The United $tates locks up New Afrikans at a rate more than 5 times Euro-Amerikans. The rate for [email protected] is at least 1.4 times higher than whites, and the way the prisons collect information on "Hispanics" makes this number likely an underestimate.(1) This dramatic over-incarceration of oppressed nations in U.$. prisons isn't new. But the huge numbers of people locked up is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the 1960s the disparity between incarceration rates was actually about the same as it is today. But the prison population was much smaller, so it impacted a lot fewer people.
In 1960, the white male incarceration rate was 262 per 100,000 white U.S. residents, and the New Afrikan male rate was 1,313; that's 5x the rate for whites. By 2010 this disparity had risen to 6x. This means New Afrikan men were six times more likely to be locked up than white men. This discrepancy had a much bigger impact in 2010 because incarceration rates skyrocketed starting in the 1970s, so that by 2010 the New Afrikan male incarceration rate was 4,347 per 100,000.(2)
In 2000 the discrepancy in incarceration rates between New Afrikans and whites actually started dropping, and by 2015 it was back down to the 1960 levels. Between 2000 and 2015 the imprisonment rate of New Afrikan men dropped 24%, while at the same time the incarceration rate of white men rose slightly. Among wimmin we see the same trend but with a 50% drop for New Afrikan wimmin and a 50% increase for white wimmin.(3)
We need to put these changes in context. The incarceration rate of New Afrikans is still ridiculously higher than for whites! National oppression in prisons has not been eliminated, not even close. At the current rate of change, it would take until around the year 2100 to hit imprisonment equality by nation.
But we can't ignore changes like these, especially when they are consistent over a 15 year period.
Prisons are used primarily as a tool of social control by the United $tates government. Oppressed nations have always been a threat because of the dialectical relationship between oppressed and oppressor. And so oppressed nations face the highest incarceration rates. And the biggest targets are those who are organizing for revolutionary change, as we saw with the massive COINTELPRO operations against the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords Party in the 1970s.
So why would the criminal injustice system shift to lowering the rate of incarceration of New Afrikans but not doing the same for whites? One possible explanation is that changes to the criminal injustice system have been proceeding at different rates in cities and in non-urban areas. The drop in incarcerations rates has been largely driven by lower rates in cities while incarceration in rural areas has remained unchanged.(3) We may see these changes even out over time.
Post-emancipation proclamation, we have seen changes in national oppression in Amerikan society at various times in history. These changes generally happen in response to social movements. Reforms ranged from ending legal segregation to curtailing overt discrimination in arenas like housing, employment, and loans. But these reforms didn't actually put an end to these practices; the reality of segregation and discrimination continued, just shifted to more subtle or hidden forms. Nonetheless, we can say that in some regards conditions for oppressed nations within U.$. borders have improved. This is not surprising as the U.$. government can't really afford to have active unrest within its borders while it's fighting so many overt and proxy wars around the world. Imperialism is more stable when it can keep its home country population pacified.
In a wealthy imperialist country, the capitalists have the money to partly integrate the internal semi-colonies, buying them off with the benefits of imperialist plunder. But the national oppression is so entrenched in modern imperialist society that we don't anticipate full integration of these internal semi-colonies. And so we think it's likely the gap between white and oppressed nation imprisonment rates won't come close to closing. But the current trends in imprisonment rates are something to keep watching.
More than 2 million people are locked up in prisons and jails in the United $tates. This represents an imprisonment rate of just under 1% of the population. Almost 7 million people were under the supervision of the adult correctional system (including parole and probation) at the end of 2015.(1) And in 2012, latest data available from the U.$. Bureau of Justice, the total money spent on the criminal injustice system across federal, state and local governments was $265,160,340,000. Of this prisons accounted for $80,791,046,000.(2)
Prisons are incredibly expensive for the state and prisons cost far more than they produce.(3) The question is, why does the government, at all levels, continue to spend so much money to keep so many people locked up? And why does the United $tates have the highest imprisonment rate of any country in the world?
The Myth of the Prison Industrial Complex
The Prison-Industrial Complex (PIC) meme has become effectively popularized in the United $tates. Behind the concept of the PIC is the belief that there are big corporate interests behind the unprecedented mass incraceration in the United $tates. It represents an Amerikan politic that is outwardly "anti-corporate," while denying the class structure of the country that is made up of almost completely exploiter classes.
