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[Prison Labor] [Florida]
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Forced Labor a Part of Daily Abuse

Prisoners in America suffer at the hands of their captors; the only group of people who remain under the brutality of compelled work. Their master is the state. It is an evil and capricious master, whose goal is to break the spirit and reduce to an automaton (the better to be a wage-slave in society) a human being.

The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the united states, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

The reality of this in prison, is that a prisoner will be assigned a job which will be institutional drudgery - the kitchen, laundry, farm labor, etc. He will then be made to perform his job under the gun - literally, in the case of outside work squads. Something about a correctional officer with a gun is very unsettling - these are very base people who couldn't get a job with the Sheriff's Department, and who don't have to pass a psychological exam or rigorous requirements to get this job.

Even if not under the gun, officers, and sometimes civilian employees, hold tremendous power over the prisoners in their custody, which they usually abuse. What's more, they expect a fully honest days work out of you like you owe them something. If they don't like the job you're doing, or just don't like you, they can send you to the box for 60 days and take all your gain time for refusing to work. Most people get gain time, so an officer has the power to hold a prisoner in prison several months longer at his whim and subject to no real oversight.

Needless to say, you are working at no benefit to yourself. I can speak from the experience of the kitchen, where myself and my fellow prisoners serve the disgusting state food, clean up, and attempt to look busy so as not to incur the ire of the man. After we serve, we are often fed a regular tray, getting only what the compound gets. And some staff like to threaten us with throwing away the rest of the food instead of serving it to us. Also they can legally make us work 70 hours a week.

A few days ago, I was threatened for my grievances about the boots they make us wear over our shoes and all the menu changes. I'm not worried about it, and actually feel good because they ended up on the warden's desk and I got the man's attention.

The boss made a remarkable statement today, in one of his daily speeches: "You're here by choice. I've got a family to feed." First of all, I'm here by force. Second, I didn't make him work in the prison system as a guard.

The supposed compassion of our boss man is overwhelming. I was told today by a friend that he personally witnessed the boss pepper spray two people. This was not for fighting or trying to attack him, but for trying to finish their meal after they were told to throw their tray away for some bogus disciplinary reason.

Prisoners who have medical conditions or are mentally ill are still pressed into labor, with no real way out except to go to the box. The box may look like a pleasing alternative sometimes, but it is not - sensory deprivation, no property or canteen, meager state meals. It's de facto physical and psychological torture, something that surprisingly still exists in this country. Plus there is so much that goes along with it, like a later release date and transfer to a worse unit in the same prison.

I find consolation in the packet of legal material I got from the Panama City Division of the U.S. District Court tonight. Soon I will be out and able to file my 42 U.S.C. ยง1983 lawsuit against an officer and a captain who fabricated disciplinary charges against me. I encourage every prisoner not to forget this time when he reaches freedom, but to speak up for our struggle and report their crimes against us. This can often include filing a lawsuit based on something that happened in prison, because every convict has a story and many have good cases. Know that most of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) does not apply to you as a released prisoner, so you do not have to show physical injury or have filed grievances (although you always should, it establishes a paper trail and potentially incriminating responses) before filing suit. Keep that same spirit alive that made you a stronger man when you get to the streets, whatever you do. That will make you an adversary worth fearing.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this comrade's assessment of the importance of organizing and fighting back both behind the bars and on the streets. And the message of continuing the battle once you hit the streets is particularly important. But we would not call this system of prisoner labor "slavery." As we explained in our article on the prison economy, prison labor does not produce a profit for the prisons, rather it is used to offset some (but not all) of the costs of imprisonment. Prisons are primarily used as a tool of social control, with the prisoner labor only a minor aspect of this. The term slavery refers to the system that captures humyn labor for the purpose of exploiting and profiting from it. This is not the case with the Amerikan prison system today. It is important to understand the real motivations of the oppressor if we hope to change this oppressive system.

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[Prison Labor] [Texas]
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Slavery in the Lone Star State

Forcing humans to work for free - a term better known as slavery - was abolished in America almost 150 years ago. Most know slavery still exists in 'less civilized' parts of the world, but to consider this abominable treatment of people to be ongoing in our country is unheard of. Perhaps it's because few know. Well down in Texas, the business of slavery is brisk. When told of this fact, the average American is certain to express shock and demand to know the details. Upon being informed that prisoners in Texas work for free, most are happy to let out a sigh of relief and lose interest in the subject. So, in essence, forced labor for no pay is tolerated. Because the ones involved are convicted criminals seems to make this practice okay.

