En diciembre de 2011, la Oficina de Estadísticas de Justicia dio a conocer sus informes anuales sobre la población penitenciaria en los Estados Unidos.(1) Los informes se refieren a personas mayores de edad bajo la supervisión correccional del año 2010. Por segundo año consecutivo, esta población ha disminuido; este fue el primer descenso desde la década de 1970 cuando el numero de presos en la cárcel empezó a crecer significativamente. A finales de diciembre de 2010, el número total de personas en el sistema penitenciario, incluyendo aquellos bajo libertad condicional, y aquellos en la cárcel, fue 7.076.200. La población carcelaria en este país cayó 0.6% a partir de 2009, el primer descenso desde 1972. El número de presos federales en realidad aumentó un 0.8%, pero la población carcelaria del estado se redujo por la misma tasa. Debido a que hay más presos estatales que presos federales, hubo una caída general en las tasa de encarcelamiento.
Las tasas de encarcelamiento por causa de convicciones penales nuevas han ido disminuyendo desde 2007. No obstante este ha sido el primer año que las cifras de liberaciones han excedido el numero de nuevos presos ingresos, lo que mantiene la población carcelaria casi igual. Sin embargo, las tasas de liberación se redujeron un 2.9% en 2010, por lo que estos números no reflejan un aumento en liberaciones. De hecho, el tiempo servido por presos estatales siguió siendo el mismo.
Estas últimas cifras pueden indicar que la población carcelaria ha llegado finalmente a su punto álgido en Amerika, posiblemente debido a la pesada carga económica de mantener una infraestructura masiva de injusticia criminal en este país. Pero incluso si las tasas de encarcelamiento siguieran disminuyendo, tomará muchos años y contará con cambios enormes antes de que las tasas lleguen a ser lo suficientemente bajas para ser comparables a otros países. Los Estados Unidos tiene más de un 30% de las personas encarceladas en el mundo y tiene la mayor tasa de encarcelamiento en el mundo. (2)
El informe ofrece dos posibles explicaciones para la caída de la población carcelaria en los Estados Unidos: “Ya sea una disminución en la probabilidad de una pena de prisión, o condena dada, o una disminución en el número de condenas.” Por desgracia, los datos sobre estas medidas todavía no están disponibles, pero cualquiera de ellos sería una buena cosa para lograr. Sin embargo, como se mencionó anteriormente, es probable que estos cambios sean el resultado de las necesidades financieras y no un cambio en la política en torno a la prisión y el encarcelamiento.
Hay algunas tendencias interesantes que demuestran la nacionalidad por parte de un compromiso continuo con la opresión nacional por el sistema de injusticia criminal en Amerika. Negros y blancos ambos han sentido una caída en las tasas de encarcelamiento, pero la disminución de los blancos (6.2%) fue mucho mayor que aquel de los negros (0.85%). En los últimos años los inmigrantes han sido la población de más rápido crecimiento en las cárceles de los Estados Unidos. Mientras que el 2010 vio un aumento de 7.3% en las tasas de “hispanos” en la cárcel, indocumentados vieron una ligera disminución en sus cifras de encarcelamiento, probamente debido a un aumento masivo de deportaciones. Los hombres negros siguen componiendo el sector mayor de la población carcelaria y son encarcelados casi 7 veces más que hombres blancos.
Hunger Games is set in Panem, a society that, it is implied, rose from the postwar ashes of north America, and now consists of The Capitol and the 12 fenced off satellite Districts. Many of these Districts produce wealth for the Capitol while their people live in poverty. There is apparently no national oppression (most people are white), but class contradictions are sharp. The Hunger Games are annual fights to the death by two kids representing each of the Districts. In the wealthier districts, kids train for this and consider being picked a privilege. In the poorer districts families are forced to sell their kids into the hunger games in exchange for food required for bare survival.
