4 October 2011 - Hello and greetings from the concrete tombs of Pelican Bay! This is my first time writing. I came across your most recent publication, it was very helpful, being that I'm currently on a hunger strike since 9/26/11. I was able and fortunate to be able to partake in this worthy cause.
At the moment I am being housed in an overflow unit (Ad-Seg). Every one of us is either validated or serving an indeterminate SHU, we all are awaiting bed space in the SHU. I started my hunger strike on 9/26/2011 in solidarity with all prisoners who are in the same struggle. On 9/29 the cops came around to all those on the hunger strike and announced that all who continue on hunger strike will be given disciplinary "write ups," so a lot of guys accepted their trays and ended their HS. That evening the cops came by again and said all those who are on HS will not only be "written up" but also have all their property taken immediately, so unfortunately only 3 of us out of 64 are currently still on HS.
They (cops) came and took every single thing we had in our cells. It will be easier to tell you what we were left with, they left us with state issue clothes, nothing else, no toothbrush, no books, absolutely nothing. I was fortunate enough to come across this one piece of paper and envelope. Also remember that we haven't even received the "write up" yet, but our property was illegally taken three days after we began our HS.
I'm reporting back to you about this fascist penal system here at Chino minimum yard. They have put up a memo about the food strike and they are threatening us by saying that if we participate, they will move us off the yard and put us in Ad-Seg!
I told the comrades to keep on doing what we are doing and to hell with the fascist pigs! We will not stop, until our comrades are let out of the SHU! I told the comrades to keep the faith and if these pigs send us to the hole or the SHU, always remember, it's just another part of the prison.
In the struggle, from the belly of the beast!
MIM(Prisons) adds: The list of facilities that have reported hunger strikers reported by the CDCR does not include the California Institution for Men in Chino, bringing into question their count of hunger strikes at 4252 as of Thursday, September 29. There was not as much advance notice this time around, so the word that the strike is back on is still spreading.
2 October 2011 UPDATE:Latest reports are that around 12,000 prisoners were participating on September 28. This higher number includes people who have participated at any level, and includes prisoners transferred out of state.
I'm one of the prisoners struggling to stop the torturous Security Housing Units (SHU) practice on prisoners in California. It is only right. In Calipatria State Prison Ad-Seg they're calling this peaceful hunger strike a disturbance strike. A memorandum was passed to urge prisoners to stop or else they would get a serious violation write-up. The following day a large quantity of prisoners with a couple of serious rule violations started accepting their trays in order to avoid getting an indeterminate assignment in SHU. Which is understandable. But, nonetheless a lot of prisoners are still going strong.
In Calipatria State Prison Ad-Seg, hunger strike prisoners are participating peacefully. They're in compliance with the COs and medical staff, so this does not meet the criteria of a disturbance. The memorandum was another tactic of reprisal towards the prisoners who are participating. I hope for a positive outcome for all the prisoners in SHU confinement and for all of us here in Calipatria Ad-Seg. Along with the struggles of the SHU prisoners, we're looking for something positive. In Calipatria we're asking for what Ad-Seg is supposed to have. Nothing more, nothing less.
"Power in defense of freedom is greater than power on behalf of tyranny and oppression." - Malcolm X
As most of you may know, we are engaged in a protracted struggle to secure our liberation from perpetual torture and uphold our human rights. On July 1st the Pelican Bay SHU D-Corridor Collective called for an indefinite hunger strike to peacefully protest the decades and decades of subhuman conditions we have endured in these sensory deprivation torture units. The NCTT, along with 6,600 other prisoners and untold thousands the world over answered that call. We did not eat for 21 days. I personally lost 42 pounds and had to be rushed to the emergency room at least once. Men older and less physically resilient than myself, some with chronic disease such as diabetes, asthma and cancer survivors, made these same sacrifices, and we are prepared to make those sacrifices again, taking them to their ultimate conclusion if necessary, to achieve what is by right ours already.