But is this really okay? Shouldn't prisoners be compensated for their labor like everyone else is? Prisoners in other states are, so why not Texas? Shouldn't they be able to provide for themselves while in prison and their families on the outside? As a prisoner(or "offender" as we're called) in a Texas prison, I well know that if you're not fortunate enough to have someone sending you money to purchase items from commissary, you're SOL, as the state only provides the bare essentials. Concerning hygiene, once a week (if you're lucky), you get one roll of toilet paper, a disposable razor, tooth powder and soap. Maybe four times a year toothbrushes are issued. That's it! Deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, t-shirts, shower sandals, writing paper, etc., you gotta buy. Even a personal cup to drink out of and a bowl and spoon to eat with are not free. But how can you buy something if you don't have the money? For those who pay child support the fees don't stop when they become incarcerated. But how do you pay when you work for free? Something to think about.

In addition to maintaining the prisons themselves, offenders toil long hours in TDCJ (Texas Department of Criminal Justice) sweatshops under the guise of TCI (Texas Correctional Industries), which manufactures everything from furniture to mattresses to cleaning supplies. Many of these products are sold to outside agencies and the private sector at a profit, not to mention the t-shirts, shorts, socks, thermals, shampoo and liquid detergent offenders make, that TDCJ turns around and sells to us through the prison commissaries. Considering their labor is free, it's safe to assume the state's profit margins are great. What Wal-Mart, or say, IBM, wouldn't give to have a complimentary workforce.

TDCJ officials will be quick to say that offenders may not receive actual money to work, but are paid with good time and work time. Not entirely true. Those serving sentences for aggravated crimes are not eligible for good time and work time (even though they work like everyone else). Nonviolent criminals such as myself do earn these time credits, but they are often not honored. So what's the point in even allowing them to be earned in the first place?

It's like working for someone who says they're going to pay you so much for your labor at the first of every month. You work all month for this employer and fulfill your end of the agreement. At this time, your boss says "Oh, I decided not to pay you. But keep working for free, maybe I'll pay you next month." For the most part, that is what's happening to prisoners in Texas. What a shame it is. With my earned time credits, I have five and a half years done on a three year sentence, yet I'm still in prison. My projected release date was February 1st of last year (when my total time credits equaled a hundred percent of my sentence), but it was still denied by the parole board - despite being a model prisoner. Rumor has it, the parole board often denies prisoners who stay out of trouble and demonstrate reform. Why? For "manipulating the system." So I guess those who act up have a better chance of getting out early. Perhaps I should start being a troublemaker, might help me make parole the next time I come up.

Many prisoners in the Lone Star State put in years, and decades even, of thankless free labor for the state. Upon release from prison they are rewarded with a bus ticket and one hundred dollars. Some of these ex-cons have no family and no place to go. How far can one get towards rebuilding a new life on a C-Note? In this year of 2011 I wouldn't say very far. A one night's stay in a cheap motel, set of thrift store clothes and a few fast food meals at the most. I suppose us in the big house can consider ourselves lucky. Those serving state jail time in such TDCJ facilities, must work for free also, and all serve their sentences day for day; but when released, they get not a dime. If they have no one to pick them up, they are dropped off at the nearest homeless shelter. Broke, unemployed, and with nothing but the clothes on their back, they're basically being set up for failure. What are the odds of them returning to crime? Great I'd say.

There's the saying, "Texas is like a whole other country." I agree completely when it comes to criminal justice. Not only do other states pay their prisoners to work, good time and work time is guaranteed. Is there a correlation between the Texas prison mass slavery operation and its high recidivism rate? Highly likely. This too is something to think about.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This prisoner points out some important facts about the labor situation in Texas. As we've reported elsewhere the labor situation in prisons throughout this country is similar to what's described here. But the prison system in this country is not the same as the economic system of slavery. Prisons are a tool of social control rather than a way of exploiting labor.

