I am writing to inform you of the most recent form of retaliation. As I have written in the past, I have been fighting the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) over a number of issues. Two issues are now in the courts, but one deals specifically with the racist, homophobic, sexist and all around disrespectful actions of two pigs here at Ely State Priosn (ESP). SCO Mullins, and CO Wheeler. In February these officers searched my cell for four hours. They broke all my appliances, tore and threw away almost all of my books and other materials relating to communist thought. They have repeatedly gotten on my intercom and talked down to me, have called me a "commie pig," a "red", and nicknamed me "USSR." I doubt they know what communist thought is, more their ignorance allows them to utilize it as a tool of harassment.
ESP started allowing porters on 1 October 2016, the first since 2003 I believe. (ESP is locked down). Well my cellie and I got the porter job. We worked for 17 days. The first time we worked with SCO Mullins, we were fired and written up for making threats towards officers. Which did not happen.
My cellie and I were moved from our cell, but to another room in the same unit! Despite our many claims of harassment. All the harassment has been a direct result of our fighting the NDOC in relation to its use of racial segregation in housing, its use of the paging system for the law library, and the grievance process.
As a result of these false allegations, my cellie and I are now removed from the transfer list. I am looking at up to two years in the hole. My cellie will lose up to 3 years of good time (I have life without) so he will have to do 10 more years, instead of 7 more, and neither of us may ever be able to leave ESP.
This officer thinks he has won. However, all he has done is strengthened my resolve to fight harder. I would appreciate any information regarding case law dealing with retaliation that you or incarcerated comrades may have.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We applaud this writer's resolve to continue the fight in the face of very real consequences to eir work. Additional years in prison and long-term isolation are serious outcomes that will cause many to give up the fight. Even more, this comrade is doing the right thing by writing about eir experiences to expose the injustice, and reaching out to others for support and help. This sort of oppression can be an opportunity to organize and educate others. But the resulting isolation of course means limited ability to organize people. We invite our readers to share suggestions for this comrade.
by MIM(Prisons) October 2016 permalink
Mail the petition to your loved ones and comrades inside who are experiencing issues with their grievance procedure. Send them extra copies to share! For more info on this campaign, click here.
Prisoners should send a copy of the signed petition to each of the addresses listed on the petition, and below. Supporters should send letters on behalf of prisoners.
Director Wendy Kelley
Arkansas Department of Corrections
PO Box 8707
Pine Bluff, AR 71611-8707
United States Department of Justice - Civil Rights Division
Special Litigation Section
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, PHB
Washington, D.C. 20530
Office of Inspector General
P.O. Box 9778
Arlington, Virginia 22219
And send MIM(Prisons) copies of any responses you receive!
PO Box 40799
San Francisco, CA 94140
This is in response to ULK 52, page 18, "Building Peace and Unity in CO." This is an untrue statement. There might be individuals on peace. But that is all, the majority is still the same. Colorado lacks a gang structure to call a treaty like that. Let alone a revolutionary mindset. Colorado/the man, learned from other states how to repress gang structure. And how to ultimately control the gangs and the entire system. Through divide and conquer strategies within the gangs, the same gangs, not just different gangs against different gangs.
This is accomplished by privileges and by conforming to their standards. A lack of discipline for a group's goals. And the way they breed juveniles' minds in their juvenile facilities to show who the authority is, and snitch programs to confront one another. Brainwashing. With the exception of few, but not enough to enact any kind of movement for gang or revolution. I heard a quote "the most common way a people loses their power is by thinking they have none at all." That is the majority mindset out here in every aspect.
I became conscious recently. I have been educating myself as much as I can to politics, history and different cultures. Empires are the power through history in every culture. As a conscious man it was not my choice to be born oppressed but it is my choice to struggle against it. Knowledge is power, to change yourself and your surroundings. That is what needs to be attained and given to the people. Especially the children. So that generation changes the situation. So it becomes not a choice but the way of life, while always knowing that there will always be forces to try to destroy that life, but no matter what to continue on. I educate who I can and always will now. I find it hard to change a man's way of thought but I try. Knowing that thought was created for his destruction.