Katniss Everdeen is from the mining District 12 where her father, and many other miners, lose their lives producing wealth they will never see. She volunteers to take her younger sister's place for the annual hunger games match.
The Hunger Games are broadcast live as reality programming. The Games are meant to remind the people of the power of the government. This brutal form of reality entertainment serves to keep the people of the districts distracted and obedient. Out of 24 participants, only one child lives.
This movie is part one of a trilogy. The books get much deeper into the politics of oppression, even in the first volume. But as a broad representation of the first book, the movie gets at the general system and has a correct message of resistance. Katniss refuses to play the game the way the Capitol organizers intend, inadvertently earning the support and respect of other Districts and inspiring resistance against the Capitol.
In one scene she pauses to pay tribute to a fallen child from another district who was working with her. In the end [spoiler alert] Katniss commits the ultimate snub against the Games, refusing to play to the death. She manages to outsmart the organizers but all she wins is the right to go home a celebrity of dubious distinction for staying alive.
There are some good lessons from this Hunger Games movie. The importance of unity across oppressed people in the common cause against the oppressors is reinforced both in the individual alliances and the cross-district support of Katniss. The movie also demonstrates the brutality and distraction techniques of the ruling class and their willingness to stop at nothing to retain their power. There is an interesting subplot about the two main characters from District 12 pretending a love interest as a survival technique to get the support of "sponsors": wealthy people who can pay to provide advantages to their favorite players. Using whatever means available for resistance is important for the oppressed, though the actual romance in the movie dilutes this message.
The movie is adapted from the first of a trilogy of books but some of the politics of the books are already quite muted in the movie and it will remain to be seen how well the sequels represent the struggles of the oppressed.
In this issue of Under Lock & Key we are featuring reports from comrades in a number of states who are leading efforts for a campaign to have prisoners' grievances heard and responded to by state officials and employees. This campaign has continued to grow in popularity, with minimal effort by MIM(Prisons), yet many have not yet heard of it and there is much room to expand. For all who remain inspired by the recent efforts of California and Georgia prisoners, but feel your conditions are not so advanced, we suggest you work on the USW-led grievance campaigns to start getting people organized in your area.
The basic actions necessary to advance the grievance campaign are:
File grievances on the problems you face where you're at. Get people around you to file grievances. Appeal your grievances to the highest level.
If your grievances go unanswered, organize people around you to sign and mail out grievance petitions created by USW, distributed by MIM(Prisons). Send follow-up letters periodically to check on the status of your petition. Send responses to the grievance petition to MIM(Prisons).
If your state is not yet covered by the grievance petition, but your grievances are going unanswered, translate the petition to work for your state. This requires looking up citations and policies, and figuring out who would be best to send the petition to.
While getting grievances responded to is essentially an exercise in reformism, we see promise in these efforts because they struggle to give voice to some of the most oppressed. This is a democratic struggle in a part of the United $tates where the least amount of democracy exists. Amerikans will tell you that's the point, "you do the crime, you do the time." But we disagree. We don't think the U.$. prison system has anything do with justice or applying objective societal rules to its citizens. The simple fact that about half of all U.$. prisoners are New Afrikan, while only 12% of the U.$. population is, disproves that theory in one fell swoop. In general, the oppressed nations have seen an increase in democracy in the United $tates, yet for a growing segment of these nations, their rights are lawfully being denied. For those who have committed real crimes against the people and should spend time in prison by proletarian standards, we think a program of reforming criminals requires accountability on both sides.
Some have pushed for campaigns to give prisoners voting rights as a method to increase prisoners' democratic rights. But we see imperialist elections having little-to-no bearing on the conditions of the oppressed nations. In contrast, we see the grievance campaign as a democratic campaign that we can support because it can actually succeed in giving prisoners more say in their day-to-day conditions.
The grievance campaign to which we are referring was originally sparked by some comrades in California in January 2010. Since then it has spread to Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Texas. The petitions are updated regularly based on feedback we get from those using it. The three states which have been particularly active lately are Texas, North Carolina, and Colorado.
