by a North Carolina prisoner February 2012 permalink
I just received my ULK24 with the article Overcoming Release Challenges. I have 67 months until I am released. For me education, experience and pain/love for the proletariat is my driving force. Chairman Mao stated about political work "ideological education is the key link to be grasped in uniting the whole party for great political struggles. Unless this is done the party cannot accomplish any of its political tasks." (April 24, 1945) Mao's Little Red Book, The Communist Manifesto, Das Kapital Vol 1, and What is to be Done? by Lenin are just a few works that we should be intimate with.
A revolutionary is more than anti-imperialist/anti-establishment. Comrade Ernesto "Che" Guevara said "the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love." So if we truly tremble with indignation at every injustice and believe in what we together can change through scientific socialism and faith in MLM then why or how would I choose to not continue once released? We can't depend on the parasitic, sadistic bourgeois.
Now I would like to say that the UnUnited $nakes of Amerikkka is the aggressor toward Iran. History has shown that the U.$. does not invade unless it can capitalize from the invasion. Iran has a hold on the Strait of Hormuz, where a nice percentage of oil comes through.
Further, nuclear bombs currently held by many countries including: U.$.A. 8,500, France 300, Russia 11,000, China 240, U.K. 225 and the imperialists known as the Zionists 80. It's alright for these countries to possess nukes but not Iran. President Obama stated in his State of the Union address, "let there be no doubt, Amerikkka is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal." Rick Santorum in his foreign policy statement said, "first and foremost publicly embrace the opposition and call for regime change." Who's really the threat? Hasta la victoria siempre!
MIM(Prisons) responds: We urge all comrades behind bars to let us know your release date and work with us towards a practical plan for staying active after release. As this prisoner points out, there are many important reasons to continue the fight on the streets, but desire is not enough to ensure your success. It will take hard work and planning, along with a strong dedication, to stay political once you get out of prison. Work with us to put together a release plan when your date is getting close.
There are two specific challenges we face with our comrades who get out of prison and want to stay politically active. First, the difficulties of balancing work, school, politics and general home life. Second, the overlap between friendship and politics. It is important that we address these challenges to help our comrades follow through on their pledges to serve the people after gaining their freedom.
So far we have been less than successful in this regard, and many comrades fall out of touch with us, only to re-emerge when they are locked back up months or years later. In a country with such a relatively low number of active, committed anti-imperialists, losing these comrades to the streets is a significant blow to our work. As we expand our Re-Lease on Life Program, we are working to address specific challenges with life on the streets in the belly of the beast.
Meeting Your Basic Needs
There are few resources for released prisoners, and without family or friends to provide support it's very difficult to find housing, get a job and provide for basic necessities. There are few studies of homelessness among released prisoners, but those that we've found suggest that at least 10% of parolees end up on the streets without housing after release.(1) The numbers are probably higher; sleeping on a friend's couch is not a long term solution but it won't get you counted as homeless in these studies.
Unfortunately MIM(Prisons) doesn't currently have the resources to provide much help in the area of basic needs for released prisoners. We do have some resource guides for some states, and we can help you think through the best plan for your circumstances. But our ability to help in this area is limited. The rest of this article focuses on people who are released and are able to meet their basic needs. If you have a release date coming up, let us know so we can help you make a plan for the streets.
Time Management on the Streets
Behind bars life is very regimented, with little room for any decisions about how to organize your day, except when you are locked in your cell. And even there, your options for how to spend your time are very limited. You don't have to keep a schedule because the prison keeps it for you. So one of the problems prisoners face when they hit the street is the vastness of opportunities and choices, and the lack of structure.
Many comrades will want to pursue some education, while also finding a job, and attempting to reconnect with family and friends. This means a lot of choices and opportunities, and structured days are necessary to make them fit together. The demands of family and friends can be especially difficult during the initial months post-release after so long with social interactions closely monitored and limited.
Friends, family, school and work are all institutions that are deeply ingrained in and supported by our culture. There is no support for doing revolutionary organizing. That is why Re-Lease on Life is so important. People have a hard enough time doing the normal things they need to do to get by as former prisoners, especially as felons. If you just go with the flow, you'll find your time just flies by and you don't put in any political work.
To participate in the Re-Lease on Life program you need to make a commitment to political work upon release. But most people will need to keep this commitment minimal at first, so that you can focus on getting established with a plan for meeting your long-term needs as an individual, while keeping a connection to the movement.
It's important to think about the future. If you get government assistance, or have a part-time hustle when you get out, how long can that last you? If you don't have job skills or a college degree you should consider school and look into scholarships. On the other hand, it may be worthwhile to focus initially on just making some money before you consider starting school.
Think about where you want to be in a year or two. If your political work is limited by time now, how can you free up more time in the future? One way is by getting into a career path where your income will grow with your experience. Another consideration when looking for jobs is, how can it support my bigger goals? If you work in food service, you save money by bringing home leftovers. If you work at a copy shop, you get discounts on fliers and literature. Getting a manual labor job might help you meet your physical fitness goals. If you work at a security job you get paid to do your political study, leaving your free time to do outreach work.