I am stuck in some of my ways also. Change takes time. Being stuck in prison is also a hindrance. Something that destroys life and choice. Always a created struggle. That is what I figured out in these studies. You need a pure mind to enact a change. And that is our children, they are pure. A sponge to gain all the knowledge needed to ultimately find the true meaning of life watch as peace of mind, happiness, love, family. To teach them what needs to be done so they can have that, along with their family and people.
I hope one day to become one of a million instead of one in a million. Ho Chi Minh said "when the prison doors are open the real dragons will fly out." I am a dragon full of rage for the oppressor, love for my people, knowledge to be spread and flames to be unleashed on our enemies. The day my wings will open to fly out and accomplish all these things. I have love for all oppressed people.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade starts off disagreeing with what someone else wrote about building unity in Colorado, but in the end argues that change is possible and that we need to educate and build for unity. We agree there is much work to be done, but we must build and educate in whatever situation we can. In the case of our comrades behind bars, this means doing the work that is often hard and slow to overcome the brainwashing of a lifetime of education and build unity against the criminal injustice system. For those who have become conscious, it is our duty to share this with others. It is not enough to just understand oppression ourselves. One good way to get started is by forming a study group where you're at. We can supply some information on how to do this along with study materials. Write to us to get started.
For those of us who have received a political education and are locked away in Amerikkka's prisons, the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity should be a call to action. As many people as have been involved in MIM and MIM(Prisons)-led study groups over the years, comrades should be more than clear on what their duties and responsibilities are to the prison struggle as well as to the International Communist Movement (ICM). The fact that September 9 events are still few and far between is therefore continuing indicative proof of a variety of contradictions still plaguing the prison movement. This essay attempts to address and give special attention to the development of the mass line.
Some people who have shown interest in taking up revolutionary politics incorrectly believe that they must spend years on end learning political theory before they are ready to take up revolutionary struggle, especially when it comes to applying Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. However, this type of thinking is incorrect, not only because it has the potential to slow down revolution, but because it can be used to purposely derail the revolutionary movement. Just think — where would any revolutionary movement be if everyone always sought to first become an expert in any particular field before they did anything? This is what Maoists criticized as the "experts in command" approach to education, production and revolution in communist China during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) (1966-1976), the furthest advance towards communism in humyn hystory!
The experts in command political line was initially related to the intellectual belief during the Great Leap Forward (1958-1961), that only experts with years of training (usually within the confines of a classroom or a controlled environment) were worthy enough to lead or teach. This same line was later used by traitors and the bourgeoisie in the Chinese Communist Party itself as a way to disempower the revolutionary masses and consolidate their grip on power.
In opposition to experts in command, Mao Zedong and others began popularizing Lenin's slogan of "fewer, but better" by pointing out that it wasn't necessary for comrades to have years of experience in political struggle before they were able to take up leadership roles. Instead Mao stressed comrades' dedication to serving the people as more important than this "expertise." Furthermore, Mao encouraged cadre to not separate themselves from the revolutionary masses, but to work amongst them and help them develop the mass line. To develop and carry out the mass line is simply to help the masses develop and carry the revolutionary programs that will best help them accomplish the task of developing revolution and achieving self-determination. Without the mass line revolution is impossible; the masses will sink ever deeper into despair, while the leaders lead the revolutionary movement astray and the oppressors will rein. Mao Zedong's instructions for cadre to develop the mass line are thus:
"In all the practical work of our Party, all correct leadership is necessarily 'from the masses, to the masses.' This means: take the ideas of the masses (scattered and unsystematic ideas) and concentrate them (through study turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas), then go to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as their own, hold fast to them and translate them into action, and test the correctness of these ideas in such action. Then once again concentrate ideas from the masses and once again go to the masses so that the ideas are persevered in and carried through. And so on, over and over again in an endless spiral, with the ideas becoming more correct, more vital and richer each time. Such is the Marxist theory of knowledge." - Some Questions Concerning Methods of Leadership
Mao also said it would be enough for comrades to first put an emphasis on being "red" with an aim towards becoming experts through continued participation in revolutionary struggle.