The Colorado campaign kicked off just before recent reforms were enacted in the Colorado system as a result of passive resistance by the prison laborers being used in large-scale industry there. Similarly, Missouri's petition is specific to their conditions of censorship around a relatively new policy banning music with parental advisory ratings.
In this issue, there are two reports out of Texas, showing the varying levels of organization within a state. One comrade in Connally Unit reports of a mass demonstration.(page X) While another comrade has diligently filed the maximum grievances he can for almost two years, he has proved this road to be fruitless by himself.(page Y) But what is the lesson here? Are our efforts worthwhile? We say there are no rights, only power struggles. We already know that the injustice system is going to abuse people; it is made to control certain populations. In order to win in a power struggle, the other side must feel some sort of pressure. Sometimes one grievance to a higher level is enough to apply pressure. But when the higher level is involved in the repression, it's going to take a lot more than one persyn's grievance. Look at the example of the Scotland lockdown.(page Z) One comrade reported that grievances were being ignored, as has been common in Scotland before the lockdown. But we hear from ULK correspondent Wolf that a combination of complaints from prisoners and outside supporters resulted in an improvement in conditions, however small. This is parallel to the petition to End the High Desert State Prison Z-Unit Zoo, which met some success last year.
The lesson isn't that getting a little extra time out of cells, or skull caps, is a great victory. The lesson is in how prisoners and their outside supporters pulled together and exerted their influence on the DOC as a group. At the same time, a North Carolina comrade reports how standing up by oneself can be risky.(page A)
We think the grievance campaign is a good stepping stone for comrades who say unity and consciousness is lacking in their area. As we know from reports in ULK, the conditions in most prisons across this country are very similar. So the basis for mass organizing should exist even if it requires some hard work to get started. Circulating a grievance petition doesn't require a lot of people to start, and just about everyone can relate to it.
This work is not just a way to bring allies together locally, but is connecting struggles across the country. One Massachusetts comrade was inspired by the efforts of a Florida comrade who was having trouble mobilizing others and wrote in to tell h: "To my Florida comrade, I want to tell you to stay strong." S/he went on to quote Mao, "In times of difficulty we must not lose sight of our achievements, must see the bright future and must pluck up our courage."
Of course, oppression will always exist under imperialism, because it is a system defined by the oppression of some nations by others. And we cannot hope to use reforms to fix a system that tortures people and then ignores administrative remedies to cover their own asses.(page B) But we must begin somewhere. And the grievance campaign encompasses many of the little battles that we have all fought just to be able to read what we want, talk to who we want, and have a voice in this society.
MIM(Prisons) has six cardinal principles, all of which we believe the Leading Light Communist Organization (LLCO) upholds to the degree that we consider them fraternal. As such, we distribute some of their better work, which is likely why you are reading this review. LLCO is one of very few who work within the legacy of the MIM to a significant degree.
This is our first review of the Leading Light Communist Organization by that name, but the theoretical journal Monkey Smashes Heaven predates the LLCO. We reviewed them in 2009 in Maoism Around Us and addressed them later that year in What is sectarianism?
The latter article criticized MSH's nihilist approach to the struggles that comrades from the Maoist Internationalist Party - Amerika went through in their last days. Unfortunately, their sectarianism has only increased since forming LLCO. In their 10 criteria set forth in the beginning of MSH 1 for who they consider to be a communist, the number one point is you must uphold their ideology called "Maoism-Third Worldism", now "Leading Light Communism." This amounts to saying, "we see you as fraternal if you think exactly like us." Cardinal principles should be a handful of the most important issues of the day that define the communist movement. The expectation that the only correct political organizations are those that share identical ideologies leads quickly to the Trotskyist requirement that revolution must be led by a single global organization imposing its will on all countries.