While there are certainly some corporations that are making money off of prisons, overall prisons are a money-losing operation for the government. Basically the government is subsidizing the profits and income of a few corporations and a lot of individual so-called "workers."(see Cost of Incarceration article) If we examine prison statistics, economic trends, private prisons, and the "diversity" of the prisoner population, then it becomes clear that prisons are fundamentally about social control over oppressed nations within the United $nakkkes. This leads us to some important conclusions on how the prison system functions and how we should struggle against it.
Falling Rates of Imprisonment
Overall, the prison and jail population in the United $tates has been dropping in recent years, along with the rate of imprisonment. The total number of people in prison and jail started dropping in 2009 after decades of steady increases. In reality the increases in 2008 didn't keep up with the increase in population in the United $tates as the peak imprisonment rate was in 2007 with 1 in every 31 people being somewhere under correctional supervision (including jails, prisons, parole and probation). The prison/jail population peaked in 2006-2008 with 1% of the adult population locked up behind bars. That dropped to .87% at the end of 2015.(4)
This drop in imprisonment rate starting in 2008 lines up with the peak of the recent financial crisis. It seems that the U.$. government does have some limits to their willingness to spend money on the criminal injustice system. If imprisoning people was a way to increase profits, then the numbers of prisoners would increase when there was a financial crisis, not decrease.
Private prisons are a dangerous development in the Amerikan criminal injustice system. They are owned and operated by corporations for a profit. And these prisons take prisoners from any state that will pay them for the service. In states with overcrowding problems, shipping people to for-profit prisons is seen as a good option.
But these corporations also try to sell their services as cheaper and more efficient, basically reducing the already dangerously low level services to prisoners in order to save on costs, because, as we have seen, prisons are extremely costly to run.
At the end of 2015, 18 states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons met or exceeded their prison facilities' maximum capacity.(5) So we might expect a lot of outsourcing to private prisons. But the actual percentage of prisoners in private prisons is relatively low. In 2015, only 8% of total state and federal prisoners were in private facilities. And this number dropped 4% from 2014.(6) This is a greater drop than the 2.2% decrease in prisoners between 2014 and 2015.
If private prisons were so successful, then we ought to see their numbers increase, not decrease. And if they were so influential with the politicians, then they would have a larger market share. Private prisons clearly are not the backbone of some "Prison Industrial Complex." Corporations have, thus far, not figured out how to successfully generate profits from prisons, beyond the subsidy handout they get from the government and commissary stock. On top of this, the federal and state governments are losing money by paying for prisons.
There is a lot of activism opposed to private prisons. This comes from people who generally understand that privatization of an institution usually does not have a good outcome for the oppressed. Activism can influence the government. It's possible that the voices against private prisons helped push the Obama administration to implement its policy of phasing out private prisons for Federal prisoners. The Trump administration has since repealed that policy.
But we don't believe this is a question of partisan politics anyway. The U.$. government has shown that it will stop at nothing to implement policies that push forward profitable capitalist industries. The violent attacks on activists protesting the destructive Dakota Access Pipe Line are a good case in point. This is not a fight over profitable capitalist corporations, it is a debate over which group of people get a subsidy from the government: private prison corporations, or public prison employees. Shifting away from private prisons is painless for the government, because it doesn't require a decrease in prisons, just a shift in where money goes.
So, if not for profit, then why does the U.$. lock up so many people? The answer to this question is obvious when we look at prisoners and the history of imprisonment in this country. It is impossible to talk about prisons without talking about the tremendous disparity in the way the criminal injustice system treats [email protected], First Nations, and New Afrikans within U.$. borders. The ridiculously high rate of imprisonment of people, particularly men, from these nations, is the most obvious disparity.
Approximately 12-13% of the population of the United $tates is New Afrikan, but New Afrikans make up around 35% of prisoners.(7) The imprisonment rate of First Nations is also disproportionately high. In South Dakota, for example, Indigenous people are 8% of the state's population, but are 22% of the state's male prison population and 35% of female prison population.(8) Meanwhile, [email protected] are imprisoned at a rate higher than Euro-Amerikkkans as well.(9)
Any study of the injustice system reveals the same evidence: the majority of prisoners are from oppressed nations. This is in spite of the fact that there are more Euro-Amerikkkans in the United $tates than all the oppressed nations combined.
This disparity starts on the streets with police occupation of oppressed communities, and continues into the courts with disproportionate sentencing, inadequate legal representation, and the conscious and unconscious bias of juries. By the time we get to prisons, we can clearly see the results of systematic national oppression in the rates of imprisonment.