Whatever your plan is, you need to start thinking about your time as a budget. You have only so much each week, each day. Determine how much you really need for the necessities in life and then schedule that time.
A week has 168 hours in it. If you sleep 8 hours a night that leaves 112. If you need 2 hours a day to cook, eat and take care of persynal hygiene, you are down to 98 hours. Take at least 5 hours a week to deal with other persynal stuff like finances, cleaning, and organizing. You want to work out at least 4 hours per week, maybe more like 8. Now we have 85 left. If you work full time you've got 45, plus transit time, so make that 40. If you're going to school too, you could probably use up most of that 40. If you have regular appointments with your parole officer, doctor or counselor, that will take a few hours. In your best case scenario you might have 40 hours to spend on socializing, relaxing and doing political work. Realistically, finding 15 to 20 hours a week to do political work with a normal bourgeois life is an ambitious goal that requires discipline and good planning.
Keep in mind that even if you only have 5 hours a week free for political work, that is 5 hours of work getting done in the interests of the oppressed. Any time you can set aside for this work is good. And when you first hit the streets this will be easiest if you can set aside that time on your schedule so that it is always the same day/time. For instance, you could say that Tuesday and Thursday nights you will do political work from 5-8 p.m. Block it off on your calendar and tell your friends you have appointments or classes at those times (see below). Working this into your schedule as a regular thing will make it much easier to maintain your activism. If you give up and stop doing political work, chances are good that you will never take it up again. The revolution can't afford to lose good activists like you, so don't let that happen!
Money is Time
Just as challenging for many former prisoners as managing time is managing money, and the movement needs both. Don't fall into Amerikan consumerism. Imperialism has kept itself going by building a consumerist culture at home to keep capital circulating. What that means is that a typical Amerikan lifestyle involves far more consumption than is necessary (or even healthy). Having your own apartment, your own car, a cell phone plan, and others preparing your food for you are just some obvious examples of things considered to be "necessary" expenses justifying the so-called "high cost of living" in this country. Seek out others who you can share expenses and cost-saving tips with. Extravagant spending is often a social behavior. Many recreational things like cable television, alcohol and cigarettes become habitual expenses. Rest and recreation are important, but try things that are more healthy and cost less, and if you do want to splurge, make it a special reward, not a daily expense.
One of our strengths in this country is that Amerikans get paid extremely high wages. By keeping expenses low, you'll find that you can get by on a part-time job, leaving you with more time to do what is most important to you. Remember, even if you're making minimum wage you are in the top 13% income bracket in the world. Don't use poverty as an excuse, when your wealth and privilege are really what's holding you back from doing political work.
The Persynal vs. The Political
Related to the challenges you will face with managing your time on the streets is the social demands of family and friends. The overlap between friendship and politics is something that most people don't consider. In fact, in this country we are encouraged to think about politics as something we must share with family and friends. But MIM(Prisons) does not agree with that view.
We live in a country where most people have a very strong material interest in the status quo, and so they will oppose anti-imperialist politics. The chances of winning them over to the side of the revolution are very minimal, and there is generally no need to destroy relationships with family and friends in the name of this struggle when there are so many other people out there we can try to recruit. Also, because of security concerns in this country, exposing your politics to family and friends can put you at a real risk, especially if you are on parole. If there's one thing you should have learned being locked up, it's that snitches are everywhere.
There is nothing wrong with having friends who don't share your political convictions, you just need to avoid talking about politics with them or only talk about smaller points of politics, without raising suspicion. This doesn't mean you can't share your political views with friends and family who show that they are likely to be interested and agree, but be careful because once they know your views and the work you do, you can't take it back.
Basics About Security on the Streets
When you are locked up in prison the government has a lot of information about you and knows your every move. So behind bars you can only control your security to the extent that you keep your mouth shut on the yard and don't share information about the political work you are doing with people who might use it against you.
On the streets things are a little different. Although you might have to report in to a parole officer or allow the state to track you in some other way as a term of your release, you have a lot more freedom about what information you do and don't share with people and with the government. You are under no obligation to tell anyone about the political work you do, and in fact you should do your best to keep this private from people you know unless you have a reason to believe that they would be supportive. And of course you want to keep it a mystery from the state. This is NOT because we are doing anything illegal, but rather because the state does not like anti-imperialists and will use this as a reason to find or create an excuse to lock you back up. So don't make this easy for them.
In this issue on release (ULK24), we are featuring United Playaz in San Francisco, California, to give our comrades inside an idea of what some formerly-imprisoned people are doing to contribute to the struggle for peace since they've been out. Many staff members and volunteers with United Playaz (UP) have spent time in the prison system. MIM(Prisons) got the opportunity to interview one such staff-persyn, Rico, who spent 25 years in the California prison system. Rico is a former-gangbanger-turned-peace-advocate; a lifestyle change that many readers of Under Lock & Key can relate to.