This makes the events of 16 August all the more perplexing, even though we were forewarned and expected it. At approximately 08:00 on 16 August 2011 some 20 to 25 Correctional Officers (COs) and some 10 to 12 ISU and IGI ["gang intelligence"] officers converged on 4B1L-C-section under the pretext that they'd received a "kite" alleging New Afrikan and/or "southern" Mexican partisans in 4B1L-C-section were going to "assault staff."
For months, IGI has been attempting to manufacture fear and reactionary resentment amongst building COs that New Afrikans were planning to attack staff during Black August memorial. Mindful of the daily injustices visited upon indeterminate SHU prisoners, and already fearful of the dreaded retribution, some staff actually bought into this absurdity. There was no threat, there was no "kite" found — this was simple unadulterated retribution for the hunger strike and the unwanted public attention it has brought to the domestic torture camps they are managing at Pelican Bay, Corcoran and Tehachapi SHUs.
We were all stripped down and escorted out of the building and placed in the small management yard caged (imagine a K-9 kennel cage — that's what our yard is). For approximately 6 hours they systematically tore our cells up, cut open mattresses, tore down or trod upon personal photos, confiscated any item they felt would hurt us on a personal level, with abject disregard for personal property regulations. Coffee and tooth powder was strewn over personal letters and laundry was taken or trod underfoot. We were brought back to our cells only to find what I can only describe as the leavings of a tornado of F-5 proportions.
That this was done as retaliation was itself insulting, how it was done was blatant disrespect — but what perplexes the mind is what did they hope to gain by such a transparent reactionary response? We are, and have demonstrated historically, that we are fully prepared to die to secure our human rights and dignity. So surely this could not be some act to deter resistance. Perhaps it was an act of provocation, an attempt to engender a reactionary military response to a psychological and political attack? But no, this couldn't be the case because unlike the blindly violent monsters they would make us out to be, the truth of the matter is that we are men of principle who believe in self-defense and clearly exhausting all legal and peaceful means of protest. Unlike the state, for us violence is a last resort and we are not, and cannot be, compelled to react to provocation or allow such to deter us from the legitimate struggle for our, and the people's human rights and dignity.
So this leaves us with the obvious conclusion that like a petulant child or a bully who's been exposed for the sadist they are, they strike out blindly, to inflict whatever discomfort they can in an act of impotence and frustration; an acknowledgment of their weakness in the face of the people's power.
Men in ernest are not afraid of consequence. There exists no set of retaliatory actions, no sanctions they can bring to bear, that will deter our course, as long as we have you, the people, supporting us we will win. Together we can attain even greater victories than these. It is our sincerest hope that you continue to support this effort and open yourselves up to the prospect of more progressive initiatives to come. Stand with us and we will forge a brighter tomorrow.
As thousands of prisoners wrap up day five of round two of the California Food Strike, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has stepped up its repression and propaganda in response to prisoners' demands for basic humyn rights. They have even declared it a punishable offense to peacefully campaign the state for these rights by refusing state-issued food.
The bourgeois press has been repeating the CDCR's ridiculous claim that if prisoners went on strike again it might delay reforms in the SHU system. Their audacity is laughable. We all know the strike is nothing but a scapegoat, and not the cause of their "delay."
Meanwhile, they have indicated that they will make conditions worse on three main points of the original Five Core Demands. All three points address the systematic repressiveness of the whole California prison system.
MORE GROUP PUNISHMENT - Not only has the CDCR threatened that reforms will be slowed down by another round of hunger striking, but they have implied that non-striking prisoners will also lose their programming as a result.(1) This is in direct contradiction to the first demand.
MORE SECURITY THREAT GROUPS - While the prisoners have demanded an end to the arbitrary and secretive system of giving people endless sentences in the Security Housing Units (SHU, long-term isolation) for "gang affiliation," the CDCR has publicly discussed broadening the "Security Threat Group" category to include street organizations. This will mean more people in SHU for indeterminate sentences.
MORE LONG-TERM ISOLATION - The third demand calls for an end to the torturous practice of long-term isolation. While the state has continued to assert that these practices are constitutional based on court rulings, they have promised to send more prisoners to Administrative Segregation and SHU just for participating in the hunger strike!