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[Prison Labor] [Organizing] [Limon Correctional Facility] [Colorado]
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Organizing Strikes for Lasting Change

I read with a smile the article in ULK 16 titled Mass Hunger Strike in California and it reminded me of a similar event in Colorado at the Limon Correctional Facility(LCF) facility in June 2002, when close to 850 of the 975 POWs refused to go to the chow hall for three full days. The first morning a few people ate but were quickly shown the error of that. The only ones who had our blessings were the diabetics and sick who needed to eat. Word came down from the Warden, put your complaints and issues in writing and I will personally address them.

That was done and a "few" minor things actually changed for the better. Over the next several days and even months the line staff flat-out told us that what shook up the LCF management team administration was the fact that 850 plus "inmates" stood together for three days. That was an act of defiance and passive aggressive rebellion almost unheard of in the Colorado DOC for almost 20 years. This is a system where the "inmates" regularly laid down rather than even contemplate doing without their TVs, coffee and ramen soups for a few weeks, or months. This is a prison system where about 30% or so are lifers doing life without parole or 40 calendar years before their first parole date.

The Colorado DOC has mimicked other states with the total removal or severe restriction of use of free weights, out door and indoor recreation time, and demolition of programs that actually help the prisoners. And once the administration saw there was no resistance, then the pay was cut by 50 to 80%, depending on what type of assignment you had. In June 2003 the CDOC not only cut the pay they raised canteen prices, and the indigent level. So although there is on paper, such a thing as being "indigent" and showing the DOCs obligation to provide a minimum of hygiene and writing material, the DOC "paid" everyone, every month, at least a few cents more than the indigent amount. So, even though the DOC most often debited this entire amount immediately after posting it on your prison account, under their interpretation of their rules, no one can actually be indigent. Therefore the DOC does not have to supply hygiene items or writing material.

The purpose of the above is to point out that sporadic and specific acts of organized non-violent protest are well and good to get momentary attention for a few minor particular issues or complaints, but in order for POWs across the U$ to truly become men and women worthy of what you seek and deserve, each of you have to educate yourself! Make that your number one goal.

We as POWs can have all the outside help, but we need to develop the inside help and come to grips with the reality we as a group will probably have to suffer through some very lean and mean times due to long term work strikes, but it is in these work strikes that we have our power! A few weeks won't hurt the bank roll of the profiteers, but several months of no product and the prison officials will be told by the politicians (who are controlled by those with $$) to give us what we need, deserve, and want, to get production back on line at all costs.

Sure we will be subjected to the strip cells and frequent strip searches and mishandling and/or destruction of our property, but you can prepare for some of that. Send out photos and documents that are important, stock up on certain items. Only order bare hygiene items and writing material for 6 to 8 months, leave the junk food alone. Maybe no phone calls unless an emergency.

Hit them where they harm us, in their pocketbooks. Above all, do not resort to violence or destruction tactics. Although this gets media and outside attention, it does not engender the type of serious attention we, as POWs, want or need because we need to retain legitimacy for our cause.

As was plainly pointed out by an old convict back in the 70s in Texas: "Them guards can only do to us what we let em do."

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[Religious Repression] [Prison Labor] [Organizing] [LA State Penitentiary] [Louisiana] [ULK Issue 17]
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Political Activism Killed by Religion in Louisiana

I have begun to receive ULK and I have not had any problems with censorship. There are not very many politically active people/groups here now, such as in California, so the mailroom is not hyperaware of radical political publications.

This was not always the case. Louisiana State Prison (Angola) in the 60s, 70s and 80s was a hotbed of political activism, primarily with the Black Panther Party. It was also considered one of the bloodiest prisons in America. Since the 90s it seems political activism/education has evaporated. This is mostly due (in my opinion) to the prison becoming admittedly more safe, the aging and death of the older inmate population (as the 60s and 70s were a universally more politically active time across America), and the current Warden. Warden Burl Cain has quite effectively turned the prison into a church, with even a 5-year seminary college funded by the Southern Baptists of America.

This has had an enormously detrimental impact on the prison population. There is no longer any prisoner solidarity (beyond the individual self-serving prison clubs and organizations) or any real political movement. Most (though not all) prisoners now play the religion game as a ticket to move up within the prison society and garner favor with the administration. In fact, to essentially get in any position of prisoner power - such as a club president or to work for the prison magazine The Angolite (which came to prominence under Wilbert Rideau) - you must be an active professed Christian.