United Playaz provides services to youth, including after-school programs and tours inside prisons, in an attempt to pull them out of the school-to-prison pipeline and (the potential for) violent activity, helping them refocus on their education. UP's mission statement reads,
United Playaz is a violence prevention and youth leadership organization that works with San Francisco's hardest to reach youth through case management, street outreach, in-school services, recreational activities at community centers, and support to incarcerated youth. United Playaz is committed to improving the lives of young people surviving in vulnerable environments, [who] show high incidence of truancy and low academic performance, or have been involved in the juvenile justice system through direct service and community collaboration. United Playaz believes that "it takes the hood to save the hood".
Rico explains how he first got involved with United Playaz,
In 1994 I was incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison. And at the time Rudy [UP's Executive Director] was bringing a bunch of troubled youth and youth that are involved in the juvenile system and kind of just showed them a glimpse of what's the result of making a bad decision. And that's where I met Rudy. And Rudy saw me work with the kids, and then he found out that I lived in the neighborhood that he was serving the youth and he asked me, "When you get released I want you to check out our program and see if you want to work with United Playaz." So like in 2005 I finally got out after 25 years of incarceration and first I volunteered. And then once there was an opening, a job opening, Rudy hired me as a CRN, a community response network. It's a job that at night we go and do outreach, and drive around the city and just talk to the kids that are hanging out on the street.
MIM(Prisons) asked Rico about the importance of building a United Front for Peace in Prisons, and the challenges faced by such an endeavor.
Back in 1982 we formed a protest while I was in San Quentin. You know, prisoners used to have rights. We had the rights to see our family when they come see us. We had the right to get an education. We had a lot of rights. But slowly they took that away and now they have no rights. If you wanna get a visit, you have to work. If you don't work, you don't get a visit.
So anyway the Asian, Latino, the African American, the Caucasian, we all got together and say, "You know what? Let's all sit down. Nobody goes to work, nobody go to school, nothing." And prison really depends on prisoners. Cuz you have jobs there, that requires like maybe $35,000 a year job, they let the prisoner do that job and get paid like $18 a month. So they're saving a lot of money using prisoners to run the prison system, right? So when we sit down, when we shut down, man, they gave us what we want and everything like back to normal and everything smooth.
There's always incident in the pen, like prisoners hurting each other, but that's a good example that when, how do you say - together we stand, divided we fall. So you know if we are united man a lot of violence in here will probably diminish tremendously, right? Cuz the people inside, they'll preach peace out here. And a lot of kids that are doing bad behavior out here, they're influenced by a lot of prisoners inside the pen. But right now there's no peace. There's no peace. ...
Well, there is [organizing for peace and unity inside prisons] but you have to do it on the under because one thing administration, prison administration don't want you to do is to organize and try to bring peace. In prison they want us to be divided. You know what I mean? So there's ways that we can organize but it has to be on the under.
It is ridiculous that prisoners have to discuss how to go about not killing each other in secret, so as to not upset the prison administrators' paychecks! But this is not the only anti-people development to come from the evolution of the criminal injustice system, which is designed solely to protect capitalism and its beloved profit motive. Rico explains some of the consequences of deciding who stays in and who gets out in a capitalist society,
The more you treat a prisoner like an animal, when they come out they act like animal out here. I mean one time I was in segregation unit, in the hole. This guy he was so violent that he can't be out in the mainline, right? Anyway it was time for him to go. So when they let him out, he was handcuffed out the building, across the yard, in a van, right? And they drop him off outside. When they drop him off they just uncuffed him, "You're free." How can we help someone like that, to be out here? If he's so violent inside that he needs to be segregated, how can they let someone out like that? So if he commit a crime out here, that's gonna look bad on a lot of prisoners. And they have more power to say, "See what happens when we release these guys out?"
But there's guys in there that are doing better than I do - that they can do better than what I do out here, and yet they still locked up in the pen, because of politics. There's a lot of em, a lot of em man. I know some of em personally that should have been out you know and giving back. And they can do a lot of contribution out here to bring peace. How can we get those guys out?
Our answer to Rico's question is that the only way to get all those guys out, for good, is to organize for socialism and then communism. Any reforms we make to the prison system as it is now may let some people out, but as long as capitalism exists people will be exploited and oppressed. This leads to resistance, both direct and indirect, and prison is for those who don't play by the rules. In socialism, everyone has a role to play in society and state oppression is only used against those who try to oppress others.
When the economic system changes to value people over profit, prisons will also change. In China under Mao, Allyn and Adele Rickett were two Amerikan spies in China who wrote a book titled "Prisoners of Liberation" about their experience as prisoners of the Communist Party of China. Their experience taught them that when prisoners have completed self-criticism and are ready to contribute to society, they will be released. On the other side, when prisoners are doing harm to society (such as organizing to reinstitute a capitalist economic system) they are not allowed to be released just because their term is up. Instead they are encouraged to study, read, discuss, and do self-criticism until they become productive members of society.