As laid out in the Five Core Demands, these are parts of a system of oppression that affects all prisoners. While comrades in SHU have the drive to put it down hardest because of their living conditions, the CDCR is making it clear that the implications will affect the whole system.
Even the reforms offered in the Gang Management Policy Proposal of 25 August 2011 allow the continued practice of keeping the most progressive and politically active prisoners in isolation indefinitely.(2) While this would put California more in line with what is done in most other parts of the country, it is hardly progress. This proposal highlights the political nature of the injustice system.
Even the Eight Short-term Action Items affecting prisoners in Security Housing Units listed in a 27 September 2011 CDCR memo(3) may not be granted to prisoners refusing to eat state-issued meals. They hope that by granting the more petty demands that they can break up the unity of California prisoners, convincing some to give up while they are ahead. The unreasonable actions of the CDCR during this whole conflict should convince any prisoner that such a move would be a mistake. There is no indication that California will be reducing its repression, and every indication that it hopes to heighten Amerika's war on oppressed nations.
State of California
Date September 27, 2011
To All CDCR Inmates
Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Subject- INMATE PROGRAMMING EXPECTATIONS RELATIVE TO HUNGER STRIKES
Information has been received that a number. of inmates have engaged in behavior consistent with initiating a demonstration/hunger strike event. The Department will not condone organized inmate disturbances. Participation in mass disturbances, such as hunger strikes or work stoppage will result in the Department taking the following action:
Inmates participating will receive disciplinary action in accordance with the California Code of Regulations.
Inmates identified as leading the disturbance will be subject to removal from general population and placed in an Administrative Segregation Unit.
In the event of a mass hunger strike, additional measures may be taken to more effectively monitor and manage the participating inmates' involvement and their food/nutrition intake, including the possible removal of canteen items from participating inmates.
All inmates are encouraged to continue with positive programming and to not participate in this or any other identified mass strike/disturbance. These types of disturbances impact inmate programming and day-to-day prison operations for the entire population. While every effort will be made to continue normal programming for nonparticipating inmates, a large scale disturbance of this type will unavoidably impact operations. The Department will notify inmates and families when and if normal programming is impacted.
SCOTT KERNAN Undersecretary (A), Operations
cc: Terri McDonald George J. Giurbino R. J. Subia Kelly Harrington Tony Chaus Wardens
State of California
Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Date : September 27, 2011
To : All CDCR Inmates
Subject: REVIEW OF SECURITY HOUSING UNIT AND GANG POLICIES
In May 2011 the Department began the complex process of assessing the policies and procedures associated with the Gang Validation Process, Indeterminate Gang Security Housing Unit (SHU) Program, as well as privileges associated with inmates on Indeterminate SHU status. The purpose of the review is to improve our policies by adopting national standards in gang/disruptive group management. Before commencing this review, the Department received input from internal and external experts, other state and federal correctional systems, inmates, and other stakeholders While the process of policy review and change will take several more stakeholders to implement, much has already been done. In fact, a draft of the new policy should be ready for stakeholder review next month. In addition, several changes have already been made by the Department, including:
Short-term Action Items:
Authorization of watch caps for purchase and State issue. Authorization of wall calendars for purchase in canteen.
Authorization of exercise equipment in SHU yards (installation of permanent dip/push-up bars is still under review).
Authorization of annual photographs for disciplinary free inmates. Approval of proctors for college examinations.
Use of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's (CDCR) Ombudsman for monitoring and auditing of food services.
Authorization of sweat pants for purchase/annual package.
Authorization of Hobby items (colored chalk, pen fillers, and drawing paper).
Mid-term Action Items:
As noted above, the Department is conducting a comprehensive review of SHU policies that includes behavior-based components, increased privileges based upon disciplinary free behavior, a step down process for SHU inmates, and a system that better defines and weighs necessary points in the validation process. The initial policies will be completed shortly and upon Secretary approval will be sent for stakeholder review and comment. Upon receipt of this input, the Department will initiate any regulation changes in the administrative law process necessary and implement the first major changes to the validation process in the last two decades. Of course this work may be delayed by large-scale inmate disturbances or other emergency circumstances.
