The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

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[Security] [ULK Issue 57]
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Drug Survey or Pig Questions?

Revolutionary Greetings,

I just recently received ULK 56. To get straight to the point, you asked to help you do a "survey," on the drug culture in the prison we're at. Wow! Are you serious? Really! I know you are aware that 1st, the cops or C/Os read the letters and studies we send to you. Are you asking us to work with the K-9 to inform the administration on that issue? Cause that's what i'm getting from this. I am definitely not going to do that survey. Would you please inform me on why you are asking us to do that?


MIM(Prisons) responds: Another imprisoned comrade wrote to us with a similar concern: "Look I'm all for trying to fix things in the prisons but I'm not with exposing certain things that goes on within the system as far as how certain convicts take care of themselves. No coubt it's prisoners getting drugs in these institutions and how they getting them I won't be the one to expose it, that's snitching at its highest level and people get seriously hurt for things like that. So that article kinda threw me off."

We are asking those questions to investigate a problem that comrades bring up over and over. As Maoists we attempt to apply the method of "from the masses to the masses." The drug survey came about because we have been hearing from comrades across the country that the people around them are consumed by drugs or are more concerned with selling drugs than fighting for their own dignity and rights. With that in mind we drafted the series of questions in an attempt to survey the facts on the ground around this problem. Perhaps they are not the most useful questions, and comrades can send us suggestions for improving them. But we were conscious about how we worded them because we knew it could be sensitive to answer certain questions on this topic. We think all the questions can be answered in a general way that does not incriminate anyone, or give out information that is sensitive. From the answers we have received so far we think that’s proven true. We imagine none of the info we’ve received is news to the prison staff.

However, the point both of these writers make is a good one. No one should be filling out that survey with information that the pigs don't have already. And at the very least we should have printed a warning about not giving any information that could get you or anyone else in trouble. We are printing this letter in this issue of Under Lock & Key to both serve as a warning and to remind comrades that we are still interested in this information. We will be summing it up in a future report in ULK. Anyone who feels there is a risk to responding to the survey should not do so.

In addition, we welcome general feedback on the topic, on the survey, or articles on the topic as well. All of this is with the goal of exploring ways to resolve or at least address this contradiction that poses a problem to those organizing for positive change on the inside.


10 July 2017 - CA Prisoner responds: Thank you for your most diplomatic and well-received response about my concerns about the drug survey. Granted there is a problem with drugs in prison. Some institutions more than others. Where i'm at, here in SATF, Corcoran, CA, the administration recently installed an x-ray machine in visiting to curtail the introduction of drugs coming in. It worked. Drugs here are practically non-existent. Works for them and people who have a substance abuse problem. Not so much for the people who are, or were rather, trying to feed themselves and their families. This facility is a substance abuse "treatment" facility. I'm sure the federal government gives them extra funding for that title alone. Thank you for clarifying why you are doing the survey on drugs in prison. ... My sincerest apologies if I was "over the top" with my critique, although I know you do understand my concerns.

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[Release] [Security]
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Resist Anarchist Tendencies: Stay Disciplined on the Streets

Yes, I'm a hypocrite. I castigate the anarchists for busting out Starbucks windows or torching the Governor's mansion without achieving any political gains or advantage; yet here I am doing 4 years for assaulting a pig, trying to bring a little Ferguson to Austin.

Subjective? How 'bout plain idiocy. I was not disciplined and had been losing my self-discipline for years. My present imprisonment caused my then 13-year-old granddaughter to ask how her grandpa could possibly be locked away in prison. I explained to her the contradictions between visceral and cerebral actions. In effect, I had to admit to my adoring granddaughter that grandpa was an ass at the time of my arrest.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We thank this comrade for eir self-criticism and willingness to share this mistake for others to learn from. We all face a constant struggle to navigate between right and left errors. This is a particularly tough challenge in the First World where we cannot ground ourselves in the proletarian majority to stay orientated. The above is an example of a left error; more specifically a left subjectivist error. Some ultra-leftism is based on a belief that armed struggle now is the best way to spark the revolution. While this comrade did not believe that, still ey gave in to subjective desires for action. We'd say eir action was actually worse than the real anarchists who have a line closer to the former.

Left errors are more dangerous in terms of getting put in prison or hurt. Then you can live the rest of your life in prison or on disability with your street cred for what you did that one time. Right errors are a less respectable way of giving in, in the eyes of most. But both are a form of giving up, particularly when driven by subjectivism.