Anyone with a sympathetic bone in their body can tell what was going on in China under Mao is a much more useful mode of imprisonment than what we have at present. The difference between the liberal and MIM(Prisons) is we know the only way to get there is through socialist revolution so that the prison system is in the hands of those currently oppressed by it.
Another present day challenge we discussed with UP was its goal to be financially self-sufficient in the future. Rico explains the current limitations that come with getting state funding,
If it's up to us, we're gonna go hard, and really fight for peace. But because we're fund[ed] by DCYF [San Francisco's Department of Children, Youth, & Their Families], they limit our movement. We can't even participate, or like rally. If there's a Occupy rally right now, we can't go, cuz our organization are prevented from doing things like that. And I think that's important, that we're out there with the rest of the people that are trying to fight for change. Every year we do a Silence the Violence Peace March. That's okay, you know, Martin Luther King, marches like that, we're okay to do that. But when it's like budgets, and crime, and about prison, you know, rally to try to bring those those things down, we can't really participate. ...
What's going on outside the youth can affect them in the future if things don't change. And why wait til those kids get old and take em to expose them to march and fight for your rights? You know I love to take these young adults to a movement like that, cuz that gives em knowledge of life, that there's more than just hanging out on the street. But unfortunately we're not allowed to participate in that kind of movement.
We have learned from history that these limitations aren't unique to UP's financial situation. For the non-profit in the United $tates, similar to "aid" given to Third World countries, capitalists always ensure their money is working in favor of their interests. This is why one of the points of unity of the United Front for Peace in Prisons is "Independence." Money is too easy to come by in this country, while good revolutionaries are too hard to find. Liberation has always been powered by people. So we agree with Rico on the importance for striving for autonomy.
Until then, positive steps can certainly be made within these limitations. There are many levels to our movement and many roles to play in building peace and unity among the lumpen. And without groups like UP reaching the youth on the streets, efforts like the United Front for Peace in Prisons will be too one-sided to succeed.
To close, Rico shares these words with comrades preparing for release,
The only thing I can say is that as long as you're alive there's hope. And if they really want to go home, then do the right thing, regardless. And they gotta stand up for their rights man. And they have to just try to get along with each other and think about peace, because they are needed out here. The experience they have in the pen, they can save a lot of lives out here, with their younger brothers and sisters that look for real guidance from someone who's been there and done that. Good luck, I hope they get out and be out here and help our system change to a better place.
As a "free citizen" you have much greater freedom to organize on the outside compared to in prison, even on probation or parole. Your activism shouldn't end with your prison term!
Helping Prison Activists Stay Active on the Streets
MIM(Prisons) has spent years trying to build the Re-Lease on Life program for prisoners coming back to the streets. Our goal is to help prisoner activists stay politically active when they are no longer incarcerated. An important component of this is helping our comrades to set up stable life situations that won't lead them back to prison. As most of our readers know, this is very challenging, demonstrated by the recidivism rate of 43% within the first 3 years post-release in Amerika.(1)
While in prison, people have a unique opportunity of having much time on their hands to study and engage in political organizing. While prison oppression certainly interferes with daily life, the structure of prison and this same oppression enables and in fact encourages political activism. When prisoners are released they face the difficulties of meeting their basic necessities, and dealing with people in random and complex settings, often after years of isolation. And with discrimination against people with a prison record, things like housing and a job can be very difficult to find. Consumed with day to day life issues, it becomes much more difficult for former prisoners to stay active on the streets.
As hard as those challenges are, the primary barrier to reaching our goal is preparing people mentally to deal with these challenges and prioritize serving the people. Even those with a stable home and support on the streets struggle to stay politically active. They are often pulled back into street life with their LO. Other times, their free time is taken up by friends and family who have an expectation of consuming free time with destructive behavior like alcohol, drugs, or just wasted time watching TV.
Part of MIM(Prisons)'s Re-Lease Program involves reaching out to prisoners well before they are expected to hit the streets, and working with them to build a study program and a release plan. If you hope to stay out of prison and support the struggle after you get released, having a strong political education is a vital piece for staying on track.
It is never too early to start preparing for continued activism outside the walls. We've seen too many solid politically active comrades disappear once they get out and are faced with the realities of getting by on the streets.
MIM(Prisons) has very limited resources and we cannot offer the kind of release support that is needed in the United $tates. Instead, we focus on working with our comrades who are active behind bars and who show a commitment to stay politically active when they hit the streets. This means we want to work with you now, both to satisfy some general study requirements, and put together a release plan that will help ease the transition to the streets. If you want our support, we need yours.