As we addressed already in "Maoism Around Us", we do not recognize an advancement of revolutionary science beyond Maoism as MSH claims Leading Light Communism is. After reviewing MSH 1 and MSH 2, MIM(Prisons) still fails to see the unique contributions that MSH/LLCO claim to have made to constitute a new stage of revolutionary science. They state this repeatedly in their journals, without explaining what exactly distinguishes Leading Light Communism from Maoism.
The one partial explanation they do provide on p. 51 of MSH 1 is that they were the first to scientifically explain that there "is no significant revolutionary class or socioeconomic group in the First World." MIM was the first to put together a lot of the theories on the labor aristocracy into a coherent class analysis of the First World. Yet even they acknowledged that the main points were not new to Lenin, and even Engels had talked about the buying off of whole nations. LLCO has written some interesting new articles on the subject, but has not advanced the theoretical concepts in any way. Where LLCO disagrees with MIM is on the question of internal semi-colonies being potentially revolutionary in the First World. The buying off of internal semi-colonies was most thoroughly addressed in MIM's "On the Internal Class Structure of the Internal Semi-Colonies" and recognized as early as 1992 in MIM Theory 1. We have yet to see LLCO address this issue in any detail. We have yet to see them explain the revolutionary nationalism of just a couple generations ago and why it could not happen again, or even surpass previous experiences. They simply dismiss the possibility with no analysis or explanation.
While opportunistically presenting as the heir apparent to MIM on Wikipedia, they almost never cite MIM or use MIM language except to criticize MIM. In reading the first two print editions of their journal LLCO takes similar approaches to the theoretical contributions of Marx, Lenin and Mao. This takes their sectarianism to another level of knocking down all of their predecessors as inadequate in the face of their supposedly advanced analysis.
Finally, their sectarian thinking leads to a cultish approach to organizing, rather than teaching people how to think and solve problems. While always being sure to hype LLCO as the most advanced, they rarely explain why. It is the job of the vanguard to raise the scientific understanding of others through struggle, not to simply encourage them to follow the leading light.
We won't list all the things we agree with in the first two issues of MSH here. The articles from MSH that we choose to distribute in our own study packs can speak for themselves in how correct they are. We generally agree with the content of those articles except for the points above, and we distribute them because they add new insight into the topics of study.
The point of guerrilla war is not to succeed, it's always been just to make the enemy bleed. Depriving the soldiers of the peace of mind that they need. Bullets are hard to telegraph when they bob and they weave. The only way a guerrilla war can ever be over, is when the occupation can't afford more soldiers. Until they have to draft the last of you into the service, and you refuse because you don't see the purpose. - Immortal Technique, the Martyr
In just over a week, six Amerikan soldiers have been killed by Afghan patriots within the state military that is supposedly working with the U.$. occupation. Nominally triggered by reports of the U.$. military burning copies of the Koran, these killings bring the number of NATO troops killed by their Afghan "allies" to 36 in the last year. This is a significant increase from previous years and some have suggested no other "native ally" of U.$. imperialism has compared.(1) While tiny in comparison to the loss of life by the occupied population, these incidents support the assessment that the United $tates continues to lose their war on Afghanistan. The deaths of Amerikans, while providing fuel for anti-Afghan propaganda, frightens the Amerikan public away from participating in ground wars. It took a long 9 years to turn Amerikan public opinion towards pulling troops out of Afghanistan, and Afghans are still fighting to get them out.(2)
There are two incorrect bourgeois narratives underlying the reporting on recent events. One attempts to hide the fact that the nation has faced a brutal occupation for over a decade, as if Afghans are just irrationally responding to the minor incident of the burning of some books. The second narrative is that there is an outside radical religious element, which must be distinguished from the greater Afghan nation that wants to work with Amerikans. This narrative was used against the Taliban for years before the invasion by U.$. troops even began. The truth being (however flimsily) covered by both of these narratives is that the Afghan nation has supported a decade-long war of resistance to the imperialist occupation led by Amerika. A parallel might be drawn to the media's portrayal of the prison movement where the outside element is "criminal gangs" and resistance is pinned to issues like wanting TV or better food.