Without a proletariat base we must seek out a source of grounding to avoid these tendencies. Reading and study is one great way to do this. Having comrades who you work with who can keep you in check is another way. This is one reason one-persyn cells are not ideal. If you do find yourself isolated in your location, try to stay in touch with an organization you trust through regular communications. It is also possible to find pockets of society where there is a revolutionary, or at least progressive current that can keep you motivated. Finally, music, culture, meditation and other leisure time activities can help you stay focused and orientated.

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[Security]
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Building Independent Institutions for Peoples' Safety

While we are organizing for revolutionary change under imperialism it is important that we build independent institutions of the oppressed. These are institutions that do not have ties to the power structure that we are fighting to dismantle. For instance, Under Lock & Key is an independent institution serving prisoners. It gives us the freedom to write the truth about the criminal injustice system and imperialism more broadly without worrying about the interests of our owners and advertisers, which is a problem for those writing for mainstream newspapers. Another good example was the Black Panther Party's free breakfast programs for schoolchildren program, which provided much needed food and political education, nourishing both body and mind. These independent programs often fall in the category of what we call Serve the People programs. The breakfast for schoolchildren is a good example of providing something that the people need, thus serving the people.

A group called Better Angels is working on an independent project that uniquely serves the peoples' need for security and safety from the police. This project, Buoy, is a tool to help people "call a friend, not the cops," when in need of help. This free software, which Better Angels is calling a "community-driven emergency dispatch system" will allow people to connect a network of people, within a smartphone app, who will be alerted when anyone in the network is in danger. The app includes a map so that the person in danger can be quickly located.

We see some very good applications for this tool: activists who are engaging in protest and who are threatened by the police may want to quickly locate all of their comrades and ensure no one is arrested or hurt. This tool includes the ability to set a timed alert, which will only notify a persyn's network if they do not cancel the alert. For instance, if you are entering a dangerous situation in the next 10 minutes you could set this alert and then if nothing bad happens and you cancel it within 10 minutes there is no notification sent out. But if you can not access your phone before the ten minutes are up the alert will be sent to your network.

This sort of network alert system gives people a good alternative to calling the cops, who are often a source of danger themselves. But we do have some security concerns about the project. Better Angels is encouraging organizations to set up Buoy networks and this means providing intelligence agents with easy access to information about these networks. This is not a concern for those groups that are using Buoy for persynal safety such as domestic violence organizations, campus safety groups, etc. But for activists, migrants, former prisoners and others, networking with larger organizations through Buoy could significantly increase the risk to the entire group as police catch on and monitor the whereabouts of everyone in a network, using alerts to notify themselves of potential situations of interest.

We'd recommend Buoy for people to use instead of the cops within their persynal networks. For instance, Buoy is a good tool if you are regularly harassed by the cops and want to set up an alert for support and witnesses when this happens. Or if you are crossing a border and risk being targeted by agents. Or if you are in a situation of persynal danger unrelated to the cops or government. But in all of these cases we think people will need to set up networks that are not directly linked to a political organization that is the target of government interest. And everyone should keep in mind that if they are doing political work against the government, their smart phones are likely monitored. And so any alerts sent to friends are also going to the cops.

It is difficult to set up independent institutions serving the oppressed and we commend Better Angels for its work. The Buoy project raises the very real need for an alternative to police intervention when people are in danger. Unfortunately the security problems with announcing this risk to the government via smartphone technology will limit the usefulness of this tool for activists.

We hope this project inspires others to think creatively about how revolutionaries can set up independent institutions of the oppressed, serving needs and also providing political education about these needs. Building these institutions is a key part of building the revolutionary movement.

Note:
For more information: https://betterangels.github.io/buoy/
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[Security] [Education] [ULK Issue 49]
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Shun TV, Be Humble, and Check Security

Study Maintain

Knowledge is the higher power. Thru dedication, struggle, sacrifice, knowledge and revolution we will put Aztlán along with the rest of the oppressed back in power. Don't let TV and the bullshit ass propaganda dictate what you can and can't do, much less a bunch of sheep heads with a stitched up patch that suppose to mean "authority say so." Also to my elders out in the so-called free world and the ones coming out them SHU dungeons after years and decades of oppression, my message is this: Avoid calling the youth "little homies" as in diminishing their status comrade!! Instead if you are so "big," I'm assuming in mind, por favor embrace the youth and teach em to teach, teach em to understand, teach em to resist, teach em to organize. Put a mirror in front of em and give em a soul. Cuz 80% of the population are zombied out. We all put in work the same, but you that are looked upon as elder and leader, especially from out the dungeon, have a stage and a mic. Remember a true revolutionary is not categorized by age, looks, material items or what one did a thousand years ago, but by what one is doing now and is willing to do for the causa.

