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!
I write this to inform you that the COINTELPRO is still alive and active today under another name, and is used to continue their tactics of divide and conquer. If you are a Black Panther or have a tattoo of a panther, or if you are interested in the history of our beloved fallen comrades, you are now considered a security threat group (STG) [in Texas]. So now they are targeting the majority of Black prisoners as "gang members." After 14 years on the same unit under many different officers, now all of a sudden I'm labeled as an STG. This is based on books one reads and notation that one might write for a broader understanding. In other words our freedom of expression of political beliefs is now viewed as inflammatory and a security threat.
We rely on information directly from prisoners and returned mail to track our censorship. For the 2011 reporting year, only 72% of all mail was not reported as censored or received. This is a big improvement from last year's 83% unreported mail status. We see two causes for this change. One is that we stopped giving everyone who wrote to us automatic 6 month subscriptions, and instead required confirmation of receipt (or censorship) of a sample issue of Under Lock & Key first. This not only reduced the amount of mail we sent in by 30% from last year, but pushed those who wanted Under Lock & Key to confirm receipt of the sample issue, doubling the amount of people reporting receiving ULK.
Another contributing factor to the high reporting rate is the institution of Unconfirmed Mail Forms, which is a short form we send out to encourage individuals to report the mail they've received. We primarily send these forms to people we suspect are experiencing censorship of our materials. Even if you don't receive one of these forms, you should still tell us everything you have gotten from us since the last time you wrote. Since we ask about the entire history of mail we've sent in, not just in this reporting year, the institution of the Unconfirmed Mail Forms (UMFs) has improved our stats on past years as well. In the last year we've improved the amount of mail unreported for the July 2010 Report from 83% to 78%. We plan to continue using UMFs to better assist in tracking our censorship.
Like we reported in MIM(Prisons) 2011 Congress Summary and Resolutions, in the past six months we have been focusing our resources on building cases and recruiting lawyers rather than writing letters to administrators. Most of the victories in the fight against censorship come from prisoners filing appeals and defending Under Lock & Key in hearings. MIM(Prisons) plays a supporting role in ensuring that the administrators know that someone on the outside is paying attention and publicizing their illegal actions. So while it is not of vital importance that we write these letters, it has still helped overturn censorship in enough cases that we find it worthwhile to pick up this task again.
A major victory was won against Dona Ana County Detention Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico this year. A prisoner won a partial settlement for censorship issues. The settlement names MIM Distributors and Under Lock & Key and is in favor of prisoners' rights to receive "copied" material. If you are experiencing censorship for copies, write in for this information.
Red Onion State Prison in Virginia has been notorious for censoring Under Lock & Key to the point where we haven't heard of our newsletter getting in since issue 5 (November 2008). The Final Call and Prison Legal News both won settlements in favor of getting their newsletters into Red Onion in recent months. Since the treatment of The Final Call and PLN was similar to the treatment of ULK, we are hoping that those settlements will impact how ULK is received at Red Onion. This is yet to be determined.
A reasonable expectation for our anti-censorship work is that when we win a victory in a state, we should either continue to have victories there or no longer experience censorship. Of course this expectation wouldn't apply if the conditions within the state change and become more repressive. In the cases of New York, Illinois and Colorado there have been victories in the past but only censorship without victories in this reporting year. In Illinois and Colorado, some victories have been connected to outside pressure put on by MIM(Prisons). This leads to the logical conclusion that victories would be more likely if we continued to apply this pressure.
In New York there doesn't seem to have been a connection between outside pressure and victories. Those reversals in censorship came strictly from the hard work of New York prisoners fighting for their own rights. We are unsure if the current lack of victories is due to a change in conditions in the NYDOCS or a lack of prisoners fighting censorship.
There is a hunger strike happening in Pelican Bay State Prison in California that is well under way. In June 2011 we heard word that our mail had recently started getting in just prior to the start of the strike after experiencing major censorship there for years. In the last year 44% of the mail we've sent into Pelican Bay has been confirmed as received (13% confirmed as censored), compared to the previous reporting year's 25% received (57% censored). Hopefully the hunger strike will be successful in granting people held in PBSP their five core demands, including an end to mail tampering.
While we try to win as many victories as possible through writing letters, if a facility or state won't follow the law, then it eventually becomes necessary to take them to court. Due to our limited resources and time, we encourage the prisoners affected by the censorship to fight the issue as far as they can. In Arizona we came to one of these brick walls related to the censorship of a study group assignment for "promot[ing] racism and/or religious oppression" without containing any words that refer to race or religion. We reported on this issue in Under Lock & Key 18 and are still struggling to find a lawyer that will take on this important case.