The aggressive use of prisons as a tool of social control started in the United $tates in response to the revolutionary nationalist organizations that gained tremendous popularity in the late 1960s and 1970s. As the government scrambled for an effective response to tamp down this potentially revolutionary mass movement, they turned to the police and prisons.
Between 1961 and 1968, the prison population dropped to its lowest point since the 1920s. From 1968 to 1972, the imprisonment rate rose slowly. However, starting in 1974, just following the peak of revolutionary organizing in this country, there was an unbelievable increase in the imprisonment rates. COINTELPRO was oriented against revolutionary organizations like the Black Panther Party and the United $tates began to systematically lock up or assassinate those people who were trying to fight against oppression. Almost 150,000 people were imprisoned in eight years — demonstrating the government's fear of revolutionaries.(10)
At the same time, there was a growing anti-prison movement and the government was sure to stamp out any and all dissent there as well. George Jackson's book, Soledad Brother, came out in 1970 and was a huge indictment of the oppression against the internal semi-colonies. The following year, he was murdered.
This disproportionate arrest, prosecution and imprisonment of oppressed nations didn't stop in the 1970s. It continues today. Internal semi-colonies are positioned in a way to maintain their subjugated status. And it is when the oppressed nations band together and organize that the Amerikkkan government strikes against them like a rabid dog.
Lessons for our Work
Understanding the injustice system is of central importance to developing a method and structure to resist the prison network. This is why it is so necessary to understand that prisons are a money-losing operation for the government, and to locate the politics of mass incarceration in the attempt at social control of oppressed nations.
If we focus on the role of prisons as social control, targeting the lumpen, we can then target the real reason for the existence of the vast Amerikan criminal injustice system. Exposing this role helps people understand just how desperate the U.$. government was in the 1970s when faced with a huge revolutionary nationalist movement. And the government is still afraid to take any significant steps away from this imprisonment solution.
That tells us they are still afraid of the oppressed nations, so much so that they don't care if a bunch of white people get swept up in the imprisonment craze.
Since social control is driving the Amerikkkan prison system, we should focus our organizing work on exactly what the government fears: organizing those being controlled. We should pick our battles to target the parts of the system that we know are vulnerable: they fear revolutionary education (censorship, bans on study groups), they fear organization (rules against groups), and they fear peaceful unity most of all (provocations of fights, pitting groups against one another). We can build this unity by spreading our analysis of the root goal of the criminal injustice system. All those targeted for social control should be inspired to get together against this system.
Sadly, we as prisoners, in many instances take the judgment of our enemy, the injustice system, as truth even when knowing first-hand their ability to get a conviction has little to do with facts or justice. This knowledge should be enough that we not begin to persecute or torment any member of the lumpen class based on convictions and charges that derive in these kangaroo courts. The contradiction is that actual violations of this nature by any member of the lumpen class is a violation against us all. I have served justice on a street level against such violators. Yet I am in prison due to a sex crime conviction that was racially motivated. Even when the alleged victim was impeached for lying and video was shown proving my innocence a jury of 12 whites found me guilty of the crime. I have continued to defend my innocence, lead many groups in prison and stayed politically engaged. Yet I have to deal with the stigma that is created by this label. I continue to use my voice to awaken members of the lumpen class about the poisonous beast of capitalism and educate them about the benefits of socialism.
In the book Soul on Ice, Eldridge Cleaver has a chapter called "The Allegory of the Black Eunuchs," which I would advise all revolutionaries to read. Also to all my New Afrikan comrades our politics are clear on this issue as it was dealt with in the Ten Point Program produced by our revolutionary forefathers, The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Point #8 of the program states, "WE want freedom for all Black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails."
Marc Lamont Hill, author of Nobody: Casualties of America's War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and beyond, commented in the August 2016 issue of Ebony Magazine on p. 109:
"To many people, including Blacks and radical activists at the time, the call for releasing all prisoners was the most controversial tenet of the Black Panther Party's original Ten-Point Program. After all, how could we justify releasing criminals into society?
"For the Panthers, however, it was impossible to separate 'criminals' from the circumstances that criminalized them. Racist police forces, unjust laws, unfair trials and biased juries all made it impossible to determine whether someone was truly guilty or simply the victim of a rigged system. Even those who were guilty, they argued, had their hands forced because of the oppressive conditions of capitalism and White supremacy. Essentially, the question was, How can you blame someone for becoming a thief when he or she doesn't have a fair shot at an honest job with honest pay?"
