urge to run away from their masters - the treatment for this "illness" was "whipping the devil out of them." We all know that a captured fugitive slave was often beaten with a whip by his/her slave master, a clear example of how this pseudo-science gave credence to the slave master's brutality. Dysaethesia aethiopica supposedly affected both mind and body, the diagnosable signs included disobedience, answering disrespectfully and refusing to work. The "cure" was to put the persyn to some kind of hard labor. In 1797, the "father" of Amerikkkan psychiatry, Dr. Benjamin Rush, whose face still adorns the seal of the Amerikkkan Psychiatric Association, declared that the color of Blacks was caused by a rare congenital disease caused "negritude," which derived from leprosy. The "cure" was when the skin turned white.(4,5)

Independence from Oppressive "Science"

The essence of this lesson is that until oppressed nations achieve self-determination, control of their own institutions that speak to their needs, and the requisite power to guide the destiny of their nation, the imperialists will continue to use pseudo-sciences such as psychiatry and psychology to further their aims to dominate, imprison and exploit poor and oppressed nations — and if push comes to shove, destroy them!

Notes:
(1) Psychology & Imperialism. MIM Theory 9, 1995. MIM Distributors.
(2) MC12. "Bell Curve Lessons: IQ Against the Oppressed," MIM Theory 9.
(3) Lothrop Stoddard. "The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy"
(4) Abdul D. Shakur, Abasi Ganda, Kamau M. Askari. "The Bell Curve Conspiracy: A Recipe for New Afrikan Genocide" Black Panther Press, 2003.
(5) "Creating Racism: Psychiatry's Betrayal in the Guise of Help." The Citizenship Commission on Human Rights, 1995.

Other Resources:


Edwin Black. War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race. Four Walls: New York, 2003.
Wendy Kline. Building a Better Race: Gender, Sexuality and Eugenics from the turn of the Century to the Baby Boom. University of California Press: Berkeley, 2001.
Stevan Kuhl. The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, American Racism and German National Socialism. Oxford University Press: New York, 1994.
James Scott. Seeing Like a State: How certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed. Houghton Mifflin: New York, 2006.
Cory Panshin. The Secret History of the 20th Century. 2006.
Tom Big Warrior. They Only Call it Fascism When it's Being Done to White People. Rising Sun Press: 2006.

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[Control Units] [Mental Health]
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U.S. Prisons Prove Maddening

Prison Madness: the Mental Health Crisis Behind Bars and What We Must Do About it
Terry Kupers, M.D.
Jossey-Bass Publishers
1999

Dr. Terry Kupers is an ally in the struggle to abolish Control Units in prisons, and more generally to provide basic humyn needs for those incarcerated. While this book focuses on mental health, Kupers takes a systematic look at the prison system and the criminal injustice system in general, but he does it from a liberal perspective. This book is written for a general audience and provides an introduction to conditions in u$ prisons for those who are unfamiliar. For those who have been there or who read Under Lock & Key on a regular basis, the anecdotes of his clients will be nothing new. Some of the most interesting aspects of the book are the facts explaining the effects of isolation and medication on mental health and Kupers' alternative recommendations for group therapy and normal humyn interactions for rehabilitating people. Prison Madness by Terry Kupers, M.D.

What Kupers does not say is that mental health in a system of oppression requires an adaptation to that oppression that can either be done through acceptance and denial or through struggle. He only goes part way, saying that racism in arrests, imprisonment and treatment in prisons is a major factor in creating mental health problems in the oppressed who feel they have no recourse to defend themselves. He also acknowledges social ills in the general community that are taking a toll. But without pointing his finger at the system behind the symptoms, his book only calls for reforms of that system.

As someone who spends a lot of time in court rooms, arguing against prison officials and repressive district attorneys, you can see how this may have shaped the forms of the arguments made in his book. Kupers stresses the logic of helping prisoners to become better adapted to society so that they can be productive members when they get out; and over 90% will get out some day. (p.87) This is usually a good place to start when discussing Control Units with someone who is skeptical of our campaign to shut them down. But at other times Kupers goes too far in accepting some of the positions of the tough on crime politicians by minimizing them and not flat out rejecting them.