Requirements for participating in MIM(Prisons)'s Re-Lease on Life Program include:
Creating a realistic post-release plan for both practical living needs and political involvement
Participating in required study programs behind bars
Undertaking political work while in prison
Planning for both contact and political work once on the streets
Prisoners who do these things are offered our resources and support to help stay politically active and focused on the streets. Keep in mind that we can't offer housing or a job, but we can provide support, help finding resources, and most importantly a strong tie to maintain political sanity and activism.
We work with our comrades to develop a plan for what sorts of political work can be done after release. On the outside there is a lot more freedom to do political organizing, but it's also harder in some ways. There is no longer all the free time there was in prison, and there is not the same level of political interest among the people on the streets. And we know it's hard to walk away from the temptations or difficulties of street life.
This program needs help to expand. We need people who are expecting release in the next few years to get in touch with us to work on a release plan. And we are collecting stories from our comrades who have been out and back in about the challenges they faced trying to stay politically active on the streets. This will be the focus of an upcoming issue of Under Lock & Key, so send us your submissions soon!
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
Beginning in February 2010 the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections decided to transfer 2000 prisoners out of state due to overcrowding in Pennsylvania prison system. The two states Pennsylvania sent its prisoners to were Michigan and Virginia. I was one of the prisoners they sent to Virginia. We all were just snatched in the middle of the night and transferred out of state. It was almost like being kidnapped, being taken from your family and being sent to a southern prison from a northern prison. Not even having a chance to call your family to let them know about the transfer.
It was said that we would only be transferred for three years, but now all the prisoners transferred to Michigan have been transferred back to Pennsylvania because Pennsylvania now has new prisons and room for its prisoners. My problem with this is that all of the prisoners transferred to Virginia, including myself, are still in Virginia, with no plans for us to be transferred back to Pennsylvania. What about us? Don't we have family in Pennsylvania who love us? Why are we being kept in Virginia, when the other prisoners have been sent back? It's almost like Pennsylvania does not care about us. The Virginia Department of Corrections says there is no plans to move us back to Pennsylvania. And one sad thing is that there was a large number of prisoners who are serving a life sentence who were transferred here to Virginia. I mean men who have been incarcerated for 15, 20 or 30 years just transferred out of state away from their families. It's just not fair.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This is just one of many examples of actions taken by prisons demonstrating that the Amerikan criminal injustice system has nothing to do with rehabilitation. It has been shown that ties to family and community are important to the ability of prisoners to stay on the streets once released, but Pennsylvania (and many other states) are more concerned with the economics of running their prison system than the well being of the prisoners. Prisons are a tool of social control in this country, and we should not be surprised by these callous actions by prison administrators. On a bigger scale, the system of imperialism displaces millions of people all around the world. Comrades isolated by out-of-state transfers should feel unity with refugees and migrants all around the world, who share a common interest in tearing down imperialism and rebuilding their communities. There is strength in numbers, and hope in unity and organizing.
In a May 23, 2011 decision by the United States Supreme Court in Brown v. Plata (2011) 563 U.S., the court held that a population limit of 146,000 prisoners was necessary to remedy unconstitutional medical and mental health conditions in California prisons. Although the Court recognized that there were other factors which contributed to inadequate medical and mental health care, the court nevertheless found that the primary cause of those deficiencies was overcrowding. There are just not enough qualified medical and mental health staff to effectively treat 175,000 prisoners in a system designed to house only 80,000 prisoners. These overcrowded conditions are leading to the spread of many diseases and delaying other medical conditions that are going untreated and resulting in unnecessary pain and death. Overcrowding is also affecting staff's ability to properly treat prisoner's mental health conditions. California prisons have a prison suicide rate 80% higher than the national average. 72% of suicides in California prisons involved some measure of inadequate assessment, treatment, or intervention, and were therefore most probably foreseeable and/or preventable had mental health staff not been overburdened with so many prisoners.
Because there was a concern with the consequences of releasing 46,000 prisoners into the community, the court ordered California to immediately start identifying those prisoners who pose the least risk of reoffending and offer them an expansion of good-time credits towards early release. Based on these concerns, it is most likely that those convicted of violence will not be afforded early release. The Court was concerned with the consequences of a previous Court ordered population cap on Pennsylvania prisons in which, during an 18-month period after their release, police rearrested 9,732 prisoners for committing new crimes. Those new crimes included 79 murders, 90 rapes, 1,113 assaults, 959 robberies, 701 burglaries, 2,748 thefts and thousands of drug related offenses. Based on that prior experience, which the Court did not want to repeat, the Court recommended that besides releasing those most likely not to reoffend, California could find other alternatives like diverting low-risk offenders to community based programs such as drug treatment, day reporting centers, and electronic monitoring, instead of releasing violent prisoners.
The California legislature was already working on such a proposal in Assembly Bill 109 which was recently passed and signed by the Governor. AB-109 includes 640 amendments to various California statutes, not all concerning prisoners. As for those that do address overcrowding, only two are worth noting.