There is also the problem of intellectuals in the prison movement. But does this mean that all intellectuals in the prison movement are a problem? No, of course not. There are revolutionary intellectuals and there are bourgeoisie intellectuals. Revolutionary intellectuals hate oppression, they value knowledge as power and the collective accomplishments of many people, and they are dedicated to using their knowledge to serve the people. Bourgeois intellectuals on the other hand don't much care if people are oppressed, they are apathetic, they value knowledge for the sake of knowledge and they view the accumulation of knowledge as the accomplishment of great individuals. Some of these people may sometimes cheerlead for anti-imperialism and revolutionary struggles, but thru their inaction they actually hold up imperialism. Such people often excel in MIM(Prisons)-led study groups. These types of people take up revolutionary politics for the sole purpose of study and discussion without application, which is to say that they get off on talking about revolution but very rarely do they go further. These types of people give lip service to communist ideology and the topic of national liberation. When pressed on putting their knowledge to use they'll suddenly come up with excuses. "Now is not a good time for me," "The masses aren't ready," "The movement isn't ready," etc, etc. In fact it is they who are not ready!
Real revolutionary intellectuals don't study revolutionary theory for the sake of knowledge, but to make revolution. Theory without practice ain't shit! Mao addressed this in his essay "On Practice":
"What Marxist philosophy regards as the most important problem does not lie in understanding the laws of the objective world and thus being able to explain it, but in applying the knowledge of these laws actively to change the world."
Maoism teaches us that there is no great difference between politically conscious leaders and mere followers, between leaders and led. The only difference is practice, for practice alone is the criterion of truth for knowledge, as it is through practice that the masses can come to power and exert influence over their destiny.
Is there ever a time when we would unite with reactionary oppressor-nation lumpen organizations in a united front for peace in prisons?
This particular question is one that contains within itself a set of extremely complex issues concerning the ideology of these types of groups or organizations. It is only after we examine these issues that we can make an intelligent informed decision concerning this question of uniting with a reactionary-oppressor organization in prison.
We know that at their very core a large percentage of these groups are deeply rooted in their beliefs in Adolf Hitler and/or the Nordic Gods, or they are rooted in the distorted beliefs of so called "white Christianity"" (ie the KKK or the Church of Jesus Christ, Christian, etc.). All of their gods are considered to be extremely Aryan and will only deal with or help those who are white Aryan people unless it benefits them. Those who hold to the ideals of "white Christianity" have merely reconstructed the Holy Bible to fit their views of white supremacy. These white Christian organizations support those organizations who are neo-Nazi by nature.
The ideologies of both of these styles of organizations are centered around the philosophy of one being "white." Yet, you do find exceptions to this way of thinking. However, you generally discover that their mottos revolve around the principle of "if you ain't white, you ain't right." This ideology holds not only the connotation of the color of your skin is important, but likewise so are your ethical, moral, and religious beliefs. This, in itself implies that you are never going to be on an equal status with them.
These white nationalists live by a 14 word creed "we must secure the existence of our race and the future of white children." They likewise live by what they call the 88 precepts which create a vision of superiority for the white race.
Both morally and ethically the vast majority of white nationalist organizations find it extremely difficult to honestly and openly reach out to others with a spirit and agenda of true peace. This is due to the basic core of their beliefs that have been hammered into them since they were young. They have been taught to use other races, groups, organizations or individuals to gain their advantages for the betterment of themselves and once they are finished with them they simply jettison them and move on to their next victim.
Having presented the above to you the informed reader, I now remind you that we as individuals and a movement must never forget that the best method for change concerning these types of groups and organizations is to openly and honestly invite them to participate in the process for peace. If we diligently allow them to become actively involved in the process then perhaps their hearts and minds will be opened to the truth.
We must never let ourselves succumb to the way of thinking that we are better than others. We must steadfastly remain inclusive of everyone around us. Always remember that if we can affect one mind, just one heart, then indeed we have made a great step for all mankind.
Through slothfulness and unawareness we do surely die. Through strength, honor, courage and vigilance we surely do survive!
MIM(Prisons) responds: This is an interesting commentary on uniting with white nationalist organizations because it comes to the same conclusion we have come to, but for different reasons. We agree that the United Front for Peace in Prisons can include reactionary organizations. It is true that sometimes through a united battle we can educate others and change their minds to a more progressive viewpoint. But we must be clear that we only unite with reactionary organizations when we have common goals and enemies, and when this unity might serve to push forward the battle with our principle enemy. Just as the Chinese communists allied with the Kuomindang in the war against the Japanese imperialists in spite of the Kuomindang previously attacking the communists and expressing significant disagreement, antagonism and aggression against the communists. At that time the principal task of the movement was to get the Japanese occupiers out of China. And the Kuomindang was an organization of Chinese nationals and so they shared this goal with the communists. Once that was accomplished the communists knew they would then need to fight the Kuomindang, but it did not make sense to divide the anti-Japanese forces and take on both battles at once.