For instance, in taking on the accusation that most of the prisoners are faking mental illness to get attention and the better conditions of the mental health units he says, "some are faking their symptoms- but not as many as the guards and mental health staff accuse." (p.34) This comes after a paragraph of discussing the various reasons that prisoners resort to throwing feces at guards and other inmates. He argues that some do it because they feel no other recourse against guards, and others do it in retaliation to a mentally ill prisoner who had hit them first. So what we see is all of the prisoners (and guards as well) reacting to an oppressive situation. In other words they are acting how they deem to be appropriate in the situation they are given, to say that some actions are 'fake' skirts the real issue. Some will react better than others, and be able to deal better than others. But to say that they are therefore "faking it" when they act in certain ways is contradictory to the position Kupers takes elsewhere on the inhumane conditions of Control Units and their effects on humyn beings. Even if a prisoner is consciously acting that way to get attention, there is nothing fake about it, it is an act of self-preservation in the face of extreme oppression. When the system is the problem it becomes irrelevant to draw a line between the 'fakers' and the truly sick. This is especially true when in the majority of suicide cases Kupers has looked into, the person had a note in their chart saying they were "manipulating," meaning they were faking their mental problems. (p.184)

Similarly, in his chapter on 'Recommendations for Treatment and Rehabilitation,' he writes, "We need to stop sending nonviolent drug offenders and mentally disordered felons onto prison yards with murderers and rapists". Again, we are dealing with degrees of sickness here. The "tough on crime" media and politicians like to talk about "murderers" and "rapists" as if that is what some people are from cradle to grave. But those being labeled "murderers and rapists" are a product of the same social system as all of us. Here we are dealing with a situation where questions of individual mental health are far less important than questions of social sickness. Kupers' point that we need to keep the small time criminals away from the violent criminals is a good argument under the current system because we see the effects of such integration in u$ prisons. It is an environment that forces most people into choosing between joining the ranks of the violent criminals or becoming a victim. But if we broaden our goals to actually overthrowing the current system and instituting a system where healthy behavior was promoted even within prisons, we can move away from the myth that there is a new breed of "super criminals" that can only be killed or put in isolation for the rest of their lives.

Prisoners suffering from mental illness that are lucky enough to get treatment in prison usually just get put on medications. Not only does this not solve the problem, but it can make life more dangerous for the prisoner due to delayed reactions and increased fears of leaving their cell. Kupers describes meds as a band-aid for the symptoms of mental illness; if not accompanied by group treatment and socialization then there will be no meaningful improvements. He even cites cases that demonstrate that the need for meds decrease when prisoners leave the Control Units. This fact alone is a damning one for any who tries to argue for the necessity of Control Units.

'Prison Madness' looks at the various cyclical aspects of the system that help create people that are harder to reform due to worsening mental states. He argues that many prisoners suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) upon arrival in prison from things like sexual abuse and witnessing extreme violence at a young age. Yet, being isolated in a cell, with no humyn contact or activities to occupy the body or mind, is itself a cause of PTSD, which only encourages worse behavior and worsening of the persyn's mental health. Movement to isolation usually means being moved farther from family, which translates into less visits from loved ones and once again, a worsening mental state. Estimated suicide rates in prisons are two times that in general u$ population and rates in jails are nine times more common than on the outside. (p.175)

We must point out however, that Kupers' discussion of PTSD does not serve our struggle very well. He is quick to grant the diagnosis to the majority of oppressed nation youth as well as wimmin who end up in prison. But the symptoms of PTSD can include very understandable actions like throwing things at someone who keeps you locked in a cage all day. With an open-ended diagnosis like PTSD it almost serves to further criminalize those groups, because hey, they've been traumatized and might act crazy as a result. He gives this as a reason for the increased imprisonment of oppressed youth, as well as for why they end up in isolation. Once again, we see the shortcomings of psychology and the need for a class analysis. Instead of using the histories of current inmates as way to argue that the problem is societal, let's just look at the society and recognize how it is set up and in our case which groups have power over other groups and how that is transforming the interactions of those groups. If we really want to tackle systematic problems we have to use a systematic approach, we need to connect the millions of people that know that this is a system of oppression, not keep people stuck on their own individual past and problems.