The first is an amendment to California Penal Code (PC) 1170(h) which now allows certain persons sentenced up to 3 years to serve that entire sentence in a county jail. Before, only a sentence of 1 year or less was required to be served in the county jail. Those who will not be required to serve a sentence of 3 years or less in a county jail are: anyone who has a prior or current felony conviction for a serious felony as described in PC 1192.7(c ), a violent felony as described in PC 667.5(c ), anyone required to register as a sex offender, and anyone who received a sentence enhancement pursuant to PC 186.11.
The second change worth noting is the promulgation of "The Postrelease Community Supervision Act of 2011." This Act added sections 3000.09; and 3450 through 3458 to the California Penal Code. The Act states that all those released on and after July 1, 2011 who have not been convicted of a serious felony pursuant to PC 1192.7(c ); a violent felony as described in PC 667.5(c ); sentenced pursuant to PC 667(c )(2); PC 1170.12(c )(2); or any person classified as a High Risk Sex Offender, will no longer be on parole nor under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Instead, those persons not convicted of violent or serious felonies as described above will now be released on what will be known as "Postrelease Supervision" and will fall under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff or Director of the County Correctional department for the County that person is released to.
Those persons who qualify for postrelease supervision will be on this new form of supervision for no longer than three years at which time they will be discharged from all supervision. Those on Postrelease Supervision will not be returned to prison for violations of their postrelease supervision conditions. Instead, they will be subject to a variety of other alternatives which will be known as "Community Based Punishment." Such punishment could include what will be called "Short-Term Flash Incarceration" which means that a technical violation could subject the offender to County Jail time of no more than seven days. Other forms of community-based punishment include: intensive community supervision; additional monetary restitution; work, training, or education in a furlough program; placement in a substance abuse treatment program, community service; random drug testing; or home detention with Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) monitoring.
Those who are released on and after July 1, 2011 and do not qualify for Postrelease supervision because they were convicted of violent or serious felonies as described above will remain under the jurisdiction of the CDCR and will not see any significant change in their parole conditions and parole revocation procedures.
Those who were already paroled prior to July 1, 2011 will remain under the jurisdiction of the CDCR because they were paroled before the new law took effect. Except that those who were not convicted of violent or serious felonies will have a chance to have their parole reviewed so long as they complete six months of continuous parole without any violations. If the person has not violated parole within six months, he or she will be recommended for Postrelease Supervision and subject to Postrelease Supervision as described in PC3450 through 3458. Those persons also paroled prior to July 1, 2001 but were convicted of serious and violent felonies as described above will remain on parole under the jurisdiction of the CDCR because they would not have qualified for Postrelease Supervision even if they had been paroled after the new law took effect.
California has until May 23, 2013 to comply with the release of 46,000 prisoners unless it requests a five year extension. The extension may be granted only if California satisfies necessary and appropriate preconditions designed to ensure that measures are taken to implement the release without delay. Because California has already relieved its prisons of 9,000 prisoners through out-of-state-transfers, it now has 37,000 more prisoners to address. After the United States Supreme Court had finished hearing oral arguments and was getting ready to issue its decision, California informed the Court that it was working on AB-109. California did not give the Court a specific number of prisoners that would be affected by AB-109. California only said that "thousands" would qualify under AB-109 to serve 3-years or less in a county jail and be released on Postrelease Supervision. California will eventually have to give a specific number of persons who will not end up in prison as a result of AB-109. Once California gives a specific number of persons affected by AB-109, it will then have to introduce more legislation in order to release more prisoners or prevent them from coming to prison. As of right now, no prisoner has been released, they have just been transferred to another state or prevented from ending up in prison.
This is just a brief outline of what has recently taken place to address overcrowding in California. It is up to those of you who might be affected to do your own research into the information provided above. Because of space limitations, not every detail of the Court's order or Assembly Bill 109 could be described in detail. So if you did not qualify under AB-109, you might qualify for release under another change in the law in the near future. If you will not qualify for early release in the future, you should at least see some improvement in medical and mental health care which was the whole purpose of the population cap in the first place. So everyone should be affected one way or another. Good luck with your struggles.
MIM(Prisons) comments: This is a good overview of the new court ruling about health care and overcrowding in California prisons. While we hope that the net effect of this ruling is the release of some prisoners and prevention of locking up others, we're not optimistic that this will lead to any substantive changes. We have seen court rulings in the past about prison conditions, and as the pages of Under Lock and Key have documented, the Criminal Injustice System is very creative about worming their way out of restrictions to find new ways to oppress. The size of the California prison population represents job security and high wages for staff, and they will not give this up without a fight. It is a condemnation of the imperialist system that it enables people to profit off the torture and destruction of humyns. Only by ending imperialism overall will we be able to truly change the criminal injustice system. Until that time, we hope our comrades behind bars will find creative ways to use this court ruling to their advantage.
On May 23, 2011, the U$ Supreme Court announced its decision issuing an order to the California government to release 48,000 prisoners from various California prisons. The Supreme Court's decision came after a long time demand to alleviate the prison crisis in the state of California. Many in CA maintain that the prisons there are overcrowded, also that taxpayers cannot afford the high cost of housing that many prisoners.