Anyone can sit on a bunk and zombie out at the stupid box (TV) for all your life. That my friend is not a revolutionary individual, an Oh Gee or whatever you want to call it. The youth is our future. Embrace and teach. Oh, one more thing, don't get caught up on the goodies. The pigs love to see that shit. I wonder why?

Also, there's this hardcore book that just came out: [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán. Man, everybody needs to read it. Go on and put that paypal you was gonna spend on hold and order this book. And don't forget to also slide a donation to MIM to help out with the books and material that MIM provides to the less fortunate. Think of it as the prison kitty we have here in the yards and write in!!

Enclosed is a bit of stamps as a donation, and I've been recruiting. I hope they'll pitch in as well.

p.s. For those going to board, know that the swine is conducting a facebook background check, trying to catch mofos on the web. Incognito fellas, it can result in a denial of parole.

MIM(Prisons) adds: A few good tips from our comrade here who is putting eir money where eir mouth is. While we do not promote an idealized revolutionary lifestyle, we do think that people can often underestimate the effect that watching TV has on people and their health. And if that is what you are doing with all your time you really aren't living life.

MIM has long been cutting edge in terms of promoting good security practices and technologies. And a while ago we realized that even prisoners need to be conscious about security in relation to computers and cell phones as we wrote about in Under Lock & Key 31. Finally, if prisoners want to get [email protected] Power, it is available for the discounted rate of $10 from MIM Distributors or for work exchange from our Free Books for Prisoners program.

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[Security] [United Front]
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Know Thy Enemy

With the growing calls and efforts to establish tangible peace and understanding amongst the litany of disparate "Lumpenos" that inhabit and coexist inside the many ghettos and over-bloated prison camps of the United $tates, and who suffer the same systematic cycles of inherent and inherited poverty, inequality, and oppression, the following is a poignant example of how no one wins but our common enemy when we allow what divides us to take precedent over what should unite us. As history has taught us, Uncle $am and his reactionary cronies will never miss an opportunity to capitalize, exploit and instigate misunderstandings and hostilities amidst the oppressed classes.

"The FBI capitalized on these recurrent tensions [between the Black Panther Party (BPP) in Chicago and the Blackstone Rangers] by sending Jeff Fort [the leader of the Blackstone Rangers] another anonymous letter. This time the bureau made the letter look as if it had come from a concerned citizen with official ties to neither group. [FBI Director] J. Edgar Hoover approved the following letter on January 30, 1969:

'Brother Jeff,
'I've spent some time with some Panther friends on the west side lately and I know what's been going on. The brothers that run the Panthers blame you for blocking their thing and there's supposed to be a hit out for you. I'm not a Panther or a Ranger, just black. From what I see them Panthers are out for themselves not black people. I think you ought to know what they're up to. I know what I would do if I was you. You might hear from me again.
'(sgd.) a black brother you don't know.'

The Chicago office explained that the purpose of the letter was 'to intensify the degree of animosity between the two groups' in the hopes that Fort retaliated against the BPP leadership."(1)

The degree of the system's stratagems against the oppressed class can be gauged and better understood by the following FBI memo written by the Sergeant in Charge of San Diego, bragging to FBI Director Hoover about the detrimental effects accomplished with the COINTELPRO scheme:


"Excerpt from an August 20, 1969 report summarizing the 'accomplishments' and plans for the BPP/US COINTELPRO in San Diego:
'Shootings, beatings, and high degree of unrest continues to prevail in the ghetto area of southeast San Diego. Although no specific counterintelligent action can be credited with contributing to this over-all situation, it is felt that a substantial amount of the unrest is directly attributable to this program.'"(2)

I hope that all of the above will help to enlighten the "Lumpenos" to the devious and dangerous nature of this beast, and to provoke conscious and productive thought and dialogue across racial, geographical, and ideological lines. What unites us is greater than what divides us, and the only winners of our ignorant misdirected hostilities is the beast. It devours us all.