SCOTT KERNAN Undersecretary (A), Operations
cc: Terri McDonald George J. Giurbino R. J. Subia Kelly Harrington Tony Chaus Wardens
I have been a prisoner of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) for more than 11 years and am scheduled to be released within the next 2 years. But with no family left in this world, no place to go, no clothes other than the ones on my back, and no support system established... the odds are stacked up against me way before I am even released back into society and the only thing that the IDOC is going to provide me with before releasing me back into the so-called "free world" is a $10 check.
I am really interested in the July/August 2011 issue of Under Lock and Key because there's an article in there about a prison strike [in California]. A lot of people around the world aren't aware that the prisoners at the Stateville Maximum Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois had a similar prison uprising in February and March of 2011. It was swept under the rug by then Director Gladys C. Taylor and Governor Patrick J. Quinn. This movement wasn't just a particular gang or a particular race orchestration, we all came together as one mass body (Blacks, Latinos, and whites) to protest the condition that we've been subjected to ever since the Richard Specs video leakage in 1995. In fact, I'm enclosing a copy of my adjustment committee's final summary for your entertainment.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This prisoner gives two examples of how the state will not serve the needs of the oppressed. When prisoners try to work together and quash beefs to do something positive they are targeted for repression (see below). Then, after over a decade in prison, people are sent to the streets with no resources or support. This is why it is only by building institutions independent of the imperialist state that we can begin to address these complaints.
What this comrade describes happening in Illinois is also playing out in California in the second phase of the hunger strike. Both examples show the potential for organizing against oppression when prisoners are united. This is why we are working to build the United Front for Peace in Prisons which unites around the 5 principles of peace, unity, growth, internationalism and independence: "We organize to end the needless conflicts and violence within the U.$. prison environment. The oppressors use divide and conquer strategies so that we fight each other instead of them. We will stand together and defend ourselves from oppression."
THE PROTEST LETTER BEGINS WITH THE FOLLOWING: "THIS MEMO IS FOR THOSE HERE IN STATEVILLE WHO ARE READY, WILLING, AND ENTHUSED WITH ANTICIPATION TO RISE TO THE OCCASION TO LEAD US AND USHER IN A NEW ERA. THUS CEMENT OUR NAMES IN HISTORY..." THE PROTEST LETTER IDENTIFIES SEVERAL ISSUES THAT NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED BY ADMINISTRATION AND LISTS THEM. THE LETTER GOES ON TO SAY AFTER THE PROTEST AND GRIEVANCES HAVE BEEN FILED THEN THE INMATES WILL REQUEST THE WARDEN ISSUE MEMORANDUMS DETAILING THE CORRECTIVE ACTION THAT WILL BE IMPLEMENTED. THERE ARE INSTRUCTIONS FOR ALL INMATES TO STOCK UP ON COMMISSARY BECAUSE BEGINNING MARCH 1 THE INMATES ARE NOT TO SUBMIT ANY COMMISSARY SLIPS IN ORDER TO MAKE THE FOOD TO GO BAD. THE LETTER THEN INSTRUCTS ALL THE INMATES TO BAN THE USAGE OF THE PHONE FOR ONE WEEK, NOT GO TO RECREATION FOR ONE WEEK, AND FILE GRIEVANCES ON ALL ISSUES STARTING MARCH 2011. THE LETTER THEN INSTRUCTS THE INMATES TO HAVE NO CONTACT WITH THE POLICE, IA OR ANY STAFF BECAUSE SILENCE GIVES THEM POWER AND WILL STRIKE FEAR. THE LETTER THEN REQUESTS THE INMATES TO HAVE THEIR PEOPLE ON THE OUTSIDE TO PROTEST WITH PICKET SIGNS IN FRONT OF STATEVILLE CORRECTIONAL CENTER.