But the Panther Program did not end with releasing New Afrikan prisoners. Point #9 continues to explain:
"We believe that the courts should follow the United States Constitution so that Black people will receive fair trials. The Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives a man a right to be tried by his peer group. A peer is a person from a similar economic, social, religious, geographical, environmental, historical and racial background. To do this the court will be forced to select a jury from the Black community from which the Black defendant came. We have been, and are being, tried by all-White juries that have no understanding of the 'average reasoning man' of the Black community."
Here Huey P. Newton was referring to the tenets of the United $tates Constitution to justify a move towards building independent institutions of the oppressed. Newton was always conscious to not get ahead of the masses, but to lead them towards viable solutions. And the Black Panther Party leadership knew that getting justice for New Afrikans in the United $tates was not viable; that only the New Afrikan nation could apply a just morality in judging the actions of its people in the context of being an internal semi-colony of the United $tates white power structure.
So my conclusion to the sex offender debate for issue 61 of Under Lock & Key is that at no point should we take our enemies word or level of injustice over members of the lumpen class, when those lumpen maintain their innocence. Yet we should stand against these violations if they are knowable facts. We should get to know each member of the oppressed lumpen on a personal and individual basis, while understanding the history of the white supremacist criminal injustice system of labeling political prisoners with these kinds of charges in their effort to get them assassinated by other members of the oppressed. Just think of how we lost big Yogi a year or so ago.
Whether in prison or out in society, drugs constitute a major problem. In particular, for our Latino and Black communities, drugs represent a deceiving allure for youth. Power, status, authority, advancement, the all-mighty dollar - the "American Dream." In reality, drugs are just another trap to maintain our communities in an oppressed state unable to progress.
For us, drugs generally lead to a ruined life, prison, or death. There aren't many other avenues available. For those who've fallen into the drug illusion and find themselves in prison, the question is how can we help them escape drug's allure and stop the oppression of our nations?
Obviously, the system (controlled by capitalists and their contributors) has no inclination to help oppressed nations. Having to chase the American Dream through illicit methods or escaping our harrowing reality by using drugs is far more conducive to continuing a capitalistic state than providing viable means of community improvement. So we have to first recognize that no help will come from the top. Where does that leave us?
We have first-hand knowledge of drugs and an in-depth comprehension of our communities and cultures. What must happen is that those on the outside reach into the prisons and pull our people out from beneath the crushing weight of drugs. Building grassroots organizations focused on supporting those in the gulags overcome addiction. Not only addiction to using but to selling drugs as well. Connecting prisoners with outside sources for support, employment (once released), and most important of all, guidance. Many stuck in the gulags feel capitalism's oppression but have no idea how to combat it. Feeling hopeless to progress legally, many are seduced by drugs. Any guidance should be aimed at building consciousness, alternative avenues, and awakening a revolutionary spirit to pull people out from under the gulags.
The most important aspect of such grassroots organizations is that they're from among our own barrios. Their members live or lived where the struggle is deepest. They're connected in a way no outsider organization can ever be. All of this is good in theory, but does it actually work?
The BPP (Black Panther Party) gave us a perfect example when they educated their barrios while feeding their gente. From outside we must educate those inside, feeding them and providing alternative means of overcoming oppression. It must become clear that chasing the American Dream — a piece of the capitalist pie — isn't to our benefit. Our people are oppressed and gaining part of the pie does nothing to bring us closer to equality.
When capitalism is finally supplanted, revolutionary organizations with this kind of focus will provide the infrastructure for our new society. For the capitalists, you selling drugs is preferable to you fighting the system's oppression. You consuming drugs is more desired because you're escaping reality. Whether you sell or do drugs, you remove yourself from the necessary revolution and only contribute to the oppression visited upon our communities. And, if drugs don't ruin your life or kill you, there's another place for you. Capitalists call it the Department of Corrections, we call it the Dungeons.
I just want to thank you for teaching me so much in so short an amount of time. My main studies are case law, criminal law, penal codes, and important stuff like that. But about 6 months ago I ran across your ad in the Inmate Shopper and contacted you. At first I had a hard time seeing the big picture because it was difficult reading your literature being that I'm white (Irish/German/Dutch/Italian) and when you refer to the enemy or the oppressor it's always the white privileged class or the white supremacy who rules over the lower class and enslaves them mentally and physically and financially.