Notes:
1. Curtis J. Austin, Up Against the Wall: Violence in the Making and Unmaking of the Black Panther Party, University of Arkansas Press, 2006, p. 205.
2. Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall, The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI's Secret Wars Against Dissent in the United States, Boston: South End Press, 1990, p. 133.


MIM(Prisons) adds: These historical documents are a very good reminder of the importance of the United Front for Peace in Prisons principle of unity. We need the oppressed to come together to fight our common enemy. The imperialists have far more resources, and an extensive spy and disruption network in place. At this stage in our work, when we are significantly weaker than the imperialists, we must counter their disruption with good security, and by refusing to help them foment fighting amongst the lumpen. Don't judge people based on labels, rumors or second-hand information; judge based on actions. All who are on the side of the people will show this by putting in good work in the anti-imperialist struggle.

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[Security] [Ross Correctional Institution] [Ohio]
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Tactics of the Watchdogs

On the morning of 30 March 2015 I was called once again to the security threat group (STG) coordinator's office. When I arrived, there were already five brothers waiting so I asked one of them what was going on. The komrade explained that the STG coordinator was profiling dudes as members of STGs but I thought to myself that I couldn't be there for that because I had already been profiled two times. After almost an hour of wondering what it could be I was finally called into his office.

As I sat down on the opposite side of the watchdog, there was a moment of silence and a menacing glare being aimed at me and I realized that this watchdog would try three tactics to deploy me from my task. He would begin with the "scare tactic" by throwing false accusations as if I've violated some rule, and he would use any of my past history as evidence of why I am in fact guilty of the accusations. He would then apply pressure on me with the "good cop tactic" in order to take me off my defenses by explaining to me how much he understands and how much he hates to profile me but "it is his job and he hopes I understand." Finally he would play his "lets make a deal tactic" by either trying to convince me to turn informant or to compromise the integrity of the people, which to me is just as bad if not worse than the first choice.

Well as soon as I realized this I decided to apply my own tactics to destroy this pig. Because I have a vigorous study habit in my cell, amongst my peers and with the komrades of MIM(Prisons) it's helped me become well informed on not only our history but also with the rules that currently govern me here on this plantation. His first tactic was impossible to implement with my cool, calm and sure demeanor and my basic knowledge of my rights as a prisoner. Even when some of the information was accurate, I would deny, deny, deny! Deny not out of fear but out of strategy, because I believe we are at a point where we must use the clandestine strategies of the Black Liberation Army to regroup, refashion and re-establish ourselves until we are strong enough. But until then we must vigilantly study and organize.

As the watchdog tried to perform his "good cop tactic" I informed him that his reasoning for pursuing to profile me for the third time within seven months was clearly a violation of my First Amendment rights and is of course retribution for my political activity. Once I made it clear I recognized the constant profiling as a means to intimidate me into submission he was stunned; what a dumb pig! Stand your ground and do not accept any of their undercover allegations or remarks, komrade, and if you do not feel comfortable enough to slay the pig verbally then don't say anything. You are not obligated to say anything but "no!"

The watchdog's last and only tactic left was to persuade me to "make a deal." The watchdog claimed that there was a file on me that held information about how many times I had received mail from the Black Panther Party, and because they had just confiscated more through my incoming mail, he had to profile me as a "Black supremacist"!

He may have thought he was dealing with "just another nigga" but I cut so deep into this pig, I swear he squealed! I explained to him that although I am not a Panther (deny) I am well aware that they were indeed not racist. I explained to this dumb pig that the Panthers do not fight racism with racism, they fight racism with solidarity and they fought for the freedom, justice and equality of all people. When he saw that I knew this, he offered to label me as a Panther as if that would make things better. I let him know it would not be better until I'm off the STG list totally because by this being their third time profiling me (August 2014 as a Blood and January 2015 as a Five Percenter) they obviously don't have anything concrete proving any affiliation, so their only true intent is to just keep me profiled by any means necessary.

This has become my normal routine for the last year and a half. Although I honor sacrificing and suffering for my people, if we can take actions to prevent these encounters at the moment, we should do so. The smallest tactics we use will make the biggest differences in our struggle for liberation, such as receiving material from MIM(Prisons) or any other material in someone else's name; specifically if your mail is red flagged like mine. Write the dates of your outgoing/incoming mail, and any incidents or run-ins you may have or witness with the pigs, and never keep all the reading material you and your komrades use in only your possession. Keep it in other brother's cell not only so they can absorb the knowledge but also in case you become a target and the watchdogs confiscate your things. I hope my experiences will be a beacon of light for those seeking strategies for their plantation. Until our liberation, the struggle continues.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer makes a good point about the importance of tactics that will make it possible for us to evade censorship and set ourselves up for success within the very repressive environment of prison. It is very important that we pay close attention to security, and all comrades can take a stand against profiling and validation as members of any organization, whether or not you have some involvement with that group. Validation and profiling are tactics of the prison to target and isolate activist prisoners. This is just one more piece to the criminal injustice system's social control of oppressed nations. Follow this comrade's example and work out your own tactics for fighting back.