WHILE CONDUCTING A SEARCH OF CELL XXXX INVESTIGATIVE PERSONNEL CONFISCATED HANDWRITTEN DOCUMENTATION IN XYZ's PROPERTY DETAILING EVENTS OF THE PROTEST. THE DOCUMENTATION WAS FIVE PAGES TYPED AND ONE HANDWRITTEN PAGE.
DURING AN INTERVIEW XYZ CLAIMED OWNERSHIP OF SAID DOCUMENTS. XYZ STATED THIS DOCUMENT WAS BEING PASSED ON THE GALLERY AND HE KEPT IT. XYZ ALSO STATED THE PROTEST IS GOING TO HAPPEN AS SCHEDULED FOR MARCH 1, 2011.
ON MARCH 1, 2011 THE INMATES AT STATEVILLE CORRECTIONAL CENTER PROCEEDED WITH THE PROTEST AS INDICATED IN THE PROTEST LETTERS THAT WERE BEING CIRCULATED IN GENERAL POPULATION. STATEVILLE WAS PLACED ON RESTRICTED MOVEMENT DUE TO THE INMATE PROTEST.
OFFENDER XYZ WAS POSITIVELY IDENTIFIED BY INSTITUTIONAL GRAPHICS
1 Year CGrade 1 Year Segregation Revoke GCC or SGT 1 Year 3 Months Audio/Visual Restriction
I have recently been hit with censorship of your mailing sent on 9 September 2011. I did receive prior to that the letter you sent to activists, but then on September 9 I got two 1819 forms indicating disapproval of mail. I have previously won two 602s [grievances] on this very issue, yet they cite the old 2006 memo [a ban on MIM's mail that was overruled years ago].
What happened is the regular Correctional Officer (CO) already been 602'd by me and has seen the 602 granted at the Director level, but he only works five days a week. The other two days a floater works and is not aware of my granted 602. The floater sends it to Institution Gang Investigations (IGI), who says to deny me. I guess the temporary CO is not very fond of MIM. Anyhow, I am sure I'll win the 602 I am submitting, but I know if I do it will take months. If possible, can you send whatever it was again? It seems I'll be having problems getting my mail from MIM Distributors on the regular CO's days off.
I showed my previous 602 that was granted, but was told by the temp "I don't know. They tell us one thing and tell you another. We need to get it straight." This is obviously B.S. because when a 602 is granted, especially at the Director level, it is obviously "straight."
This is a constant barrage of censorship. It's nonstop. I get a 602 granted and then someone comes who don't like MIM literature and then I'm forced to wait months appealing this and missing out on my studies. It is a protracted effort to censor MIM. But nothing MIM(Prisons) says is bad; it's political literature! And why send it to the gang unit when it's political? In Amerika this is how political literature is handled; by labeling it "gang material." This only confirms what MIM(Prisons) says, that there are no rights in Amerika, only power struggles! What happened to the so-called "freedom of the press?"
This prison's population has just gotten done with a three-week hunger strike and now it seems, as one of the participants, I'm now being retaliated on by censoring my political science correspondence course. But I thought the administrators from Sacramento came saying they would work on bettering our conditions if we stopped striking and ate? And now this is the repayment — censoring the ability to think outside this cell, controlling my thoughts, and preventing me from learning anything besides the state's perspective. I can get all the Forbes, Wall Street Journal, National Review, USA Today, etc. that I want, but let me get something that speaks in the interests of poor people and I'm deprived.
This does not surprise me one bit, and I know how to go about the process of appealing. What pisses me off is thinking of all the prisoners across Amerika who also get this Gestapo-like treatment and who won't know how to appeal, or become discouraged and don't try. This is what pisses me off the most. But I know I got to go back to the legal front and go in for another legal battle.
This censorship in prisons is part of the reason prisoners went on hunger strike. This is why people starved; because of the years and decades of not being able to read history books, not being able to take correspondence courses, not being allowed to grapple with ideas. And when prisoners do try to understand critical thought, we are repressed. And when we protest torture, we are repaid with further repression! A society that creates dungeons and employs sadists to unleash all their sick methods on captive poor people, to torture and experiment on with their psychological abuses, is a society that is warped and morally bankrupt.