In a recent report on NPR, an official stated that USAID had to hide the fact that they were giving aid to the Afghan people, because no one in the country would be seen with a blanket or food with a U.$. flag on it. This fact is a clear demonstration that either the resistance is the Afghan people, or the "outside radical element" is so prolific as to make distinguishing it from the Afghan people irrelevant. Meanwhile, the funeral of an Afghan air force colonel that killed nine Amerikans was attended by 1500 mourners last year.(3) Since this article was first drafted another bomb struck near Bagram Air Force Base where the Korans were burned on March 5. On March 8 the Taliban infiltrated Afghan police in Oruzgan and killed nine of them, while six British occupiers were killed during an attack on their vehicle in Helmand province. Our strategic confidence comes from examples like this, where whole countries have united to reject and fight imperialism. Comparing these conditions to those in the United $tates demonstrates our line on where guerrilla war is possible and not.
"Time works for the guerrilla both in the field — where it costs the enemy a daily fortune to pursue him — and in the politico-economic arena."(4) The occupation of Afghanistan is estimated to have cost as much as $500 billion(5), with sources reporting costs per Amerikan soldier at $850,000 up to $1.2 million a year.(6) While almost all of this money goes to U.$. corporations and their employees supplying the soldiers, even bourgeois economists have recognized that militarism is not a sustainable way to prop up a capitalist economy. What they fail to acknowledge is that only a socialist economic system that produces for need, not profit, can eliminate the inherent contradictions in production where circulation of capital must always increase in the interest of profit.
"There is no great novelty in [guerrilla tactics], nor can the Marxist-Leninist camp claim any special credit for it. What is new — and Mao is the apostle and the long Chinese revolution the first proving ground — is the application of guerrilla activity, in a conscious and deliberate way, to specific political objectives, without immediate reference to the outcome of battles as such, provided only that the revolutionaries survive."(7)
We are coming out of a period where the universality of Maoism has been dirtied by an association of communism with revisionists and First Worldists. Islam continues to unite the national liberation movement in Afghanistan, while "communism" has an association with foreign invasion. While socialism is necessary to meet the needs of the people of Afghanistan, the movement's ideology so far has kept it isolated from the toxic politics of the First World. This will work in their favor as the people's struggle reaches higher stages.
Here in the United $tates we must continue to find creative ways to help the Afghans' heroic struggle to whittle away at Amerikan support for occupation. And we must learn from the events in Central Asia about who are our friends and enemies, what is possible where, and what it looks like to take on a long struggle with the confidence that you are on the right side of history.
In December 2011, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released its annual reports on the correctional population in the United $tates.(1) The reports cover people under adult correctional supervision in 2010. For the second year in a row, this population declined; the first decline since the number of people in jail and prison began growing in the 1970s.
At the end of December 2010, the total number of people in the correctional system, including probation, parole, prison and jail, was 7,076,200. The prison population in this country dropped .6% from 2009, the first decline since 1972. The number of federal prisoners actually increased by .8% but the state prison population dropped by that same rate. Because there are more state prisoners than federal prisoners, there was a drop overall.
The imprisonment rate for new convictions has been declining since 2007, but this is the first year releases exceeded admissions of prisoners, leading to the small drop in the prison population. But release rates were down 2.9% in 2010, so these numbers don't reflect an increase in releases. In fact, time served by state prisoners remained about the same.
These latest numbers may indicate that the prison population has finally reached its peak in Amerika, possibly because of the heavy economic burden of maintaining such a massive criminal injustice infrastructure in this country. But even if the imprisonment rate continues to drop, it will take many years and huge changes before it gets low enough to be comparable to other countries. The U.$. holds over 30% of the world's imprisoned people and has the highest imprisonment rate in the world.(2)
The report gives two possible explanations for the drop in prison population in the United $tates: "either a decrease in the probability of a prison sentence, given conviction, or a decrease in the number of convictions." Unfortunately, data on these measures are not yet available but either would be a good thing. However, as mentioned above, it is likely these changes are a result of financial requirements, not a shift in politics around imprisonment.