Kupers' interest in changing the horrifying conditions he describes in 'Prison Madness' is made clear in the third part of his book dedicated to recommendations and courses of action. For the most part we don't disagree with any of it except that it doesn't go far enough. In talking about litigation, where he has spent some time, he includes a healthy dose of skepticism as to how much it can accomplish. He puts forth a nice mental health program for u$ prisons and then criticizes the "tough on crime" culture. While the examples of the Danish prison system he describes are encouraging, that is a small scale system in a wealthy imperialist country. To provide a model for what a prison system would look like in the hands of the oppressed we would point to socialist China as the prime example. Not only was there a focus on study, exercise and participation in the greater society but it also dealt with crime from the perspective of the oppressed. Within the context of a socialist economic system, this provided for the quickest and most widespread eradication of criminal behavior in modern history.

Kupers puts forth concrete examples where litigation has actually improved the conditions in prisons, but goes on to warn that there is a strong tendency for the Department of Corrections (DOC) to retaliate. (p.209-10) A loss in court puts them on the defensive and only emboldens their reactionary side. This is somewhat contradictory to Kupers talk of "bad apples" when discussing racism in prisons. (p.106) To put forth the "bad apples" theory is to deny that the injustice system is inherently oppressive. Just as in most places, we can sometimes find allies within the prison system itself, but we can see from 'Prison Madness' and from decades of our own work that the DOC is one of the most reactionary institutions of the state. More importantly than that, the prison system exists as a form of political repression. The fact that the majority of prisoners in the u$ are Black when only 12% of the population is, is not the product of a few racist "bad apples." It is the product of a tool that systematically serves the interests of the ruling class by repressing those who tend to oppose it. We work with dozens of prison organizations that have faced repression due to their successful organizing, often across lines of nation and affiliation that the CO's use to divide them. Kupers cites a case of this where the Santa Cruz Women's Prison Project was expelled by the California Department of Corrections because guards complained that the empowerment of the wimmin undermined their authority. (p.252)

'Prison Madness' is an accurate and fairly comprehensive look at the u$ prison system, with a focus on the mental health of those being confined in it. That alone makes it worthwhile, as most amerikans remain ignorant of the realities of prison life. The proposed solutions in the book do not address the source of the problem nor does it explain the full nature of oppression in u$ prisons, but there is much to unite with and to build on in those demands.

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[Control Units] [Mental Health] [Theory]
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An Alternative to the SHU

While campaigning to abolish Security Housing Units in prisons, we are frequently asked "What's your alternative?" This question usually comes from people familiar with the prison system who know that there is a lot of violence in prisons and that putting certain people in the same space is enough to instigate such violence. So they argue that the SHU provides security to help avoid such petty confrontations.

In practice however, it is the prison system and the Correctional Officers who promote and even create the violent situations rather than defusing or preventing them. This is the product of a system that is set up to be every man for themselves, where snitching is rewarded and violence is promoted as the way to solve problems. It's the same old divide and conquer techniques used in a more concentrated form within the controlled communities of prisons. When a majority of the people in an institution are there against their will, facing repression and inhumane conditions, the minority running the institution doesn't want them interacting in a cooperative way that might lead to organizing against their captors.

When addressing the question of abolishing the SHU we have to make it clear that MIM is not a reformist organization. We are fighting this campaign within the context of overthrowing the whole system and replacing the current criminal injustice system with justice for the people. Our goal is to transform society to eliminate the social causes of crime. Our long-term answer to the question of what to do with violent criminals is to build a system of re-education, reform and reintroduction to society for those who previously posed a threat to society.

In the short term we must fight to limit the oppression of the current system and abolishing the SHU is part of that fight. We know that the SHU is used for political repression. We know that everyone in the SHU suffers mentally and physically regardless of why they are in there. Therefore we often point out to those who are reluctant to sign our petition to abolish the SHU that these people are usually going to get out of prison some day and will only be more maladjusted then when they entered as a result of the isolation and torture they faced. Prisons can be made safer under the current system, but this goes counter to the interests of the prison administration to keep power over the imprisoned. Therefore until the oppressed decide who goes to prison and how the prison system is used there will be torture and violence in prisons.