Marshall Law: The Life & Times of a Baltimore Black Panther by Marshall "Eddie" Conway and Dominique Stevenson AK Press, 2011 674-A 23rd Street Oakland, CA 94612
This short autobiography by political prisoner Marshall (Eddie) Conway is not so much a story about the Baltimore Black Panthers as it is a brief history of prison-based organizing in the state of Maryland. Having spent almost all of his adult life in prison after being framed for killing a cop in 1970, this makes sense.
Panthers, Popularity and the Pigs
Knowing first-hand the extent of repression that was put on the Black Panther Party from a very early stage, the biggest lesson we get from the early years of Conway's political life are about how to recruit and organize in a country that is crawling with pigs. He points out that of the 295 actions that COINTELPRO took against Black Power groups from 1967 to 1971; 233 targeted the Panthers.(p.51) He later points out that while Muhammed Speaks was regularly allowed in prisons, The Black Panther had to be smuggled in.(p.98)
As the state clearly recognized the Maoism of the Black Panthers as much more effective in the fight for Black liberation than other movements at the time, they had agents planted in the organization from day one in Baltimore. One of the founding members in Baltimore, and the highest ranking Panther in the state, was exposed as an agent of the National Security Agency, while others worked for the FBI or local police.(p.48) Conway identifies the Panthers' rapid growth as a prime cause for its rapid demise, both due to infiltration and other contradictions between members that just had not been trained ideologically.(p.54) MIM(Prisons) takes it a step further in promoting an organizational structure where our effectiveness is not determined by the allegiances of our allies, but only by our work and the political line that guides it.
Despite the seriousness with which he addresses his decades of dedicated organizing work, Conway expresses regret for putting his desire to free his people above his family. There is no doubt that oppression creates contradictions between someone’s ability to support their family directly and the system that prevents them from doing so. MIM(Prisons) is sympathetic with the young Conway, who put fighting the system first. Perhaps the most applicable lesson to take from this is for young comrades to seriously consider family planning and how that fits into one's overall plans as a revolutionary. It is just a reality that having an active/demanding family life is not conducive to changing the system.
This account of organizing in Maryland prisons is one example that famous events like the Attica uprising were part of a widespread upsurge in prison-based organizing across the country at the time. In a turning point for the prison movement, in 1971 Maryland prisoners began organizing the uniquely aboveground and legal United Prisoners Labor Union. The union quickly gained much broader support among the population than even the organizers expected.
While Conway notes that the young organizers on the streets often found partying more important than political work, he discusses deeper contradictions within the imprisoned lumpen class. At this time, illegal drugs were becoming a plague that prison activists could not find easy solutions to. While organizing the union, a new youth gang arose whose interest in free enterprise led them to work openly with the administration in "anti-communist" agitation among the population. As many gangs have become more entrenched in the drug economy (and other capitalist ambitions) competition has heightened the drive to conquer markets. The contradiction between the interests of criminal LOs and progressive lumpen organization is heightened today, with the criminal element being the dominant aspect of that contradiction.
Rather than outright repression, the easiest way for the guards to work against the union was to get less disciplined recruits to act out in violence. This point stresses the need for resolving contradictions among the masses before going up against the oppressor in such an open way. Education work among the masses to stress the strategy of organized action over individual fights with guards became an important task for union leaders.
Of course, the state could not allow such peacemaking to continue and the union was soon made illegal; leaders faced isolation and transfers. This eventually led us to where we are today where any form of prisoner organizing is effectively outlawed in most places and labeled Security Threat Group activity, in complete violation of the First Amendment right to association. There's a reason Amerikans allow the labor aristocracy to unionize and not the imprisoned lumpen. A year after the union was crushed, an escape attempt led to a riot in which the full destructive potential of the prison population was unleashed because there was no political leadership to guide the masses. That's exactly what the state wanted.
As a comrade in prison, intrigue is constantly being used against you by the state and you must takes steps to protect yourself. Conway tells a story about how one little act of kindness and his affiliation with the righteous Black Panthers probably saved his life. One major weakness of most LOs today is that they are rarely free of elements engaged in anti-people activity. As long as this is the case it will be easy for the state to set up fights and hits at will. Only through disciplined codes of conduct, that serve the people at all times, can such problems be avoided.