Similarly we see our principal task being best advanced by building peace and unity among prisoner organizations so that we can all focus our fight on the criminal injustice system. This doesn't mean we expect white supremacist organizations to be won over to the side of the oppressed. But we can have principled unity with these organizations as we focus on a common enemy. We will not compromise our views or pretend to agree with them politically. And in this principled unity we may win over a few from the ranks of these white nationalist organizations who begin to see the correctness of our political positions.
I have had a revolutionary mindstate since I was 16 (I am 30 now), when I realized our current government structure was corrupt and I started searching for a new philosophy. I came into Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Ever since then I have been a sort of pariah in society for my views. I caught my first bid at 18 and have been in and out of the prison system repeatedly. Mind you these prison bids were my own fault but the length of the sentences were always to the extreme. I was never given a second chance. Now I am in a Level 4 work release and finally about to go home in a few weeks and felt it necessary to share my views.
For starters oppressor-nation lumpen organizations should not ever be trusted. Joining with their factions they will try to incorporate their bigoted views into our cause and give true freedom a sour taste in our mouths. That is why we should avoid this situation. A united front is exactly how it sounds, united at all fronts no matter your race, sex, creed, or class. Hatred should not be tolerated within our ranks.
The same goes for pariahs such as snitches, child molesters, and rapists. These are things we should not tolerate. In order for the revolution to succeed we cannot have people looking at our organizations as a threat to house and home. Unity is built on trust. Would you trust a convicted and known child molester to be around your children, or a convicted rapist to be around our wimmin? I know I wouldn't. Amerikkka would love for us to have dissension within our ranks and we cannot afford to have this.
As for snitches, they work for the government! This cannot be allowed to infiltrate our ranks. If you would tell on a case so you don't go to jail, how can we trust you with political treason? Our revolutionary leaders are already being killed and incarcerated, we cannot let in anyone who will jeopardize more of our leaders. Take for instance, one of us was in contact with Edward Snowden (a true patriot, also this is all hypothetical) if a snitch caught wind and set him up to be arrested a leader will be lost.
Comrades I encourage you to think about the implications of letting these kinds of people into our rank and file. Long live the revolution.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer raises an important point about who we can organize with. A comrade in Virginia wrote in with similar concerns:
"Individuals lose sight that to these bigotry-minded organizations we are stupid. They feel as tho we need them to survive. I don't agree with that at all, ULK and all the brothers and sisters make it work and it means so much to me that we have this movement. If these oppressors know our lessons and remedies for the oppression we hope to stop it will be so much harder for us to stand against this imperialist movement they run daily.
"Just because they say they want to help does not mean that's their goal. See when they start sentencing whites to harsh treatment as they do our people daily and blanket the way we are oppressed then I can say their actions show they want to help us. It's not the case of wanting to help us it's about them gaining intel on our movement, so for that I disagree with any movement of this struggle joining forces with oppressive white groups."
Both these writers express concerns that undermine our position against coalition-based organizing in favor of building united fronts. Below we explain the difference between united front and coalition organizing, and we encourage our readers to write in with your thoughts if you think this distinction would resolve the concerns presented above. Below we make generalizations about the two modes of collaboration, but of course there may be some coalitions that operate more similar to a united front and vice versa.
In united front organizing, various organizations come together to work on a specific goal or project. All the organizations maintain their independence, which is a very important distinction from coalition building. So in a united front, white supremacist groups could maintain their bigoted views and their ultimate goal to undermine our self-determination. At the same time, liberatory organizations maintain our politics of anti-imperialism, anti-amerikkkanism, equality for all, etc.
On the other hand, in the coalition model, the groups are supposed to agree on and uphold the ideology of the coalition, which usually forces the more progressive grous to water down their line on the issue. Talking points are chosen and orgs in the coalition are supposed to stick to the talking points.