At first I was offended because you're saying that there needs to be a revolution to overthrow this imperialist nation, and I'm thinking "wait a minute, these are my people they're talking about, this is some racist ass bullshit here." But the more I read your newsletters the more I can see your point, and relate to your view. I've always been of the lower class, poor, and disadvantaged. Once I started going to jail and prison it really became evident that I was some kind of slave to the system, and there was a supreme group of people who ultimately called all the shots, ran the government, waged the wars, ran all the major corporations, and the list goes on. I was looked down on by these people; they might be white but they ain't my people, the cops, the sheriff, the judge, the DA, the Illuminati, etc.
Reading your newsletters helps me understand who they are and what they have been doing, where I stand in all of this, where this country came from, who runs it, where it's going, and what's gonna happen to us if we don't band together and do something about it.
Anyways, I'm new in all this and still just soaking it up. Thank you, and keep the newsletters coming, I really appreciate it and I will pass them on to others who are politically motivated, some Black, [email protected], white, and Asian.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We're always happy to hear from folks like this reader who can get past their own white identity to see the oppressive system of imperialism for what it is. When we talk about the predominantly-white nation of Amerikkka as an oppressor nation, that doesn't mean all whites are excluded from the revolutionary movement. Or that we think whites face no oppression. Rather we are discussing a system-wide condition with one nation in power, and that power benefiting all from that nation, including the poorest people. And so even if the benefits don't include being a millionaire, white people as a whole have a material interest in maintaining imperialism. Still, many white folks can take a stand against oppression of all kinds. These folks essentially go against their national interests to join up with the revolutionary movement. And we welcome them!
In response to "CALIFORNIA: Challenges and Reports" (in ULK 56), the comrade/s at MDF, Contra Costa County Jail being hit with gang enhancements and other unjust treatment. Faulty gang allegations was a major error in my trial as a southern [email protected], hence my return on appeal, which also made case law (Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 3, California. The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Jerry RAMIREZ and Catherine Rodriguez Villarreal, Defendants and Appellants. G052144 Decided: February 05, 2016). I hope this can be of assistance. Should be in the lexus by now but is also attainable via internet. They have been trying to turn our culture into a crime for the last 500+ years. It's going to take a lot more than a STEP act to get rid of us. In commemoration of "Black August" and the "Plan de San Diego", I send mine to all comrades North, South, East and West.
Contra Costa County Martinez Detention Facility (A) module is a General Population (GP) setting that houses northern Hispanics and African American prisoners. The prejudiced treatment of hispanics who are classified on (A) is a continuous issue and the rules seem to bend for us. As a result of an incident in 2011, we were separated from all other GP races. This continues today although we can program in all other GP modules. In 2012, we were subject to lockdown style program of 3 hours free time a week, no bible study, etc. This lasted up until 2015. Note that none of us were even involved in violating Title 15 §1083, yet were treated as we if we were in fights even straight from intake.
We on (A) live amongst GP African American prisoners, as well as others, and other hispanics. Yet we are still "Administrative Separation"(Ad-Sep). We seek an integration process to all other GP units, including the other jail (Contra Costa County - West Detention (WCDF)), which is for less serious offenders and offers more opportunities, programs and privileges. We acknowledge current overcrowding issues. However, there is no reason why us GP prisoners are deprived of those same opportunities: vocational, parenting, etc. Especially those who qualify for such housing. Being deprived of such opportunities is a punishment, which is the underlying issue here. We've been battling administration through verbal and written remedies to no avail. Our valid requests and grievances go nowhere, don't reach the chain of command, are ignored, we are given inadequate responses, and denied appeal rights. Even when attempting to follow policy regarding grievances it falls on deaf ears.
Another thing we seek to battle is the biased intake process, where we are left on (2) intake/disciplinary mod for unreasonable amounts of time without write-up, hearing, or a procedural due process.
As of 4 August 2017, approximately 72 inmates are on hunger strike due to these injustices. The following are the demands turned in to the administration:
We've been seeking just treatment through verbal and written remedies to no avail. This does not get us nowhere. We will be boycotting such prejudicial treatment. Following are more than fair demands that are not out of reach to administration and just according to inmate rights:
1) Cease Ad-Sep label: Equal treatment to those who've not committed any infractions within the jail. Non-existent Ad-Sep label creates a negative aura which pursues us all the way to our cases. We're forced to leave (A) in shackles giving negative impressions in court, lobby visits, etc. Ad-Sep does not exist in Title 15 and inmate handbook. No one asked for Ad-Sep, Ad-Seg, or special housing during intake process. We are GP, should be treated and labeled as such. Just like (B) and (C) inmates who've not broken any rules. Cease punishment violating T.15 §1083(c) over 2011 incident, cease Ad-Sep label because of a bad environment created by classification affecting us in our case.