The true harm in all of this is that there is no real rehabilitation or education within the prison now. Louisiana does not have parole for people sentenced to life and 90% of the 5000+ prisoners here at Angola will die in prison. This is a proven statistical fact even admitted by Louisiana DOC. The only option for lifers in Louisiana is the possibility for a sentence reduction by the pardon board. This is not a legitimate option though. It is extremely rare (once every 10-15 years) that they recommend a lifer for a sentence reduction and the governor signs it.

In the farce of this hopelessness, the warden has pushed the panacea of religion both to fight hopelessness, as well as the idea that if you garner enough favor and play the religion game well enough, you will be lucky when you go before the pardon board. The warden has made moves to place himself as an "advisor" to the pardon board to give recommendations as to who should be given a pardon (sentence reduction) and who not. This means you either toe the warden's line - be Christian, not exercise your rights, make no waves, become an informant to show you are "reformed" - or you essentially have no hope whatsoever of ever being granted relief by the pardon board. This includes those prisoners with lesser sentences who go before the parole board. The pardon and parole boards are one and the same.

All of this is a preamble to my real reason for writing this letter to you. I am attempting to re-energize a political base among the prisoner population. The most possible form this may take is by labor unionizing. Angola is one of the last great prison farms (18,000 acres for crops and cattle), along with places like Parchman in Mississippi. A good many of the prisoners here still perform agricultural labor. This food is primarily sold for private profit, not fed to us. This prisoner labor saves the state (and earns it) million of dollars, while prisoners receive little or no "incentive pay" or wages. Field workers earn 4 cents an hour or less, half of which (up to $250) must go into a "savings account" the prisoners may not use (except for a few narrow reasons) even if the prisoner is a lifer and will never get out to use his "savings." This money sits instead, in perpetuity, earning interest in DOC bank accounts for the state.

The only practical political force prisoners here may exert is by unionizing. Not only to work towards better living/working conditions in prison, but towards more just sentencing laws. Unionization as well creates a solidarity movement younger prisoners may never have experienced before which can prove fertile grounds for Marxist/Maoist education. It would be fitting to see such an agrarian Maoist movement take hold and grow here. Unionization and the educational benefits of a labor movement create the grounds for producing politically aware cadres, some who will remain in prison, but many who may return to their communities to expand the movement.

Consequently, it is my hope to recruit and develop a dedicated cadre of individuals here to research the possibility of a prisoner labor movement and further that idea by education and activism.

I have already circulated the introductory letter you sent to me describing MIM(Prisons)'s platform, as well as the first issue of ULK I have received. I further plan to enroll in your Maoist study cell. I have read and studied Marxism-Leninism for many years but am not as familiar with Maoism or how such Maoist principles may differ in form or function from Marxism. As I have always generally understood, Marxism-Leninism applied to an industrialized (to a large degree) proletariat, where as Maoism was an agrarian movement. I'm sure this may be a huge oversimplification. For that reason, I wish to educate myself more, with your help.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We support this comrade's efforts to organize prison workers. Rather than a proletariat or peasantry, the U.$. prison population's relationship to production puts it squarely in the lumpen class, as we explained in a report on the U.$. prison economy. Prison labor is used to save the state money, as this comrade points out, in its excessively expensive project of imprisoning this class of people that capitalism has no use for. Therefore organizing prisoners to heighten the contradictions of the state in fiscal crisis is of great value. And there is no doubt that this organizing serves an excellent educational purpose as well.

Maoism is an advance on Marxism-Leninism that still bases itself in the revolutionary class of the proletariat but also sees the peasantry as a key ally to the proletariat in countries like China where the system is semi-feudal and the population is so dispersed in the agrarian countryside. While we can't just take this theory and apply it to farming in the U.$. where conditions are very different, the philosophy of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM) is still very relevant today. The dialectical materialist method teaches us to learn from the best that history has to offer (MLM) and apply it to our conditions today just as groups like the Black Panthers and Young Lords did with the lumpen before us.

The history of prison labor organizing at Angola pre-dates the Panthers, and according to one blog, during a strike in 1951, 31 prisoners cut their Achilles tendons so that they could not be made to work on the farm. Acts like these distinguish those who really have "nothing to lose but their chains" - one definition of the proletariat. Religious brainwashing can be effective at diffusing such resistance, especially when there are bribes involved, but the oppressed will gravitate towards Maoism as it represents their interests as a people and not just short-term individual interests.