The Supreme Court did not allude to the multiple class action lawsuits, in CA and across the country, the prisoners, their families, and public filed in the Supreme Court as well as in federal courts across the USA, regarding wrongful imprisonments, political imprisonment to activists and whistle-blowers-on-corruption, and regarding over-sentencing on petty charges! In other words, the Supreme Court ignored the urgent need for judicial reform, to fight corruption in the judicial system, and law enforcement reform, to weed out corruption in the police force(s), across the USA.
The decision came about by votes: 5 justices in favor to 4 justices opposed, really as a convenience as CA ran out of money, and the feds too, with a national debt hitting the ceiling of $14.3 trillion! It wasn't to alleviate oppression and free the falsely imprisoned. In fact, neither CA judges nor the US-supreme Court's judges want to admit that there is anyone who is falsely imprisoned, due to retaliations, due to whistle blowing on corruption, or due to a 'trivial' reason. No one among judges, attorneys, or the media ever talks about corruption behind the prison crisis, anywhere across the USA! Judges and the media, across the board, pretend that the system is perfect; they presume that all the judges in the USA and the police officers are completely honest, upright, and perfect!
The US-Supreme Court did not respond to my/our class action lawsuit regarding Bill Richardson (former governor of NM) and his scheme with Joe Williams/GEO to establish the prison industry in NM and demonize the generations to perpetuate his scheme of profiting from prisons, along with GEO! The US Supreme Court did not respond to a more than 50 class action lawsuits, from all across the USA, with more than 200,000 litigants (prisoners, their families and tax payers) who passionately are asking for a judicial reform and law enforcement reform to weed out corruption, bribery, racketeering extortion(s), persecution of minorities, and the treasonous acts of false imprisonments. Instead, the SC acted on its own and announced its decision, to release the 48,000, without any detail as to who are those, who are qualified for the release.(see article on how population reduction is taking place)
For example, in our Class Action lawsuit, Public of the State of New Mexico vs. Bill Richardson, Joe Williams et al, we made it clear to justice John Roberts that our primary interest in the lawsuit is to indict and convict Bill Richardson for his multi-scheme of pay-to-play, or bribery, which includes the prison scheme with Joe Williams/GEO. Judge John Roberts didn't respond even though more than 100,000 litigants from NM passionately asked for the indictment and conviction of Bill Richardson due to his treasonous acts against public of the state of NM, and public of the USA in general. J. Roberts, as we believe, did not want to face any embarrassment before President Obama is shielding and protecting Bill Richardson, for some reason. So it is all about politics, not justice.
Our primary goal, also, in the above referenced class action lawsuit, is to release all the wrongfully imprisoned across the USA, in the following 3 categories: A. We are asking for releasing all the innocents/falsely imprisoned, first (there are hundreds and thousands of them, across the USA, despite the judges' denial of existence of such category of prisoners). B. We are asking for releasing all the political prisoners, who were imprisoned as a retaliation because they blew the whistle on corruption. C. We are asking for releasing all the prisoners whose charges are benign/trivial, then the non-violent offenders.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This prisoner calls out a good point, that the imperialist courts do not call for release of prisoners to address legitimate grievances, but only when finances make it impossible to hold more. However, we go much further than to call for release of prisoners in the three categories described above. We see that all prisoners in the Amerikan criminal injustice system are political prisoners. The entire system from the police to the courts to the prisons is political. And we need to put an end to the overall injustice, not just release a few prisoners.
Cartoons aren't real. But in the mind of the public, that's what prison inmates have become; a not-quite-real depiction, a 'Freddie' or 'Nightmare on Elm Street,' or 'Chuckie' the evil, knife wielding doll from a similar themed movie. We are quite simply, 'The Boogie Man' to much of the public.
The news media has lifted this image of us in total, from the drawing pad of the prosecution and police spokesmen who have a budget funding interest in heightening the public's fear of prisoners. They traffic in fear for profit just as surely as any drug dealer traffics in narcotics.
As a group, prisoners are shunned and isolated from society, which serves to keep us unheard, unseen and sufficiently distant to mask the inconvenient truth of our humanity. Unsatisfied with our present excessive sentences and hopeless parole hearings, the state, through the ever-solicitous news media, paints a picture of prisoners as cartoon cut-outs of a somnolent evil, awaiting an 'early' release (which is in their eyes, any release this side of death). Then to swoop down and fall on society, like the mongolian hoards of Attila or the evil flying monkeys from 'The Wizard of OZ.'