2) Start process of integration to all GP units including WCDF. If this is not immediately possible there is no reason why we can't receive access to all other programs available in those parts of the jail, such as vocational, parenting, etc. Those who qualify for WCDF should receive opportunities. To deny such opportunities is to bestow a punishment we don't have coming, which is the underlying issue here.
3) Create adequate grievance process, following policy, and chains of command when there is in fact a valid grievance. Provide appeal rights that are denied and give adequate responses.
4) Cease biased intake process where inmates destined for (A) are left on (Q) for unreasonable amounts of time deprived of GP setting and privileges without write-up, hearing, creating negligent meal service by having PCs serve food. You make room for those punished from other mods, you can make room for those without any type of infractions.
Note: We have set forth reasonable and realistic requests and grievances. In a nutshell we simply wish to cease biased treatment and be treated like all other GP inmates. We acknowledge overcrowding problems regarding housing circumstances. However, we should not be denied access to those programs and opportunities. We are separated/segregated from other races unnecessarily. As well as treated with prejudice from setting foot in intake to court.
Title 15 §1083(c)4019.5 "Punishment to inmate/group over others actions" (2011 incident)
14th Amendment "equal protection of the law" - cannot treat inmates differently than others without reason (race is not a valid reason)
Title 15 §1053 Ad-Seg (not fitting criteria)
8th Amendment "Due process procedural rights" (violated)
We support these comrades' just demands, which ally with ongoing campaigns to end long-term isolation as well as to provide proper avenues for having grievances heard. As the comrades point out that this treatment based on supposed affiliation with people who did things before they were even in this jail is an obvious violation of basic civil rights and just treatment. We work to build the anti-imperialist movement so that we can replace the current system with a just one.
After reading The New Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness, by Professor Michelle Alexander, one can see the dynamics of how the political economy shaped the prison system by taking away the jobs which would in fact increase the crime rate. It's been reported over time that the CIA was the biggest drug trafficker in the country and flooded the inner cities across Amerikkka, which only made room for one thing — distribution by the inhabitants of the inner city. Due to this new social phenomenon, lawmakers had a field day with funding SWAT teams to serve narcotic warrants, and perform paramilitary drug raids throughout the United $tates.
The Economic Recovery Act of 2009 included more than $2 billion in new Byrne funding and an additional $600 million to increase state and local law enforcement across the country. [The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program is the primary provider of federal criminal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions. - Editor] Multi-agency drug task forces receive their finances from the federal government to help them increase the prison population, while the lawmakers come together to get Congress to pass laws that will keep inner city youths in prison for mandatory minimums. The 3-strikes-you're-out law orchestrated by Bill Clinton allowed all the newly-built prisons (California built new prisons from the 1980s to 2000) to stay full, and also allowed other states to use this same sentencing method.
Before coming to prison, I along with others from the inner city had no idea about the political landscape that jump started our oppression. What shaped our views was learning how to apply a concrete analysis of the concrete conditions, and how to apply this philosophy within our culture. This concrete analysis is called dialectical materialism, and once used correctly we were able to better understand our situation and how to change our conditions. Through the study of our New Afrikan history we realize our struggle was always due to our resisting oppression. Oppression from the same class of people who first enslaved us once arriving on these shore, via a capitalist/imperialist system, established through military conquest, that controls you economically.
We New Afrikans have become political prisoners by challenging these imperialists' control over us through their oppression and have established a social, cultural, economic, ideological, religious, military, and personal interaction between us as a group of people in a society. Our politics encompasses the totality of all human activity and relationships.
I am a Mexican National Citizen raised in the old ways of making business. Our word was always good to our dying last breath. In prison politics and Mexican politics, the word is meaningless. (Tell that to good Tio Colosio, who paid with his life for believing someone else's word.)
Well, after 20 years in a main line or so-called active yards, I made the transition to the SNY yard. Here, I found lots of brothers (i.e. comrades), that made the transition years and even decades ago. Fortunately, I escaped the usual brainwashing that my Chicano counterparts are exposed to in the schools and ghettos. So, I called quits, and came over to the bizarre world. I found that most of my new comrades lacked any type of political consciousness. Time after time they declined my attempt to read some of my literature. It did not escape my mind that I once was like that too. It took me years to awaken to the cruel reality of my imprisonment.