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[Prison Labor] [Abuse] [Arkansas]
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Grievances in Arkansas

Here in Arkansas state prisons we have a terrible grievance procedure. The administration and pigs call it an "informal resolution" and it is a joke. I have enclosed the front page so you can check it out.

In Arkansas we receive no pay for the jobs we perform, but at Christmas time the state places a big $6 on our books, averaging out to about 1 1/2 cents per day. In the mid to late 90s I ran one of the unit's cabinet shops and would often work 12 hour days, 7 days a week for that $6. Purely slave labor in my opinion.

Here they shut out our lights at 10:30pm and turn them on again as early as 3am, leaving them off only 4 1/2 hour, and this is usually done 7 days a week.

The food we get us usually not fit for human consumption. Very often the hamburger meat and chicken are spoiled, but most of us can't afford to go to the commissary store and must eat it.

Our grievances often get "lost" or "misplaced" if they have factual info about a staff member, especially if a few individuals write them.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This problem with grievances is not unique to Arkansas. For this reason United Struggle from Within initiated a grievance campaign this year. If you are filing grievances about any issue and they aren't being handled properly by staff, consider becoming a part of this campaign and spread it to your people inside.

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[Prison Labor] [Texas]
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Abolish Prison Slavery

A search of the Texas constitution reveals no trace of the word slavery or any reference to the use of prisoner labor as slaves. Nevertheless, Texas has a long and unbecoming history of resisting the economic integration of Blacks into it's society and exploiting the use of prisoners as slave labor (including Mexicans) etc.

The 13th Amendment to the US constitution states in pertinent part: "neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime... shall exist within the United States." The 13th Amendment was formally adopted on December 18, 1865. Texas was not among the states ratifying this amendment. In 1866, participants at a constitutional convention took the position that it was unnecessary to adopt this amendment. By taking an oath to support the united states constitution, they had indirectly abolished slavery and this was sufficient. It was not until February 18, 1870 that Texas formally adopted the 13th amendment, and this was only done grudgingly, to satisfy conditions for gaining admission back into the union.

Prisoners perform valuable services in their prisons and in a multitude of different prison industries. Without prisoner labor, these prisons and prison industries could not function. From the inception of its prison system, Texas historically refused to pay its prisoners any wages for their work, no doubt relying upon the clause carving out an exception for prisoner labor in the 13th amendment of the US constitution as their authority for doing so.

The 70th Texas legislature reversed this long standing practice and policy by creating work credits as part of its major overhaul of the parole system. Under the 1/4 as this legislation came to be called, these work credits vested when earned, and hastened a prisoner's mandatory supervision date. Since this law was enacted, prisoners have been receiving a half day of work credit for every day of calendar time served.

During the term of the 74th legislature, from 1995 to 1997, the parole board's ability to perform its statutorily delegated function of reviewing all parole candidates applying the Texas parole guidelines to their cases and issuing decisions as to their fitness for parole was clearly illusory. The parole board was vastly lacking the staff and resources to perform this task. Nevertheless, the 74th legislature increased the authority of the parole board by giving them the right to cancel a prisoner's work credit, simply upon a finding that the prisoner's release could endanger the public's safety.

A finding that a prisoner's release could endanger the public's safety is ambiguous, vague and vulnerable to abuse. Parole candidates have seen their mandatory supervision date pass as well as their good time and work credits rescinded for just this reason, with no factual basis and no reasoned decision to support this finding.

The parole board is making its prisoners serve their sentences day for day, acting above Texas law and of our US Constitution, like the 13th amendment, claiming it is giving out parole when a prisoner is within months or a year of finishing his or her entire prison sentence. Is this not illegal, and prison slavery? Indeed.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We don't like to use the word "slavery" too much in reference to the modern U$ prison system. Though in fact, slavery is legal in U$ prisons according to the 13th Amendment, which this writer seems to ignore. As we have discussed elsewhere, the prison system is not akin to the economic system of slavery in capitalist or pre-capitalist societies. It is a form of the mass lumpenization that is unique to modern imperialism, and is about managing excess populations, not acquiring populations for exploitation.