For example, if we enter into a united front with a prison reformist group which has a goal of reforming the prison system within capitalism, we will not tell them that they must agree with the need to overthrow capitalism in order to resolve the problems they are trying to fix. They also can't force us to advertise that a series of reforms, while keeping capitalism and U.$.A. intact, is what we need to end oppression within prisons. Each organization is able to push the agenda of the united front (in this case, that Amerikan prisons are terrible) while putting our own analysis on the issue. In a coalition on the same topic, there is usually a greater unity of political line, which often means the line of the most progressive orgs are put on the back back back burner. All the groups don't agree we need revolution, so revolution is not allowed in the campaign.
To the writer in Virginia's concerns, about the security of our movement if we allow oppressor-nation lumpen organizations to gain intel on our inner-functions, we believe that first an accurate assessment must be made to figure out if these groups actually do have a genuine interest in the goals of the collaboration. If that assessment is accurate, then working together in a united front, focused specifically on a particular goal or task, should help protect us from these attacks because the information that needs to be shared is much more limited. The level of unity required is much more limited. The conversation is focused on "what will we do about this one particular problem?" and each group's practical contribution to the campaign is left to itself to carry out.
So we disagree with the Delaware comrade's definition of a united front as being united on all points. Instead we see it as united against a specific enemy or to achieve a specific goal. But let's disregard semantics for a moment, and ask if these comrades believe we should still not work with opppressor-nation lumpen orgs, even if we use an independence-based united front model? Why or why not, and what examples can we look to to help us make this analysis? Would we be able to achieve our goals even if we have a policy to never have tactical unity with oppressor-nation groups?
More on security. Obviously snitches are dangerous to revolutionaries. However, people can be reformed. It is possible someone in prison got a reduced sentence for ratting out someone else. But once in prison they might come into contact with revolutionaries who educate them on the importance of unity amongst the oppressed and they are self-critical about their actions and resolve to never act against the oppressed again. We should not shun this persyn forever, but instead encourage their transformation and embrace genuine change.
We also call out the question of "convicted and known" rapists. Who is doing the convicting? Why do we trust the criminal injustice system to tell us who is a rapist? New Afrikan men accused of raping white wimmin are likely to be convicted, regardless of the facts. Accepting conviction as truth is something every prisoner knows to be dangerous. And so we ask why this conviction is an acceptable measure for rape? Of course anyone who advocates gender oppression or believes it is their right to sexually assault others will have fundamental disagreements with us. But we can't just trust the state to tell us who are our friends and who are our enemies.
It is perhaps one of the biggest challenges for the oppressed to build a United Front against a principal enemy, overcoming the divisions put on us by the imperialists, and identifying allies even in the face of significant and fundamental disagreements over certain important issues.
To all comrades within the jurisdiction of the fifth circuit, there has been a victory ordering prison officials to maintain the temperature (heat index!) at or below 88 degrees in Angola's death row buildings. We have also filed to have our buildings cooled. The court has in so many words said that each prison must file separately in order to obtain relief.
Please read the case: Elzie Ball, et al. v. James M. Leblanc, et al. U.$. District Court for the Middle district of Louisiana, 988 F. Supp. 2d 639; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 178557 Civil Action No.: 13-00368-BAJ-SCR. This is on order from Ball v. Leblanc, 792 F.3d 584, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 11769 (5th Cir. La. 2015).
It is important to note that the heat index is always much higher than the actual temperature. Let us have the courts order the pigs to cool us off, while they are heated up by having to spend $$ from a strained budget; who likes bacon!!!
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer is following up on the battle comrades have been waging against some seriously dangerous conditions in Louisiana prisons. There was a hunger strike in July to protest the deadly heat. Another comrade reported on deaths and threats to prisoners attempting to expose the conditions:
"On the date of 12 June 2016 an offender by the name of Lawrence Goodeau committed suicide due to the confinement and heat issue being so harsh. Upon David Wade authorities doing their investigation they made multiple threats to offenders after their investigation about them letting investigators know about the confinement and heat issue that we are currently in court for. There have been other deaths here at David Wade at the hands of authority that have been swept under the rug multiple times.
"At this point in time David Wade is under investigation for the cruel and unusual punishment by the Dept. of Corrections and other sources behind all of the violations by authority of David Wade. Right now offenders are at risk of a heatstroke because of the heat issue. The head Warden, Jerry Goodwin, who is now the regional Warden, has totally disregarded these issues as well."