Anyway, my first celly was a white male. And I discovered what I have always known in theory: We are all ignorant, poor, and damned (regardless of skin color, creed, or gang affiliation). For reasons that are not pertinent to this essay my new celly only last me less than 24 hours. Nevertheless, he left a deep impression in my consciousness. He told me that on the line his shot caller actually put a hit on him, over a $50.00 pruno debt. So he had to assume the position and allowed his beloved celly, who was a few months short to go home. And he was stabbed about three times. That is how out of control the prison gangs are.
So that the readers know: The average Mexican National prisoner doesn't belong to cartels, or street and prison gangs. Most Mexicanos are unaware of the avalanche of prison politics coming their way. Without no shame I can say that had my counselor told me about my expected role to serve at the active yard I should have checked out right there and then. It wasn't meant to be, so I was set up, by a failed rehabilitation system. I was immediately classified as a "PAISA" or "BORDER BROTHER." This STG (Security Threat Group) is under the direct order of the Sureños Prison Gang (like to be ordered to do hits and follow gang's rules).
Unbeknownst to the Mexican, all of these violent incidents will be used by the Board of Parole Hearings ("BPH"). God forbid one has a stabbing ten years ago. They literally act the part to be surprised that these kind of thing happen in prison. Even a disciplinary citation over a stolen apple will be used to say that one is a danger to the free community. These pundits actually believe that these gulags are CENTERS of top notch rehabilitation. And that one insists in misbehaving!
My new celly is an elderly Mexican. He is respectful and knows how to do time. He too called it quits when he discovered the winds of change in the air. And before things took a turn for the worst, he made the best decision in his life. He became another "SNY." The environment here is more loose. The gang trip is over. I have not seen any acts of predatory behavior towards those that are too weak to defend themselves. Then, there are those that act out as straight protective custody; they believe that the c/o is their daddy or big carnal. They are loud and wear their pants half way down their butt. Still the talking with staff can also be seen at facility "C", an active yard. They came in to the program office and spend time with them (getting cozy with the enemy i.e. the oppressor).
I found out that if I kept to myself and mind my own business I can fly undetected. This wasn't possible in an active yard, because one is expected to put in work for the prison gang. The new prison gangs at this side, they pretty much keep to themselves. And do their fighting without asking for help. Those who do not want to engage in the new gangs warfare are left alone out of the drama. I have spoken to former Sureños and Norteños (youth and elderly), and many described themselves as "Mexicanos" born on this side. Many have realized that the Mexican National is not their puppet to be used and discarded. They all agreed that becoming "SNY" is the best decision that they ever took. Their new leaders are their families, patria, and raza.
Here, former shotcallers and gang leaders are nothing. They are one more slave among the thousands. Long are gone the days of blood money, glory, cell phones, and God ego trips over life and death. As for my own transition from an enslaved active prisoner to an "SNY" it was easy. I packed my belongings without raising too much suspicion. And at school I told the officer "that I wanted out of the yard." They pressured me to tell what I knew about the big fat sapos and those that are kissing their ass. I had nothing to tell them.
Even if I knew anything I would never tell them nothing. I am too old to become a state snitch. So, not all SNY prisoners become snitches. I have been told that sometimes the officers threaten prisoners by telling them they will be sent back to the main line. But, this wasn't my case. (For your information, the officers will never do that.)
For those that I left behind, stop and think about it, for a long time. Is it really worth it to give up one's life by running a fool's errand? What they are sending you to do to someone else's son they will do to you. The masters of manipulation's lost cause is not worth it to die or kill for. Screw their orders, they are not our parents, tios, or big brothers. They are playing God with your lives and freedom.
They are bloodthirsty sociopaths with our brothers' and sisters' blood on their hands. They are the oppressor's little brother; they help the oppressor to keep us in check. Go ahead and tell them to do the killings themselves. They can't really hold you up accountable for your word; that you gave up as a little kid. You did not know anything about life when they enticed you to join the gang. They never told you that by 15 you would be dead or doing life in the gulags.