We appreciate the brief history of Texas policies provided by this writer, but would add to it the significance of the history of the 13th Amendment. As mentioned, this amendment allowed for slavery in prisons at a time when imprisonment of Blacks was even easier than it is today. This was a bone thrown to the white nation in the South who stood to loose out from the new economic realities following the Civil War. Southern whites were given a means to control Black labor on a small scale to get them through the transition. Today the 13th Amendment plays a similar role, where mostly Blacks and Latinos are forced to do much of the maintenance labor to support their own imprisonment, while predominantly white staff make fat checks as watchdogs and bureaucrats in the system.

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[Abuse] [Prison Labor] [Arkansas]
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Psych torture in Arkansas

Here in Arkansas we don't have the types of problems they do in other states. They did years ago. Now it is subtle psychological conditioning (that neither the guards/staff/inmates realize they are a part of).

Most of the units in Arkansas were built by inmates - they received a slightly better living environment for their efforts - only because the inmates on construction created less problems for one another, not even realizing that their efforts were creating problems for many more in the future. Had we not built these warehouses for the state to store us, Arkansas would only be able to house half this many people.

After reading the most recent ULK, I must say that I have been telling these Arkansas inmates we need to quit working for the longest, they do not want to lose Good Time (we don't get paid to work in Arkansas). I've tried to explain that if staff billed inmate jobs we would cause a strain in resources and would cause many non-violent offenders to be released early. It also appears that many are not grasping that the officers also are part of the oppressed peoples. In Arkansas, prisoners are racially balanced and most officers are colored.

I filed suit against the county for not feeding us properly. I have now been transferred to a facility with minimal law resources.

MIM responds: We do not agree that the prison officers are part of the oppressed people. While they may be from the oppressed nations, they are not a part of the oppressed peoples. They have been bought off and are working for the oppressors. They are in one of the professions most overtly working for the imperialist system. This means their interests are no longer aligned with their oppressed nation.

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[Organizing] [Prison Labor] [Oregon]
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DOC: Dealing Oppression Conspicuously

There are an unbelievable number of people incarcerated in prisons throughout Oregon who are either fearfully unwilling or shamefully disinterested in rocking the boat when it comes to initiating unnecessary change within the wall of their respective institutions. But quite often it is a requisite for beneficial change to capsize the boat and force the crew to flounder. As our diminishing rights become even more chewed up by the ravenous jaws of the imperialist piranhas, sitting idly by and watching the grim reality show that is our subjugation, results only in the further detriment and disenfranchisement of the socially ostracized. Unity brings potency to a revolution; solidarity releases an energy capable of crippling the most obstinate oppressor.

The State makes the prisoner an indentured servant to the correctional machine. we are forced to work for paltry earnings under the explicit fiat of Oregon law; punished if we refuse to forfeit our independence. In order to retain special privileges and certain material possessions, it is mandatory that we work our brittle fingers to the bone for the State. One could easily make the argument that it should be criminal to penalize a person for his or her refusal to be a state-sanctioned slave.

As someone doing a life term in prison, the last thing I want is to be a labor horse for the same imperialists who've taken an ax to my liberties. Whatever pittance I procure from my coerced labors must inevitably return to its original source, as I cannot avoid frequenting the commissary to purchase the bare necessities for maintaining personal hygiene and a vital connection to the outside world. The money must revert back to the State; it is a fiendish circle. Moreover, as the demand for their commodities increases, those in charge of operations within the commissary business raise the prices. Meanwhile, the monetary reward handed out to the sweating and bleeding prisoners remains invariably insufficient. But if I want to survive comfortably I must tow the line. However, perhaps it is when we grow too comfortable with our dire situations that we become reticent to speak out against our oppressors.