There are some interesting trends by nationality demonstrating a continued commitment to national oppression by the criminal injustice system in Amerika. Blacks and whites both had a drop in imprisonment rates, but the decrease for whites (6.2%) was much bigger than for Blacks (.85%). In recent years migrants have been the fastest growing population in U.$. prisons. While 2010 saw a 7.3% increase in the "Hispanic" imprisonment rate, non-citizens actually saw a slight decrease, probably due to a massive increase in deportations. Black men remain the largest sector of the prison population and are imprisoned at a rate almost 7 times white men.
In early February we received a report from a family member that Scotland Correctional Institution had been on lockdown for over 2 weeks. All the time prisoners were getting out of their cells was 5 minutes to shower with handcuffs. They were not allowed to use the phone to call family, so mail has been the only form of communication.
On February 21 a North Carolina prisoner reports:
I'm on lock down for something that happened on January 19, 2012 which I had nothing to do with. The prison placed us on an institution-wide lock down for a small gang riot, which was handled and shut down quickly. They still got us locked down, just trying to break our spirits.
They've not given any religious service, no school, no visits, no sick calls. I placed a sick call 2 weeks ago and they still haven't called me in.
Grievances are not being addressed. I'm so tired of being oppressed. I want to overcome this oppression and I know it's a struggle.
On February 16 ULK correspondent Wolf reported:
Other closed custody facilities went back to regular operation after Prison Emergency Response Teams (PERT) searched and stayed on each unit for about 2 weeks. But the oppressive Karen Stanback and her assistant Capt. Covington has continued the oppressive conditions at Scotland. Details of this oppression include:
On 20 January 2012 we were searched by PERT at 6:30 AM. No shower, recreation, TV, phone calls, religious services, canteen, etc. that day. Taken to the shower on 23 January 2012 in handcuffs and made to shower with handcuffs on. Only had 10 minutes to shower escorted by 2 COs in handcuffs, one inmate at a time in a block of 48 people. PERT searched us again on 25 January 2012.
After grievances and receiving complaints from family members and other outside sources, we received 2 hours in the dayroom, 24 prisoners at a time. During this period we must shower, make phone calls, or try to cook or prepare a meal using 1 hot water sink in the dorm. Prisoners must become bootlickers or snitches or their jobs are being given away to medical custody.
All the guys who participated in the actions that occurred that night are on segregation or were sent to long-term lockup. Still these conditions continue to be enforced on us. Brothers don't realize they're used as pawns in a dirty chess game played by this administration to finally have a reason to bury us alive in these cemeteries. However, Resistance Number 1, aka Wolf has entered the fight against the oppressive imperialistic system of justice and joins MIM. We the Resistance Number 1 realized our fight is hard and difficult, but someone must speak out against the laboratory of injustice here at Scotland CI.
There are two specific challenges we face with our comrades who get out of prison and want to stay politically active. First, the difficulties of balancing work, school, politics and general home life. Second, the overlap between friendship and politics. It is important that we address these challenges to help our comrades follow through on their pledges to serve the people after gaining their freedom.
So far we have been less than successful in this regard, and many comrades fall out of touch with us, only to re-emerge when they are locked back up months or years later. In a country with such a relatively low number of active, committed anti-imperialists, losing these comrades to the streets is a significant blow to our work. As we expand our Re-Lease on Life Program, we are working to address specific challenges with life on the streets in the belly of the beast.