And yes, mailroom staff in California are still clinging to the 2006 memo banning MIM Distributors, which was nullified in a settlement between Prison Legal News and CDCR way back in 2008. Can you believe it? The California institutions that are still favoring this method of censorship are Deuel Vocational Institution and Pelican Bay State Prison.
In Salinas Valley State Prison in California, rather than citing the overturned memo, the Warden creatively assures us that the staff was new at the time and have now been retrained, or claim to simply not see mail from MIM Distributors arriving there. This is completely bogus considering we consistently send in ULKs every time there is a new issue, in addition to persynalized letters and other literature. When we called the Warden out on the fact that there was no change after the "new staff" was "retrained," he simply baselessly told us there is no censorship and "no evidence the mailroom staff are negligent in their duties or MIM Distributors mail was illegally tampered with as you claim." No shit, there's no evidence if you just throw the mail in the trash! While some mail gets into SVSP sometimes, they are still highlighted on our list of brick walls we are determined to break.
In Nebraska the ACLU has picked up on censorship of our materials and has been doing research, writing letters, and may eventually file a suit on behalf of MIM Distributors and the prisoners facing censorship. They have reviewed most if not all issues of Under Lock & Key and have determined that "the prison is violating both [MIM(Prisons)'s] First Amendment rights and the rights of the prisoners." We are excited to be working with the ACLU to hopefully set a precedent in Nebraska that protects people held there against censorship. We encourage any lawyers on the outside to follow their example and get with MIM(Prisons) to fight censorship in prisons!
[Editor's note: We want to remind our readers that USW is open to anti-imperialist prisoners of all nationalities, just as the strike is being led by prisoners of all nationalities. MIM(Prisons) agrees with the line put forth here, because it is by building movements for national liberation from imperialism that we can best conquer the oppressive system we currently live in. And any genuine national liberation movement supports the liberation of all people. We want to be clear about this because there have been reports of the CDCR attempting to fuel divisions among the prisoners on strike along long-standing organizational and national divisions as they always do.]
A people's salute goes out to all who find themselves under lock and key in Amerika! I wanted to write and send a brief update on the conditions here in Pelican Bay coming from one of the participants of the hunger strike (HS) that began two weeks ago, on July 1 of 2011. I figured the historic precedent that the HS has accomplished thus far is worth noting as the cause of the non-violent protest is one in which many people find themselves in across Amerika. The material conditions that have forced prisoners to deny themselves nutrients and sustenance are not exclusively bound to Pelican Bay, California. Whenever imperialist lackeys run a country they will also be expected to round up the most rebellious and potentially revolutionary populations and bury these people alive as these are the ones who pose the highest threat to the ruling class.
The fact that the protest is in regard to torture chambers known as the Security Housing Unit (SHU) in California, a state that has more prisons than any other state in a country that has more prisoners than any other country, should be examined more closely for what it means to oppressed nation prisoners in general but to people of Aztlán in particular. The fact that the state of California, which is geographically in Aztlán, has initiated what amounts to a war on the people of Aztlán by setting up more koncentration kamps (prisons) in Aztlán than anywhere else in Amerika, along with incarcerating more Latinos in California than any other oppressed nations, and the fact that Latinos are now the largest population of captives held in Federal prisons, and the fact that most of the prisoners held in California SHUs are Latinos, all show that oppressed nation are under attack via the injustice system, and that prisoners from the Aztlán Nation are particularly targeted in Aztlán. California is also the state with the largest Latino population in Amerika.(1) Thus the scope of what is taking place should be seen for what it is - the assault on Aztlán is real and should be met as such.
What is occurring here at Pelican Bay is an attempt to break the will and desire to resist state repression plain and simple. The SHU was opened in 1989 and this facility was designed to isolate and deprive people of the most basic "human rights." Things like human contact, a cell mate, the ability to eat salt in one's food, the ability to correspond with friends and family via the mail, the ability to have natural sunlight or even to be able to read political literature have all been stripped from prisoners in the SHU. Brutality here has been documented for decades. Beatings and physical torture have even been brought to the courts to no avail. Recently the U.$. Supreme Court has ruled that California prisons constitute "cruel and unusual punishment." They are telling the state of California to clean up its act.
Medical services are even used as barter. One prisoner was told if he wanted medical treatment then he should "debrief" (snitch on another prisoner). This is the depraved culture that has thrived here in SHU. This is a world where prisoners who are most often poor Brown and Black people are subject to a whole plethora of experimental depravity which in some cases would probably have Mengele raise an eyebrow.