They never took you to a funeral and told you: that is you in a few years. They never took you to the gulags to visit those who are buried alive. Have they told you that an early death or lifetime in prison was your future? Odds are that you would have run away ASAP. Thus, at the age of 20, 30, or even 60 years old, one must truly awaken to the reality of our predicament and analyze the contradictions of one's slavery. So that we can shake off the old chains that bind us to a lost cause. One must evolve and think outside the box. It is the 21st Century, our families need us out there.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Lumpen organizations (LOs) in the united $tates are usually organizations of the most economically marginalized of the oppressed in this country. Elsewhere comrades have spoke about the difference between the Neo-Colonial Lumpen Organization (NLO) and the LO. The experience of the above comrade reflects the practice of the NLO. But the LOs in general have both capitalistic and collective/nationalist aspects to them. And those that embrace the collective aspect (usually in a revolutionary nationalist way), can evolve to become Political Mass Organizations (PMOs).(1) So while we struggle with comrades in LOs to move in the direction of becoming a PMO, the above story is a common one in California as SNY has come to represent one third of prisoners in recent years.(2)
This comrade also touches on the national question and national identity in Aztlán. The fact that those of Mexican descent born within U.$. borders are so likely to identify as Mexicanos speaks to the national contradiction between the Amerikan settler and the colonized territory of Aztlán. As this comrade also recognizes we refer to those born north of the U.$.-Mexico border as [email protected] The recognition of a [email protected] nation deeply connected to, but separate from Mexico, was the outcome of the struggles of revolutionary nationalists and communists in the 1960s organizing Raza in the southwest. For those interested in this topic you should check out [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán by a MIM(Prisons) study group. This book is available to prisoners for $10, or work trade.
In an article titled "Revolutionary Nationalism and the Afro-American Student," published in January 1965, Max Stanford argued that Black students of the "warbaby" generation embodied several contradictions at once – contradictions that could lead them to embrace capitalism and white values, check out altogether, or join the revolutionary movement. What I like about this idea from Max Stanford is many of us Black lumpens scream and protest about oppression and unjustice. But as soon as we're pacified with promises of more jobs and wage growth we tend to get amnesia on how capitalism is creating the oppression and injustices.
Sometimes I question organizations that scream that we need to be free and equal but still want to hold on to petit-bourgeois ideas. I can agree with Max Stanford about the warbaby generation that wants oppression to end but will embrace capitalism as if that system will truly liberate them from oppression. I see this happening today; what we should be protesting about is bringing in a new economic system which can give us control of the means of production. Rather than riot and protest and beg these imperialists for more oppression and injustice in order to satisfy our material desires.
Another point I want to express is the embracing of white values. When we hear the term white values what is Max Stanford getting at? Well he must mean how Blacks will adopt lifestyles and ideology that most capitalist whites have. Now I assume Max Stanford was envisioning a future in which New Afrikans would sell out the revolution for material wealth in supporting a system which creates class divisions in Amerikkka and abroad. A lot of revolutionaries of the past used self-censorship in order to support capitalism and gave up on the struggle for the fear of being isolated targets of the imperialist masters. We have even gone so far as denying self-determination. So I agree with Max Stanford's statement that Black revolutionaries would embrace white values.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer raises a very relevant point about the potential for oppressed nation people to be pacified with material wealth. We have seen a movement towards integration and buying off oppressed nations within U.$. borders, as a part of a dual-pronged strategy from the government since the revolutionary movements of the 60s and 70s: dramatic incarceration rates combined with significant movement towards integration. We still see sufficient national oppression that we continue to have distinct nations within U.$. borders, but as with other nations in the past, Amerika could decide to fully integrate its oppressed nations to focus its energy on the exploitation of the Third World. Already superprofits are being shared with the [email protected] and New Afrikan nations so that even while facing national oppression they are enjoying an economic benefit from their Amerikan citizenship. And this promise of material benefit does lead revolutionaries to give up the struggle, as this author points out.
So we have to ask, what should revolutionaries do with these material conditions? This issue of ULK is about movement tactics, and it is an analysis of our conditions that should lead us to determine what are appropriate tactics and strategy for our organizing work. At this point in time we still believe that the principal contradiction within U.$. borders is between the oppressor nation and oppressed nations. It's even possible we will see this contradiction heighten as the white supremacists gain a stronger foothold in open roles in the government. So for now it is our job to educate and organize the revolutionaries, with a focus on the oppressed nations. But we are not fighting for the economic advancement of oppressed nation workers, who are already benefiting from imperialism. Our message must be clear: we are internationalists, fighting to end all national oppression, not just gain a bigger piece of the pie for internal oppressed nations while the pie is baked with the labor of exploited Third World workers.