Meeting Your Basic Needs
There are few resources for released prisoners, and without family or friends to provide support it's very difficult to find housing, get a job and provide for basic necessities. There are few studies of homelessness among released prisoners, but those that we've found suggest that at least 10% of parolees end up on the streets without housing after release.(1) The numbers are probably higher; sleeping on a friend's couch is not a long term solution but it won't get you counted as homeless in these studies.
Unfortunately MIM(Prisons) doesn't currently have the resources to provide much help in the area of basic needs for released prisoners. We do have some resource guides for some states, and we can help you think through the best plan for your circumstances. But our ability to help in this area is limited. The rest of this article focuses on people who are released and are able to meet their basic needs. If you have a release date coming up, let us know so we can help you make a plan for the streets.
Time Management on the Streets
Behind bars life is very regimented, with little room for any decisions about how to organize your day, except when you are locked in your cell. And even there, your options for how to spend your time are very limited. You don't have to keep a schedule because the prison keeps it for you. So one of the problems prisoners face when they hit the street is the vastness of opportunities and choices, and the lack of structure.
Many comrades will want to pursue some education, while also finding a job, and attempting to reconnect with family and friends. This means a lot of choices and opportunities, and structured days are necessary to make them fit together. The demands of family and friends can be especially difficult during the initial months post-release after so long with social interactions closely monitored and limited.
Friends, family, school and work are all institutions that are deeply ingrained in and supported by our culture. There is no support for doing revolutionary organizing. That is why Re-Lease on Life is so important. People have a hard enough time doing the normal things they need to do to get by as former prisoners, especially as felons. If you just go with the flow, you'll find your time just flies by and you don't put in any political work.
To participate in the Re-Lease on Life program you need to make a commitment to political work upon release. But most people will need to keep this commitment minimal at first, so that you can focus on getting established with a plan for meeting your long-term needs as an individual, while keeping a connection to the movement.
It's important to think about the future. If you get government assistance, or have a part-time hustle when you get out, how long can that last you? If you don't have job skills or a college degree you should consider school and look into scholarships. On the other hand, it may be worthwhile to focus initially on just making some money before you consider starting school.
Think about where you want to be in a year or two. If your political work is limited by time now, how can you free up more time in the future? One way is by getting into a career path where your income will grow with your experience. Another consideration when looking for jobs is, how can it support my bigger goals? If you work in food service, you save money by bringing home leftovers. If you work at a copy shop, you get discounts on fliers and literature. Getting a manual labor job might help you meet your physical fitness goals. If you work at a security job you get paid to do your political study, leaving your free time to do outreach work.
Whatever your plan is, you need to start thinking about your time as a budget. You have only so much each week, each day. Determine how much you really need for the necessities in life and then schedule that time.
A week has 168 hours in it. If you sleep 8 hours a night that leaves 112. If you need 2 hours a day to cook, eat and take care of persynal hygiene, you are down to 98 hours. Take at least 5 hours a week to deal with other persynal stuff like finances, cleaning, and organizing. You want to work out at least 4 hours per week, maybe more like 8. Now we have 85 left. If you work full time you've got 45, plus transit time, so make that 40. If you're going to school too, you could probably use up most of that 40. If you have regular appointments with your parole officer, doctor or counselor, that will take a few hours. In your best case scenario you might have 40 hours to spend on socializing, relaxing and doing political work. Realistically, finding 15 to 20 hours a week to do political work with a normal bourgeois life is an ambitious goal that requires discipline and good planning.
Keep in mind that even if you only have 5 hours a week free for political work, that is 5 hours of work getting done in the interests of the oppressed. Any time you can set aside for this work is good. And when you first hit the streets this will be easiest if you can set aside that time on your schedule so that it is always the same day/time. For instance, you could say that Tuesday and Thursday nights you will do political work from 5-8 p.m. Block it off on your calendar and tell your friends you have appointments or classes at those times (see below). Working this into your schedule as a regular thing will make it much easier to maintain your activism. If you give up and stop doing political work, chances are good that you will never take it up again. The revolution can't afford to lose good activists like you, so don't let that happen!