It is well known that solitary confinement causes very real psychological damage even if used for a few weeks, yet here in SHU prisoners have endured solitary for years and even decades in some cases. Human rights groups have condemned solitary confinement, yet the SHU continues this brutal practice. Once here in SHU the only way back to general population is to snitch on others (even if it is false accusations), die, or parole. Keep in mind the vast majority sent to SHU have not committed any crime or physical acts but are labeled a "gang member or associate" and thus locked in this control unit for one's supposed gang affiliation, i.e. one's beliefs. They are locking one in a solitary confinement cell, sometimes for life, for what amounts to thought crimes!
Placement in the "hole" or SHU is frequently due to political affiliation of prisoners who are members or may associate with revolutionary groups or lumpen organizations that the state labels as "gangs." In their play on words, any attempt at oppressed nations to organize in a way that is not state sanctioned, is a gang. Similarly, they call uprisings "riots" in a derogatory way, to hide the real causes behind them. But many times people aren't even members of any organization and are falsely accused by others who are trying to get themselves out of SHU. In either case, prisoners held in SHU conditions overwhelmingly qualify as political prisoners.
The world would gasp should they find out the thought police are goosestepping in lock step here in Pelican Bay, jack boots and all. The Gestapo in Nazi Germany rounded up communists and others and placed them in kamps and jails under "preventative custody." And now the imperialists' first line of defense keeps oppressed nations in neo-kamps (SHUs) under "validation custody." This is what the lumpen face in the United $tates; this is our apple pie in the home of the incarcerated, land of the oppressed.
Yet, prisoners have always defied the lash, because as Mao said, where you find much repression you'll find much resistance. This is the dialectical materialism that manifests itself and blossoms, even within cinderblock gardens, in the form of our united resistance.
The first of the five demands issued for the hunger strike here at Pelican Bay is to end group punishment. This happens frequently where one prisoner breaks a rule and that whole group or ethnicity will be locked down or penalized in some way. We are talking about one person doing something against prison rules and two or three hundred people are then locked down for months over it. This is common practice and is meant to pit prisoners against prisoners.
The second demand is to abolish debriefing and modify active/inactive gang status criteria. Debriefing is used to force people held in SHU to give up names and activities of others in order to leave SHU - even if the information provided is false. The accused cannot even present a good defense as the informants are not identified and often times the accusations themselves are considered "confidential." Active/inactive status is when after six years if one has no new activity one may be given "inactive" gang status and released to the general population. But this is rare since anything qualifies as "activity." For example, participating in this hunger strike will be considered new gang activity.
The third demand is that the CDCR complies with recommendations from a 2006 U.S. Commission which called for an end to isolation. The fourth demand is to provide adequate food. The food here would make a racoon's stomach turn. Often we don't know what it is we are eating and we get no salt, so all food is bland. For punishment often times we get boiled beans with no salt, and this has gone on for years. The fifth demand is to expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU prisoners. This means those of us who must stay in SHU will be able to have educational courses, art supplies, and the ability to make a phone call, which some have not done for 30 or more years.
These points are basic things that should be given, especially to people who have not broken any rules to be placed in SHU in the first place! What is happening here in Pelican Bay SHU amounts to crimes against humanity. To have people in solitary confinement in some cases for decades is incredible, and it's incredible that this has gone on so long and that for the most part the public has been silent over this. Well, today the light is shining on these torture chambers and Pelican Bay prisoners will no longer be silent while taking the lash.
My current status and situation, and what led to my current housing status and prior events, correlates to both articles. I arrived at Pleasant Valley State Prison (level III) in December 2009 from High Desert State Prison (level IV), on a bi-annual favorable transfer. In January 2010 I attended my initial classification committee (ICC) and received my CDCR 128-G chrono. It indicated I am a member of the "Ansar El Muhammad" (AEM) disruptive group.
When I arrived in December 2009, while being processed through receiving/release (RR) I was called an extremist-terrorist by CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) staff and my religious properties were confiscated. At the time I didn't give this event any value, except that I filed a CDCR 602 (complaint). But since then multiple incidence of retaliation, harassment, false claims and the confiscation and destruction of my religious property has occurred. Furthermore housing assignment staff and building floor staff have been putting active gang members in my cell, and as result I've been assaulted, received multiple threats of violence from prisoners and staff, labeled a snitch, received a rule violation report (CDCR 115) for refusing to cell up with any more gang members, and currently I'm in Administrative Segregation (pending SNY) transfer.