When it does come time to build a new justice system in the interests of the people, we look toward the model of the prison system in socialist China (i.e. China under Mao). People who were successfully reformed through that system include two amerikan students (Allyn and Adele Rickett) and the last Emperor of the Manchu dynasty, Pu Yi. All three of them have written about their experiences and provide some great insights into the socialist prison system. In our review of the Ricketts' book, Prisoners of Liberation, we wrote, "a psychological approach to antisocial behavior takes agency away from the individual and the masses, and has as its goal teaching people to learn to adjust to their oppressive conditions (or their role as an oppressor) rather than struggling for political change."(1) Individualism leads bourgeois society to use psychology to explain and then treat crime rather than the sociological viewpoint of class struggle. "In the contradiction between individuals and society, universality is the principal aspect and particularity is the secondary aspect. By focusing exclusively in the secondary aspect of the contradiction, metaphysicians cannot understand the individual or society."(2) By focusing on the societal sources of humyn problems we can actually eliminate their source.

The difference between our plan for prisons and the current prison system is that we see prisons as a means of re-education not punishment. When we bring up re-education under socialism suddenly white liberals get indignant. This violates their individualist value system that looks at identity as a sacred and static being rather than a reaction and an ever changing product of society. Because reeducating people to interact better with other people is taboo in amerika, we are left with the option of punishment to deal with those who don't play the game or who aren't allowed to play.

Curiously, isolation and physical torture do not illicit the same indignance from these people as any mention of 're-education' does. This can be explained by the fact that it is oppressed nations who are disproportionately suffering at the hand of the current punitive system. Especially in extreme instances of repression like the SHU we see the targeting of Black nationalists, Spanish speakers, members of lumpen organizations like B.L.O.O.D. or ALKQN, or others whose behavior is outside the norm set by white society. Meanwhile the biggest criminals in the world are living it up within u$ borders with no fear of reprisal by the current system. To talk about replacing this system with one that reeducates people to work together in a socialist economy turns the tables, making white amerikans the biggest target. While the Black man selling rock on the street will be quick to give it up for a means of supporting himself by building his community rather than destroying it, the white man making millions by allowing that product to enter the country in the first place will be a lot more reluctant to change his ways. And he sure as hell doesn't want the economy socialized.

But some people are just crazy

It may or may not be true that some people are born crazy and are therefore incorrigible. But to quote the band Propagandhi, "Ordinary people do fucked up things, when fucked up things become ordinary." In other words, behavior is relative to the material conditions of a society.

While holding out for proof of biologically-induced insanity, we can say with certainty that the vast majority of people who have committed crimes against other people are not crazy and can be reformed. Evidence that crime can be largely eliminated can be seen in a comparison of violent crimes committed in the world today. Amerikans are willing to accept the idea that there are all these incorrigible crazies out there because our society has succeeded in creating excessive violence in individuals and the media turns around and feeds that to the populace as a scare tactic. A quick glance at an amerikan prison yard will tell you something is not right when the vast majority of the people are not white, while white people still make up a majority of the u$ population. Unless one believes in racist behavioral genetics then one must admit that there are social factors involved in who goes to prison.

The same individualism that leads people to be more concerned about some static idea of identity than about physical abuse and mental torture is what allows people to act against the norms and interests of the society that they live in. Communists favor class struggle over the psychological approach. For example, "Rather than giving moralizing sermons, China strove to create in individuals a social conscience."(3) In this way we can combat all sorts of social ills, from drug addiction and eating disorders to violence and other neuroses. Rather than brushing these problems under the rug, by trying to lock their victims up in prison and isolate them, we can involve those people in building a better society so that they understand the importance of their lives and the negative effects of their former behaviors.(4)

A prerequisite to eliminating 'antisocial' behavior is to accept that we in fact live in a society that sets norms for how we behave. In fact, much of what is labeled 'antisocial behavior' in our society today is actually encouraged by our society; it does not exist because of some innate humyn characteristics. Amerikans look at how they think and see that their friends think the same. They've all been taught by the same school system, the same media, the same culture. And then they assume that that is how all people behave at all times. As Mao said, "what [petty-bourgeois intellectuals] call human nature is nothing but bourgeois individualism."(5)

So for all who want to know what our alternative to the SHU is, it is building a communist society where no one has power over other people, where people see their importance as a part of a society rather than seeing every persyn as an island, and where social problems are addressed and reconciled rather than repressed and locked away to fester.

Notes:
(1) MIM Theory 9: Psychology and Imperialism, p. 39
(2) MT9, p.48
(3) MT9, p.36
(4) For more on this read "Psychological Practice in the Chinese Revolution" in MT9
(5) Mao Zedong, "Yenan Forum on Art and Literature," in Selected Works, op. cit., Volume 4, p.90

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