Many of the things Conway and his comrades did in the 1970s would seem impossible in U.$. prisons today. The government began aggressively using prisons as a tool of social control during that period of broad unrest in the United $nakes. Soon the state learned it had to ramp up the level of control it had within its prisons. This informed the history of the U.$. prison system over the last few decades. And with the vast resources of the U.$. empire, high tech repression came with a willing and well-paid army of repressers to run the quickly expanding system.
It is almost amazing to read Conway's story of Black guards, one-by-one, coming over to the side of the prisoners in a standoff with prison guards.(p.81) We don't know of anything like that happening today. As oppressed nationals of the labor aristocracy class have become commonplace in the U.$. injustice bureaucracy, we see national consciousness overcome by integrationism.
Also unlike today, where prisoners usually have to give any money they can scrape together to pay for their own imprisonment (ie. pay guards' salaries), profits from commissary in Maryland actually used to go to a fund to benefit prisoners and the communities they come from. But Conway tells of how the drug mob worked with the administration to eat up those funds, using some of it to sponsor a party for the warden himself!
The prison activists responded to this by setting up their own fund to support programs in Baltimore. That is true independent action, highlighting the importance of the fifth principle of the United Front for Peace. While all drug dealers are in essence working for the U.$. imperialists, this is even more true for those in prison who rely directly on state officials for the smooth operation of their business. Money is not decisive in the struggle for liberation; it is humyn resources: a politically conscious population that decides whether we succeed or we fail.
This review skims some of the main lessons from this book, but we recommend you read it for yourself for a more thorough study. It is both an inspiring and sobering history of U.$. prison organizing in the recent past. It is up to today's prisoners to learn from that past and write the next chapters in this story of struggle that will continue until imperialism is destroyed.
[The following is a compilation of reporting and analysis from MIM, MIM(Prisons) and USW comrades to commemorate the Attica uprising.]
This week, September 9 - 13 2011, marks the 40th anniversary of the Attica uprising where over 1200 prisoners acted as one, organized as a collective and occupied Attica Correctional Facility in New York State. The uprising ended in what a state commission described as "the bloodiest one-day encounter between Americans since the Civil War", "[w]ith the exception of the Indian massacres in the late nineteenth century[.]"
In 1991, MIM Notes ran a special supplement to commemorate the 20th anniversary, which documented that historic event and its legacy. That same year, prisoners in New York, New Jersey and Maryland boycotted all programming on September 13 to "give honor to the martyrs and warriors who suffered, and are still suffering, under the suppression of the American prison system."
The demands of the Attica prisoners in 1971 included things such as allowing New York prisoners to be politically active without intimidation or reprisals, an end to all censorship of mail and media, more educational and work opportunities that pay minimum wage, and release without parole conditions. In addition to these righteous demands, the prisoners connected their struggle to that of the people of the Third World. From History Condemns Prison Reform by MC11:
The Attica prisoners in 1971 were not asking for the sort of reforms liberals then and now are so anxious to implement in order to make themselves feel better. The Attica prisoners recognized the criminal justice system as a powerful weapon in the arsenal of the capitalist class, and they wanted to turn that weapon on their oppressors.
"We have discovered... the frustration of negotiating with a political system bent on genocide," the prisoners wrote in a statement smuggled out during the week following the massacre.
"Killings are being committed not only in VietNam, but in Bengla Desh, Africa and South America. Is it not so that our Declaration of Independence provides that when a government oppresses the people, they have a right to abolish it and create a new government? And we at 'Attica' and all revolutionaries across the nation are exercising that right! The time is now that all third world people acknowledge the true oppressor and expose him to the world!!"(1)
In the lead article of the MIM Notes supplement, a prisoner mentions that Attica marked the rise of a strong prison movement during the early 1970s. In the last year we've seen strikes in Georgia and California where thousands of prisoners participated across many prisons. Yet, it seems the prison movement has a steeper mountain to climb to get to the point that the struggle reached in those days.