CDCR staff have falsified chronos in my central file (C-file) dating back to 2006, and I didn't discover this until 2010. It is my strong belief that prison officials have manipulated and orchestrated prisoners since 2006 to cause me physical harm, as I was stabbed and assaulted in 2006.
In 2009 I settled out of court for a §1983 civil complaint I filed in 2007 for the stabbing of 2006. But I strongly believe that somewhere in my central file prison officials have kept a record that I received an out-of-court settlement against prison officials (CDCR), which is what is and has motivated prison officials (Green Wall) to use these tactics of falsifying records and manipulating prisoners to continue to cause me physical harm.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This false jacketing of prisoners and setting up divisions and fights as retaliation against those who exercise their legal rights to protest abuses in prison is a common practice. This is a strong reason for our campaign to build a United Front for Peace in prisons. A key principle of this United Front is unity among those facing the same struggle.
This letter is to inform you that the United Zulu Independence Movement (UZI) was destroyed and disbanded due to the draconian COINTELPRO-type efforts of the prison administration here in Missouri. For the past 6 months, which we are calling "6 Months of Terror!" the Missouri DOC have been sending the gang task force into general populations statewide to seize, harass, arrest, set up, transfer and jump on UZI members. Members are being pointed out by prison snitches and placed on gang file. They have also confiscated all of our literature, but cannot charge us with organized disobedience because, as you know, we have not promoted any.
The administration's view of UZI is so dark due to two major words within our radical title (United & Independence). They fear the unity of the lumpen, and they see the independent thinker as a serious threat.
I will keep in contact with the United Front for Peace in Prisons to let you know of our progress to rebuild.
It Don't Stop! Zulu
MIM(Prisons) responds: UZI had been an active participant in pushing for a United Front for Peace in Prisons, working with MIM(Prisons) for just over a year before their demise at the hands of the state. We hear they were doing prom- ising truce work between lumpen organizations in their region. As they allude to, they were very careful about the language used in their literature so that it could not be misconstrued to be something of a "crim- inal" nature or promoting forbidden behavior within the Missouri DOC. Despite all this, the DOC still saw it appropriate to brutally crush this peace movement, demonizing any attempt by oppressed nations to organize. We expect that more New Afrikan blood will be shed in Missouri as a direct result of this ob- struction of peace, and this blood will be on the hands of the COINTELPRO-type forces.
[MIM(Prisons) has long defended a line that combats the divisions that the California Department of "Corrections" has tried to institutionalize by separating large numbers of people from the General Population (GP) into Sensitive Needs Yards (SNY). In a previous letter this comrade joined us in calling for SNY and GP alike to contribute to the struggle, while not hiding h lack of regard for SNY prisoners. Today h story serves to demonstrate why allowing the pigs to tell us who is our friend and who is our enemy is a backwards way of discovering the truth.]
I'm in the hole (Administrative Segregation Unit) once again, the material you sent found me when I needed it the most. This time around I'm found under an ISU/IGI investigation which will most likely result in me being sent to the other side (SNY). Surprising? Not really, I saw it coming since the day I committed myself to the United Struggle from Within (USW), in the form of either validation as a guerrilla revolutionary or the assassination of my character behind these walls through the SNY program that leaves a lot of brothers and sisters credibility out and in the cold away from the warmth of prisoner society's acceptance.
It's crazy how it happened all so fast. I blinked and at the drop of a dime my whole life turned upside down. It started October 16, officially with an unjustified unclothed cavity/cell search that I refused to submit to because the officer first claimed that they were hitting my cell randomly, then later said because me and my cellmate were exhibiting suspicious behavior when I was on the toilet taking a shit and my cellmate was on the assigned bunk asleep. I understood the nature of the situation that the corruption officers were creating. Someone dropped a dime on me, so I looked to get a paper trail.
By searching my cell they were committing a constitutional violation against search-and-seizure safeguards granted to prisoners such as notification of cell searching party (corruption officers involved), confiscation of personal property, and the right to appeal without retaliatory actions being taken against one. I made the choice to get the incident documented to bring to the attention of the administration here at Killer Kern, and I paid for it in the worst way possible. But still I stand revolutionary minded putting USW theory into practice outside of the study group's environment. Refusing to let the dragon win, I fight them with my pen and continue to force them to show their brutality on paper and physically.
After refusing to submit to their commands I was placed in wrist restraints and escorted to the facility program office cage where I spent the next few hours resisting the Sergeant and Lieutenant's request for me to submit to an unclothed body search. At this time the corruptions officers searching party (the Kern Valley A yard jump out boys) were back at the cell, searching, confiscating, and disposing of my property and attempting to pay me back for my resistance. They came across a kite [prison letter] that I had hidden inside a medicine bottle waiting to be delivered to it's destination. I will say that I slipped up! Cause I did.