The gang member, the mentally ill, and the drug dealer are each depicted as heinous, the sex-offender has the honor and burden of being designated the premier 'hated minority.' Some of our fellow prisoners believe, mistakenly, that the legal excesses directed at the sex-offender, will drain off the venom and hatred of the fear-driven stampede headed our way. It will not. Emboldened by their success against sex-offenders, they see no reason not to widen the scope of their offensive against liberty and justice, to 'cast a wider net.' And as they do so, we are unable to counter this wider application of law or restriction because with the unchallenged perversion of justice burdening the sex-offender there is legal precedent for us to be yoked together and like-wise bear an excessive penalty and burden. In the end we are all equally heinous in the eyes of the law.
Once started, this treatment of people as less-than-human, progresses inexorably, ever-widening, all-encompassing and proud of its own inhumanity. First the sex-offenders, then gang-members, then felons of every type, then misdemeanants, inflators, infractors, smokers and skateboarders, the 'disapproved', will each in turn, become one of 'those' who don't deserve justice. We've seen this before. Pick any pogrom, massacre, ethnic cleansing, relocation or concentration camp in history and you'll find that it's genesis was right here in the same denial of humanity and justice.
We are nearing the end of 2010 and the progression of anti-human, anti-liberty and anti-justice continues unabated. Here in the Fresno, California area, the young father, who put a thumb-nail sized tattoo on his son's side was sentenced to eight years in prison, pleading guilty to a child abuse charge to avoid a life in prison sentence. And just in time! A new law just passed in California, called 'Adams' Law', reflecting the shameful practice of naming unjust and legally dubious laws after children who have suffered death or abuse. What kind of memorial for a child is it, when the state commits injustice in their name?
January 2011 will be a legislature year in Texas. A petition has been put on the internet to ask our state leaders to reform the Texas parole board system, a tyranny agency ruining thousands of lives, in prison and in our own society. For some years now, since the mysterious death of David Ruiz (a Brown brother who achieved federal action to demand prison reform in Texas) we continue to raise awareness of the new and old injustices of the "justice" system as it pertains to parole.
Texas prisoners are not granted parole, even though they have done everything possible to be eligible for parole as required by their Inmate Treatment Plan (ITP). When the judge, the lawyers for both sides, and the offender all agree to a sentence, why does the parole board have the right to deny the parole because they decide the prisoner hasn't served enough time? Doesn't make sense or seem fair, does it? Prisoners have a time calculated date which is the parole eligibility date and those having met their ITP requirements should automatically make parole on that date. As the system works now, prisoners can not know whether they can exercise their special review rights, effectively ask for a review, or even know why or if they have been turned down, because they do not have access to their files. It is impossible for anyone to know if they have been falsely or wrongly accused of a transgression while incarcerated. If information has been erroneously placed in the file that may actually belong to another prisoner, or if their parole is being thwarted by a campaign by others they won't know. They can not know if rules have been violated or if evidences that would prove their worthiness for the privilege of parole is actually in their file.
Good time is currently not calculated or used to achieve parole or financial compensation for prisoner labor. At present it is awarded but discounted as part of the parole process (ignored and not honored), meaning modern day slavery is going on. The system currently continues to vindictively punish even the "ideal" prisoners who have been rehabilitated (which supposedly is the goal of the incarceration) making them wonder why they keep trying and causing them to lose all capacity for hope as the promised parole is disregarded and becomes one setback after another. In addition it callously wrecks the lives of families and children of prisoners who suffer needlessly while trying to find some reason for the parole board's coldness and tyrannical practices acting above the laws of the land.
Taxpayers are being robbed of funds by the corrupt parole practices. Prisoners in Texas seem to be the exception to the 13th amendment of the U$ constitution abolishing slavery as a large amount of capital is raised by the prison work generated by the incarcerated people now in prison. However, in the united states of america we should not allow slavery for state and corporate profit. It is criminal in itself to keep prisoners incarcerated for financial benefit by enslaving inmates past their parole eligibility date when they prove that they have gotten rehabilitated and qualify for parole release.
If you want to help change these parole injustices, please have your families and friends go to the following website and sign the petition: www.petitiononline.com/tcb123/petition.html Also please have them write each one of their representatives.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this prisoner that the parole system in Texas, and throughout the criminal injustice system in the U$, does not work, not even by the laws of this illegal government. We find the demands in the petition agreeable in that they would lead to a general reduction in imprisonment in Texas.
However, disagree with the common misperception that the U$ prison monstrosity is driven by a desire to exploit prison labor. Certainly the workers benefiting from their well paid jobs running the prisons have an interest in denying parole, and the politicians who want the votes of the workers and their families, share this interest. But as we explained in an article on the U.$. prison economy, prison labor can offset some of the costs of imprisonment, but prisons are not profitable. They are a tool of the government that both provide jobs for the mostly oppressor-nation labor aristocracy workers while providing social control of the mostly oppressed nation population that is incarcerated. The U$ prison system is a massive suck on superprofits extracted from the Third World to pay staff and provide basic needs for those imprisoned. This is one of the costs of operation the imperialists are willing to pay, not something they are making money off of. That an industry has developed around this massive project is only a product of this reality that helps tie labor aristocracy interests to the imperialist state.