Looking back on Attica and those past rebellions, one sees the start and finish of a period where the contradiction between prisoners and the state was at the forefront. The struggle during that period led to some progress on the side of prisoners in the form of temporary rights, concessions and free world support for captives. But more importantly, we saw collective organization on a mass scale throughout the U.$. prison system that united prisoners around their common suffering and abuse. This unity and struggle pushed the state back some. At the same time, it also led the state to develop a plan for permanent long-term isolation prisons, as well as policies that push psychotropic drugs on prisoners while programming is once again taken away, reinforcing the futility of prison reform. Even when the state faces significant resistance these days, it comes in the form of lawsuits in their courts, and hunger strikes where they control communications and negotiations very tightly. We're still in the stage of playing their game by their rules.
It was just two years ago, on 17 September 2009 that United Struggle from Within comrade Amare (Ra'd) Selton died in Attica. Selton was a regular contributor to Under Lock & Key and MIM-led study groups, and often ended up in confrontations with prison guards. We do not know the exact circumstances surrounding his death, but MIM(Prisons) holds the State of New York responsible. He is one of many comrades who have disappeared after being sent to Attica in recent years, indicating the legacy of repression that has not lessened.
In MIM Notes, MC67 interviewed Akil Aljundi, one of the Attica Brothers that filed suit (and eventually won) against the State of New York following the murder of 32 of his comrades and 10 hostages, and the brutalization and denial of medical care to hundreds of others. MC67 concludes by asking what lessons should be drawn from the Attica uprising, to which Aljundi responds:
"Never trust the state. Always be prepared to look for the worst to happen. Be firm in your demands. Be clear in your objectives. But also realize that the state can be vicious."
"What you and I need to do is learn to forget our differences... We have a common oppressor, a common exploiter, and a common discriminator... Once we all realize that we have a common enemy, then we unite on the basis of what we have in common." - Malcolm X
It is a historical truth that repression breeds resistance, which is why we prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison's (PBSP) Security Housing Units (SHUs) and Communications Management Units (CMUs) took the initiative to come together, and go on a hunger strike in order to say to our oppressors that "20-plus years of state-sponsored torture and persecution in which our human rights have been routinely violated, for no other reason than to keep us prisoners confined in their mad scientist-like torture chambers as alleged prison gang members is enough!!!"
But as we all know, repression evolves and develops in cycles. So on 2 August 2011 PBSP and California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officials threatened all hunger strike participants with punitive retaliatory measures, for the sole act of our hunger strike participation. This happened in spite of the fact that we have a human right to peacefully protest any unjust laws, as warranted to us in the First Amendment of the U.$. Constitution. An unjust law is no law at all! The unjust laws in this case are the ones legalizing the indefinite housing of us prisoners in solitary confinement (SHU/CMU).
We prisoners were issued the following CDC 128-B Chrono that states:
The California Code of Regulations, Title 15, identifies that leading and/or participating in a strike, disturbance, or work stoppage is a violation of the Director's rules. On or about July 1, 2011 you were identified as having participated in a statewide hunger strike event along with in excess of 6000 other CDCR inmates in support of perceived overly harsh SHU housing issues originating from within the Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay State Prison. This activity created a non-violent significant disruption to institutional healthcare services and Department of Corrections programming and operations throughout the state, which included Pelican Bay State Prison, where you were assigned during your participation in this event. Your behavior and actions were out of compliance with the Director's rules, and this documentation is intended to record your actions; and advise that progressive discipline will be taken in the future for any reoccurrence of this type of behavior. Date: 08/02/11. From: K. Welch, Correctional Officer.
However, this CDC 128-B Chrono is contradicted by an article that appeared in The Daily Triplicate newspaper during the month of June 2011, that was entitled "Pelican Bay Hunger Strike in the Offing. Some Inmates May Stop Eating Friday" by Anthony Skeens. Within the article, CDCR Spokeswoman Terry Thorton stated, "There are no punitive measures for inmates refusing to eat."(1) The struggle continues!