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[National Oppression] [Security]
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Southern Poverty Law Center Misses Point on National Oppression

Southern Poverty Law Center logo
I have been engaged in halting some rather disturbing developments with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The SPLC would like to consider themselves the penultimate authority on "hate groups." Their reputation has come into question numerous times — most recently by branding African and communist/Maoist philosophical revolutionary organizations "hate groups."

In 2014, former professor of sociology at Portland State University, Randall Evan Blazak, and current professor of sociology at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, Pete Simi, went to the SPLC headquarters in Montgomery, Alabama. They travelled there to meet with SPLC pundit and media hound Mark Potok, at a meeting that included a few other academics and freelance investigative reporter Bill Morlin.

The SPLC wants to use universities and academics to "study, research and report" on activities of "hate groups" under the direction of the SPLC without using or even mentioning that the SPLC is involved. Mark Potok openly stated that when groups or individuals find out the SPLC is involved, they "quit talking" and "coverup". The SPLC is doing whatever it can to obtain information on the people's revolutionary organizations. Evidently they now look at these organizations as one of the main sources of racial terror.

Beware of any academic "studies" or research organizations attempting to contact anyone under academic auspices. They amount to nothing more than spies for the SPLC. Our business is our business — and none of theirs. Back in 2000, I forced then Professor Randall Blazak out of the organization we co-founded named the Oregon Spotlight for turning local anti-racists in to the FBI and SPLC.

All of us, no matter our creed or methods must come together and secure our information. Please alert everyone you are able. The SPLC works closely with all pigs and acts as a clearinghouse of information. As a private organization they are not subject to "Red Scare" laws and can act under the cover of U.$. law.

I am fighting this from prison. I hope others join in. We do not need a "fifth column" amongst our ranks.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We can't speak to the specifics of Blazak or other professors' specific work but in general what this comrade reports is true. First, the FBI lists them right on their website stating, "The FBI has forged partnerships nationally and locally with many civil rights organizations to establish rapport, share information, address concerns, and cooperate in solving problems. These groups include such organizations as the NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, the National Organization for Women, the Human Rights Campaign, and the National Disability Rights Network."(1) Second, the Southern Poverty Law Center has incorporated into its "hate group" work the fight against what they call "Black separatists" and included among the groups they target are the Nation of Islam, the Black Riders Liberation Party and the New Black Panther Party.(2) This approach to identifying racism by pretending to be color blind makes clear the failings of the concept of race. It is national oppression that underlies the system of one nation dominating another that is inherent to imperialism. Racism is the ideology that arises from national oppression to identify certain groups of people as inferior based on supposed biological differences. When an oppressed nation fights back against this system they do not have the power to oppress other nations, and so calling them out for "racism" or "reverse racism" is missing the importance of power in oppression. By taking on the task of identifying racism among the oppressed the SPLC are focusing their battle on the people instead of focusing on the oppressor. This objectively hinders the struggle of the oppressed and aids the imperialists.

Within the people's movement we should always be vigilant in pointing out incorrect political line and practicing criticism and self-criticism, but we should not make broad declarations equating the oppressed people's organizations fight against national oppression with the racism of the oppressor nation fascist groups.

Finally, we want to echo this comrade's words of caution for interacting with academics, and include any media or any unknown people for that matter. We should engage with others on our terms and not open our doors to open-ended research, interviews and investigations.

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[Organizing] [Security] [California]
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SNY Warrior Down for Revolution

I would like to comment on an article titled United in California that was printed in ULK40. I am also housed on a Special Needs Yard (SNY), and it wasn't until I dropped out of the street gang that I was able to develop the spirit of resistance on revolutionary principles. The general population deems everybody a snitch on these yards, however, that is not always the case. I simply made the choice to walk away and no longer participate. I am housed around prisoners with some shady history but not everybody here falls in that category.