Those who lord over the lumpen are not to be confided in, nor are they to be greeted as yokefellows. They do not sympathize with our plight. How can they? They receive exorbitant amounts of money to imprison us, to keep us downtrodden and mentally enervated. To them we are the dregs of society, the mischief-makers whose drumbeat is not synchronous with theirs. Which is why it boggles my mind that there are prisoners who shower the corrections officers with warm cordiality as if these licensed oppressors are on equal terms with the incarcerated. I witness them in deep conversations with the officers on a daily basis, sharing information about themselves, as well as information about others. Prisoners joke around with the guards like everyone is best friends and not two socially separated classes - the oppressed and oppressor. What the oppressed prisoners seem woefully unreceptive to is the fact that these potentates of the penal system are in charge of keeping us stripped of our individuality, and hold the power to make our lives downright miserable. They raid our cells - essentially our homes - and confiscate anything that worries them or shows signs of our burgeoning dissatisfaction with our confinement. Anything we manufacture to amuse ourselves is stolen from us and tossed away like refuse. They intercept grievances, deliberately lose or discard our ail, and tell us when to wake up and when to eat. This is not a relationship of reciprocal treatment. It is a relationship where we are forced under threat of punishment to bow to authority, to respect authority, and they in turn deprive us of the same respect. They see us a dollar signs, not as friends.

The amelioration of our confinement will only see fruition when the lumpen unite as one solid and formidable engine and drive our oppressors into the ground like railroad spikes. We must learn to be smarter than them, to dodge their attacks, and to gain support not just from those in likewise wretched situations but from allies outside of the walls. We must face the challenges as bravely and indefatigably as possible. For it is not the steel bars that make the prison, but those who are unwilling to fight to break the chains.

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[Organizing] [Prison Labor] [Texas] [ULK Issue 14]
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Our Unity vs. their Crisis

In today's prison society, prisoners are losing constitutional rights at an alarming rate under either the security rationale or the rehabilitation rationale. Yes, our United States Supreme Court has effectively shut the constitutional door on prisoners and individuals charged with crimes. A fair trial is now impossible as any misconduct by the prosecutor is considered "harmless error." Additionally, many individuals plead to charges they have not committed due to judicial extortion; "Take this five years or we're going to give you 99." It's all sad, but reflects the state of our society and country as a whole, and the corrosion of our criminal justice system.

In the newsletter, I read that many prisoner have begun food strikes; one wanting to commit suicide, the others want to sign a petition. The sad and unfortunate truth is, none of these work. Yet there is a way to be heard that is peaceful and has a dramatic effect.

Prisons are run by prisoners from laundry, food service, landscaping to maintenance of the institution. Additionally, many prisoners work in industries that manufacture anything from stop signs, chemicals to office furniture for the state and the prisons themselves. What if we were to just stop? Yes, stop supporting the imperial system that oppresses us at every level? Incarceration costs would rise exponentially overnight. Correctional officers would have to be hired to pick up where the inmate population left off. The cost of incarceration would be so great that states could not afford to incarcerate people en masse as they do today. Until the prison population itself makes a stand against the draconian justice and prison system, they will continue to lose the most basic and fundamental rights inherent to man.

My brothers and sisters, it is us, the prison population that runs and perpetuates the injustice of the justice and prison system and it is we who can peacefully break its back. The courts have failed us; the politicians have failed us; our country has failed us. Must we continue to fail ourselves? Must we continue to be dehumanized, degraded, mistreated and tortured so others may prosper and/or be entertained? It's time to see this realistically and stand together peacefully, to battle an unjust system as one. Martin Luther King once said, "The ultimate measure of a man [or woman] is not where he [or she] stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he [or she] stands in times of challenge and controversy." Are you a person of character who can stand as one or individually in the face of adversity? If we can't stand together as one then no matter what we do, we lose. Give some thought to this. All that's necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men and women to do nothing.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We couldn't agree with this comrade more that there is no real justice to be had by the class system of imperialism. We don't expect petitions to solve the heart of the problem, though we may achieve partial victories. And we've already cautioned comrades that hunger strikes without outside pressure and support tend to be ultra-left tactics that can lead to sacrificing of lives.

But as we explain elsewhere, petition campaigns are two-pronged. One prong is to improve our ability to organize by fighting winnable battles, and the other prong is agitational to expose the state's repressiveness.

The facts behind this comrade's proposal are solid, as we discussed in ULK #8 on prison labor. And the argument is particularly strong as most state's are facing extreme financial shortages. They cannot afford to run their prisons if the labor aristocracy must do all the work.

However, in most cases, the level of unity does not exist to carry out this tactic effectively. Another comrade who proposed this same strategy simultaneously complains about this reality. Again, this is where more agitational work comes into play, like petitions, lawsuits and even small fund drives that some comrades have led. These things establish unity among people on the issues. With that unity, we can begin to talk about mass actions, such as boycotts.

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