Another comrade wrote to us recently about conditions at David Wade in the control units:
"All prisoners are housed in their cells 24-7 and get only one outside a week. All cells are approx 8x7 which do not meet ACA standards of sixty-four square feet of unencumbered space for prisoners....We do not have TVs or radios, nor access to any educational programming etc. We are limited to three books, and we endure eighteen hours of continuous bright light in the cells everyday, no exceptions! We must endure the elements of both cold and heat, with temperatures often times reaching triple digits. We are not provided any ice, and are forced to wear a heavy linen cloth jumpsuit from 5am to 4pm. All prisoners suffer the effects of the chemical agents that are used on us on a daily basis. Many prisoners are also placed on (strip cell) in a thin see through paper gown for thirty-day periods. During the winter months this is beyond torture."
It's clear that conditions in Louisiana prisons are dangerous on many levels. The heat problem is serious and we applaud these comrades for their success in this battle. They demonstrate the value of taking on the criminal injustice system through various channels: legal battles can sometimes (rarely) be won, but protests behind bars and on the streets will always help with these fights. These comrades also demonstrate another important practice: using these battles to educate others. Several Louisiana prisoners have been writing to Under Lock & Key with these regular updates on the struggle, using their work to expose the criminal injustice system and as a tool of education behind bars. We can use these battles to build unity and educate others on the systematic nature of imperialist oppression and the use of prisons as tools of social control.
I greatly regret to have to inform you that my Under Lock & Key No. 51 (July/August 2016) was denied and appealed here on the unit level on 14 September 2016. That said denial was upheld on 3 October 2016. I look forward to each issue of Under Lock & Key and I already miss this one dearly.
I would like to inform you that I have tried several things listed in the Texas Pack but to no avail. As for the Offender Grievance Program/Administrative Remedies, there are no such things in existence. But what we do have is Administrative Criminal Victimization. I have written the U.S. Department of Justice concerning many issues and I get the same response letter every time. No help.
I've also tried going through the ARRM Division Administrator concerning the denial of a Step 2 grievance but got no response. I have also written to several of the contacts that are listed in the Texas Pack and have gotten no response from them either. I have also filed a Sworn Complaint with the District Attorney here in Coryell County and got no response.
You have educated me a great deal on how to stand when nothing else I have tried seems to work, and these people are not open to reasoning of any type. I just wanted for you to know that I haven't been sitting in here doing nothing after requesting the information that you have sent me to date. I am one of the very few that are willing to stand up for themselves when his or her Rights are being violated and here is the situation that you just have to understand: today's inmate/offender is broken. The State has broken the spirit of those that had one to begin with and they are content with the way things are and the way that they are being treated. And that, I am sorry to say, is a cold, hard fact.
In Solidarity, Spark Plug
MIM(Prisons) responds: The U.$. prison system has been somewhat effective at breaking the fighting spirit of people it deems threatening to the status quo, as this writer and many others in Texas attest. But our present system just can't help pushing the limits of how much it abuses people. In response to this abuse, new people are turned into revolutionaries every day. And once you know, you can't unknow. Texas comrades need to be there to direct the discontent into productive projects as it arises, lest these potential comrades fall to defeatism.
We knew going into it that the tactics in the Texas Pack are likely ineffective on an individual level. But some people have seen some relief, even though it's sporadic. An important aspect of this project is that everyone who signs up for a Texas Pack also gets a subscription to this newsletter. While they are seeking remedy through the administrative and legal channels outlined in the Texas Pack, they also have the opportunity to learn more about the reasoning behind the project, and the other campaigns United Struggle from Within and MIM(Prisons) are working on. Then through the pages of ULK we can develop our struggle on a broader scale than just filing grievances and writing letters. Keep on struggling! Keep your input coming!