The kite was in regards to a business arrangement that I had going on and gave details about involved individuals who were to participate. The kite was supposed to be delivered that same morning, but due to the unexpected visitors it wasn't and I thus forgot about it in the commotion of three COs at my door with their cans out ready to spray me while on the toilet for nothing.
I knew what was up, but didn't act quick enough and therefore allowed intel into the hands of law enforcement. And they had a ball with it immediately reading the kite loud enough for my neighbors, who were members of my LO, hoping to create the confusion that they did.
I spent three days in a small holding cell, cold, cuffed and shackled, taped in a dirty jumpsuit, with no linen, and a mattress that I was allowed only to lay on from 10 p.m. - 6 a.m. with no covering on it. Sleep-deprived with lights on all night attempting to sleep with restraints, I was deprived medical care, and denied high blood pressure medication. I was smelling like shit without a shower, and forced to eat cold meals without any eating utensils or a cup to drink from. I felt the firsthand experience of torture at the hands of the department of correction (corruption) until I had three bowel movements to prove that I didn't have anything concealed in my ass.
Once my bowel movements showed negative results for contraband (not an explosive device or a gun, or a knife, but simple contraband) they released me back to the yard, and to the cell I went.
Not even three hours after my arrival I received a kite about the matter of the disclosure of intel in the confiscated kite. It wasn't "Cuz how you holding up? Can we assist you any way?" or none of that. But with everything falling the way it did, I understand. Because a week prior to the incident, individuals of various groups were getting popped with phones. And all were cats who were making the dead presidents, but removed from the front lines. There was a leak and Investigative Services Unit (ISU) was getting more fat than a fat guy in an all you could eat buffet.
I was brought up on charges of being that leak. And if the shoe was on another person's foot, I would've really pushed for an old school lynching. Treason is a no no, but here it is in the accused, getting kites now from OGs on the bricks, and weeks later I find myself up against the wall with those who I've actually shed blood for, explaining that I ain't no fucking rat and did not intentionally drop intel into the hands of law enforcement. Time drew on with me and those that be, doing just as the pigs planned us to, as we were on lockdown due to a war with the Blacks and the "southern Mexicans," over a drug debt, a phone, and miscommunication that caused an eight-on-twelve melee between Blacks and Browns, and one Black to be stabbed eleven times.
The option came around to me after the verdict came in that I was guilty of loose lips. I could either clean up some green (guards), get cleaned up, or handle the individual who would clean me up. For those who can't read between the lines clean up in this situation means to stab something up good enough that the message (whatever it may be) be sent clearly.
Now it may seem like nothing, but I'm not new to this shit, I'm true to it. I ain't no crash dummy, I've got a close release date, and a lot of life to live. I ain't stabbin' no pig without no chance of getting away, and I damn sho' ain't about to be a pin cushion. So I got the hell out of dodge, and didn't blink doing it. I'm an SNY, I recognize that some will understand, but most won't and I am no longer who they seen me as. But my time was limited as any real active revolutionary is on the line abroad the people who are and love the same exact thing that they claim to hate. Straight up!
Politicizing amongst the LOs is a difficult task when the same ones you advocate for are advocating against your existence for individualist purposes. I bump heads with the big dawgz about policy even when certain radz advised against it because of my youth and their popularity, and I got exactly what they said it would get me. An early death in the prison game.
I sit in ASU now on my third month for investigation into my security concerns that I raised truthfully on a 602 appeal form. The ISU/IGI agents attempt to sell protection like they are some type of "Green Wall" protection agency. I'm told the more you cooperate and inform us into the details of drugs, cellphones, crooked cops, and criminal activity, the more we can help you. Since when does the lion help the lamb?
I attempted radio silence with MIM(Prisons) until I could get my §1983 lawsuit put in, because my mail is being highly monitored, censored, withheld and returned.
But it seems that faith will have us together married until death do us part. So I'm back like Jesus from the dead, not really back at all, reborn into the characteristic of a USW on the other side of the fence.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This letter is one more example of our point that not everyone on SNY yards is a snitch or rat as the pigs would like us to think. A bourgeois approach to security allows the bourgeoisie to win out. By bourgeois, we mean an individualist, rather than a group approach. We oppose studying "persynalities" instead of politics. And we oppose thinking that violence against individuals builds a strong movement.
There are plenty of enemies on mainline and there are friends to be found in SNY. How we associate and how we build allows us to determine which are which, not rumors or labels given out by the enemy.