Money is Time
Just as challenging for many former prisoners as managing time is managing money, and the movement needs both. Don't fall into Amerikan consumerism. Imperialism has kept itself going by building a consumerist culture at home to keep capital circulating. What that means is that a typical Amerikan lifestyle involves far more consumption than is necessary (or even healthy). Having your own apartment, your own car, a cell phone plan, and others preparing your food for you are just some obvious examples of things considered to be "necessary" expenses justifying the so-called "high cost of living" in this country. Seek out others who you can share expenses and cost-saving tips with. Extravagant spending is often a social behavior. Many recreational things like cable television, alcohol and cigarettes become habitual expenses. Rest and recreation are important, but try things that are more healthy and cost less, and if you do want to splurge, make it a special reward, not a daily expense.
One of our strengths in this country is that Amerikans get paid extremely high wages. By keeping expenses low, you'll find that you can get by on a part-time job, leaving you with more time to do what is most important to you. Remember, even if you're making minimum wage you are in the top 13% income bracket in the world. Don't use poverty as an excuse, when your wealth and privilege are really what's holding you back from doing political work.
The Persynal vs. The Political
Related to the challenges you will face with managing your time on the streets is the social demands of family and friends. The overlap between friendship and politics is something that most people don't consider. In fact, in this country we are encouraged to think about politics as something we must share with family and friends. But MIM(Prisons) does not agree with that view.
We live in a country where most people have a very strong material interest in the status quo, and so they will oppose anti-imperialist politics. The chances of winning them over to the side of the revolution are very minimal, and there is generally no need to destroy relationships with family and friends in the name of this struggle when there are so many other people out there we can try to recruit. Also, because of security concerns in this country, exposing your politics to family and friends can put you at a real risk, especially if you are on parole. If there's one thing you should have learned being locked up, it's that snitches are everywhere.
There is nothing wrong with having friends who don't share your political convictions, you just need to avoid talking about politics with them or only talk about smaller points of politics, without raising suspicion. This doesn't mean you can't share your political views with friends and family who show that they are likely to be interested and agree, but be careful because once they know your views and the work you do, you can't take it back.
Basics About Security on the Streets
When you are locked up in prison the government has a lot of information about you and knows your every move. So behind bars you can only control your security to the extent that you keep your mouth shut on the yard and don't share information about the political work you are doing with people who might use it against you.
On the streets things are a little different. Although you might have to report in to a parole officer or allow the state to track you in some other way as a term of your release, you have a lot more freedom about what information you do and don't share with people and with the government. You are under no obligation to tell anyone about the political work you do, and in fact you should do your best to keep this private from people you know unless you have a reason to believe that they would be supportive. And of course you want to keep it a mystery from the state. This is NOT because we are doing anything illegal, but rather because the state does not like anti-imperialists and will use this as a reason to find or create an excuse to lock you back up. So don't make this easy for them.
The downloadable grievance petition for Texas has been updated to consolidate the recipients to those who respond to prisoners, and to comply with current Texas policies and procedures. Please download it here. Click the link below for more information on this campaign.
Mail the petition to your loved ones and comrades inside who are experiencing issues with the grievance procedure, or mandatory polygraph testing. Send them extra copies to share! For more info on this campaign, click here.
Prisoners should send a copy of the signed petition to each of the addresses below. Supporters should send letters on behalf of prisoners.
Mr. Tom Clements, Executive Director Colorado Department of Corrections 2862 S. Circle Drive Colorado Springs, CO 80906
U.S. Department of Justice - Civil Rights Division Special Litigation Section 950 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, PHB Washington DC 20530
Office of Inspector General HOTLINE PO Box 9778 Arlington, VA 22219
And send MIM(Prisons) copies of any responses you receive!
MIM(Prisons), USW PO Box 40799 San Francisco, CA 94140
*Petition updated July 2012, October 2017, September 2018*