In 2016, actions on and around the 45th anniversary of the historic Attica prison uprising were the most widespread we've seen. For the last five years, September 9 has been a day when comrades in the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) come together to commemorate Attica by fasting, striking, studying and building peace and unity for the anti-imperialist movement. The UFPP was initiated by a number of prison-based lumpen organizations across the United $nakes in 2011, with dozens of organizations and cells signing on to the statement since then. This year's activity was so great because another protest was also underway on September 9th in prisons across the United $tates. This one, initiated by the Free Alabama Movement (FAM) and promoted by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), a project of the Industrial Workers of the World, affected at least 57,000 prisoners in 31 prisons where lockdowns or strikes lasted at least 24 hours.(1)
All of this comes on the heels of a summer in which we reported on the hunger strikes in Wisconsin, Ohio and Louisiana calling for an end to the torturous practice of long-term solitary confinement. In addition, a North Carolina hunger strike gained some concessions around mail censorship. These impressive displays of unity and activism are a good sign for the prison movement.
Events this September 2016 have been historic in themselves. As we continue our reporting on the Day of Peace and Solidarity, here we will highlight some of the events not led by UFPP signatories. The work strike and peaceful protest at Kinross Correctional Facility in Michigan was the largest incident the Michigan Department of Corrections has seen since 1981.(2) We had received a report from Hiawatha Correctional Facility in Michigan, which was also locked down on 9 September, though there were no actions there:
"Ever since 9am we have been on a lockdown. The comrades in Level II [most of the prisoners] in Kinross have done a protest because of the living conditions, the food, and no fans and heat, and this actually started on September 9. Prisoners walked out of their job assignments, so the unsecured Level I prisoners who work in the kitchen served the Level II prisoners brown bag meals."(3)
The action at Kinross started as a peaceful march of 500 people protesting conditions. After the prisoners had returned to their housing, 100 pigs attacked them with shotguns firing pepper spray.(4) This led to substantial property damage and Michigan DOC are now moving about 250 activists to higher security prisons to repress their protests.(5)
Holman Correctional Facility in Alabama was the origin of the work strike against "slave labor," initiated by the Free Alabama Movement. MIM(Prisons) has been cut off (censored) from Holman for some years now, despite attempts to reach comrades there. On September 1st a pig at Holman was murdered by a prisoner in an act of rebellion. The unsafe conditions led to staff going on strike while the prisoners were still on strike in late September. Many guards have since quit, leaving the camp short-staffed to manage the population. We have often pointed out that if there is one thing that pigs and prisoners might have unity on it would be safety. While often times the staff takes up the state's position that pitting the prisoners against each other is a good management strategy, this does take a toll on the sadistic pigs who do such things and sometimes the violence is turned on them. The CO must ask emself, do i really want to die over a plate of food? This is exactly what happened at Holman, where it is reported that striking COs notified FAM ahead of time and expressed support for their peaceful demonstrations against human rights violations at the prison.(6) This is a rare occurrence in the United $tates and speaks to the disfunctional status of the Alabama prison system.
In South Carolina, prisoners at Turbeville Correctional Institution reportedly fought back, gaining control of the prison for some hours. Triggered by an uppity pig, it came the day after a prisoner was murdered by staff.(6)
In California it's reported that, "Over 100 prisoners have gone on hunger-strike starting September 9th, demanding the firing of a brutal guard, access to basic food, and an end to solitary confinement at two county jail facilities in Merced, CA."(6) We do not have any contacts at either Merced County Jail. In recent years California has decentralized its prison system due to overcrowding in the state prisons, sending many people to local county jails. Overall, this has reduced the connectedness of the California prison population and made accountability more difficult. As these facilities are often less prepared to house the growing populations of long-term prisoners, we might expect conflicts there to continue to increase.
We are currently fighting an apparent ban on all mail from MIM(Prisons) to prisoners held at Chuckwalla Valley State Prison. The CDCR has not yet acknowledged an official ban, but rumors there are that it is a result of September 9th organizing.
A comrade in Pelican Bay State Prison in California sent documentation of censorship of mail from the IWOC because it included "Plans to disrupt the order." This comrade, along with others, began a hunger strike on September 9th. They submitted a list of demands signed by 12 prisoners on B-yard including oversight of rules violations, a wage increase, and a number of demands to improve conditions of the oppressed nations outside of prisons.
We should also mention a series of actions on the outside, in many cities, organized by those supporting the prison-led strikes to both attract attention to the strikes and to pressure the administrations to listen to the reasonable demands of the prisoners.(6)
In the last issue of ULK we discussed our lack of interaction with those in wimmin's prisons. It is worth pointing out that the one state-run prison in California that has reported participating in the work strike was the wimmin's prison at Chowchilla where a strike with full participation was carried out. Events over the last month point out that wimmin's facilities are not our only gap in coverage. We have long been aware of our lack of access in prisons that hold migrants because they are so segregated from the general population, often face more repressive conditions, and face a language barrier. On top of that there are whole segments of the men's prisons that we are not plugged into. Sometimes repression and censorship, like at Holman, can cut us off. And if mail is cut off to us, then people can fall off our mailing list quietly. This demonstrates the need for more volunteers to work with MIM(Prisons) to better focus our efforts regionally so censorship isn't allowed to persist due to lack of administrative capacity.
In California where county jails have suddenly become long-term prison facilities, and they are institutionally separated, USW comrades working on the inside to spread ULK and other materials can play an important role in reaching more populations.
While there are common threads that connect the whole criminal injustice system in this country, conditions vary from state-to-state and prison-to-prison. Because of how the government is structured, focusing on statewide organizing is important. That means identifying the principal contradiction within your state and developing campaigns that will mobilize the masses there. We expect states to have similar campaigns, but as we can see from the list of actions above, some populations are motivated by ending solitary confinement, others see a need to focus on breaking down divisions between prison organizations, others over mail censorship, and others over wages. We must assess what will move the masses, as well as what battles are strategic in gaining ground towards liberation.
We have great unity with those trying to demonstrate the continued national oppression of New Afrikans by Amerikkkans today, and demonstrating the historic linkages with slavery. However, when FAM says "The State and the [Alabama] DOC are profiting hundreds of millions of dollars off over the approximately 10,000 free labors who report to work each day inside of their prisons, to jobs in the kitchen, maintenance, runners, road squads, laundry, libraries and gyms, to stores and sandwich shops, yard crews, infirmaries and dorm cleaners etc." we have to disagree. How can the state profit off of prisoners preparing food for other prisoners when no money is exchanged for that food; when the food is paid for by the state itself?
It can be a good tactic for prisoners to engage in work strikes as that will impact the operations of the prisons: many do rely on prison workers to keep things running. And it certainly would increase the cost of incarceration if prisons could no longer use free (or super cheap) prisoner labor. But we shouldn't mislead people to think that prisons are profitable. They are a huge waste of government money! Money that the imperialists and the Amerikan people have agreed for decades now is well-spent. If we fool ourselves into thinking this is just about economics and not about national oppression and population control, we will end up on the wrong path.
We did not get much first-hand reporting on the actions inspired by FAM's call to end prison slavery. But it is inspiring to hear of all the organizing that has been happening lately. There's more going on than we can keep tabs on. This reinforces the need to expand the number of people working with USW and MIM(Prisons)! We need our volunteers to continue to step up. We need our released comrades to come out and support those left behind. We need comrades behind the walls to build independent institutions of the oppressed, and reach the broad masses so that all of these struggles can be better connected and we can continue to strategize to win!
by a South Carolina prisoner October 2016 permalink
Within the last six months at this institution there has been at least one riot in the unit where I was housed, and several assaults by officers upon prisoners, which resulted in officers getting stabbed and/or beat up.
This particular institution has a long history of racism, oppression, and repression directed towards Blacks. In the past, it was basically one-sided, as far as the violence - only officers assaulting prisoners. However, that dynamic has changed drastically.
Needless to say, these people have been shipping prisoners to different institutions throughout the state. I haven't been shipped, but I've been moved a couple of times.
A little over a week ago there was almost a lumpen-on-lumpen situation, but some of the elders were able to obtain peace, since that particular situation I made it my personal responsibility to hold some classes to help educate these youthful lumpen on what it means to have unity.
I am also sad to inform you that on the September 9th Day of Peace & Solidarity there were several prisoners who stabbed each other up - thankfully none of them were killed. Since then, we have been mending the different fractures that exist among the lumpen organizations here; we've been using the ULK newsletters as tools to teach, education, and unite the various groups.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This was one of a couple disturbances that occurred in South Carolina on or around September 9th that were not actually part of either of the major countrywide organizing efforts made for that day. This goes to show how hostile conditions in the state are. We commend this comrade for making the most of the difficult situation. It is in times of strife that change can often come.