As a Chicano I work to help men on the yard get sober and educate themselves, and to go back to their communities and discourage their family and friends from joining gangs or selling/using drugs. It wasn't until I started down this path that I realized the true meaning of the term Chicano. It does not mean Mexican-American as the Webster's dictionary defines. It's a political term used to redefine one's perspective historically, economically, politically, and most importantly responsibility. A responsibility to the people!

I come from a place that produces warriors, so I don't play into the finger pointing that the system uses to divide us as a people - general population vs. sensitive needs.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We stand with this comrade in the debate over whether SNY prisoners can be trusted as revolutionary activists. We judge individuals by the work they do and the political line they put forward. We know there are a lot of people in SNY who have snitched. But we also know there are plenty of people in GP who can't be trusted. We don't let the pigs define who we trust by their housing categories, instead we hold all people to the same standards and require everyone to demonstrate their trustworthiness in practice.

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[Security] [Organizing] [California]
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Unity with SNY Threatens Credibility

This is a comment on the United in California article from ULK40. It is crucial MIM(Prisons) recognizes SNYs work or have worked with the prison administration against other prisoners. While as Maoists we know no oppression is overcome until all oppression is overcome, we can't possibly ask anyone affected by their actions to turn around and work with them. Would Mao have worked with Deng Xiaoping? I don't know Saif [the author] but the idea that there are "some good strong comrades" on SNY is not a convincing argument to administer against the overwhelming evidence of SNYs helping pigs at every opportunity. Even if it's by his exposing himself as a "leader." You're a man not a "leaf" if you can't hold on to the branch and fall, I can accept that, but we'll keep climbing without you.

While I don't promote violence against SNYs and in fact wish them well in any anti-imperialist work. I would strongly advise anyone against incorporating any SNY inmate into any work that may lead to repression from any government entity.

SNYs should keep using MIM(Prisons) as a guide in their work. But in promoting unification of SNY and "mainline" convicts in general terms MIM(prisons) blurs a crucial line. SNYs can challenge their SNY status administratively. I am a General Population inmate. Do you have "sensitive needs?" I don't. I can be housed around anyone, accept people who don't want to be around me, i.e. people with "sensitive needs."

Being scientific in our assessments of individuals involves being honest. SNYs work to reinforce the stigma that all GP convicts are inherently violent by allowing the administration to use them to say "if this inmate is housed on a GP line it may jeopardize institutional security." This stigma in turn imposes harsher restrictions on GP inmates and SNY inmates reap the benefits of the distinction....jobs, rehab programs, vocation, education, conjugal visits, etc. are given priority on SNYs, especially on the level IV yards.

MIM(Prisons) should analyze the SNY/mainline distinction in the same manner as oppressed nations within the U.$. It is my personal assessment that SNYs chose to work with the administration against other prisoners. They get to the SN Yards and realize that "no, the administration is not your friend" and then want to whine about it. Their issues are distinct from ours and while there are issues with the administration that are shared on both sides, I would not risk my standing with other GP prisoners by helping someone who is likely to have hurt them.

SNY/GP unity is not possible. The promotion of this idea undermines MIM(Prisons) credibility on GP yards. UFPP doesn't rely on this theory because SNYs chose to not be housed with us. So theoretically they can continue to uphold the principals on those yards, while we do ours.


MIM(Prisons) responds: For those new to ULK, we have explained our line on SNY in the movement in more depth elsewhere. We completely understand the reactions that many have to our position on working with those in SNY after the torture that so many people in California have gone through at the hands of the state prison system, with the complicity of many who went to SNY. Yet, practice seems to be proving our line correct both in terms of the contributions that SNY comrades make to building USW, and the direction that the CA prisons system is going overall. We do not take this question lightly, nor does working with SNY comrades mean we take security lightly. If this issue is important to you, please write to us to get a more extensive discussion of this topic.

The above comrade's contribution to this long-stading debate over the role of SNY status in the pages of Under Lock & Key is a unique perspective because unlike most anti-SNY writers, s/he advocates that SNY prisoners can do good anti-imperialist work, as long as they do it separately. The argument that SNY prisoners cannot be trusted or united with is based in the idea that all SNY prisoners have debriefed and sold out comrades on GP. But we know that debriefing is not required to get SNY status. This writer is correct that the administration plays SNY against GP, but we can't let them dictate who we work with. We must make that decision ourselves based on each individual's work and political line.

The author asks if Mao would have worked with Deng Xiaoping, as an example of working with enemies. And Mao already answered this question: yes. Deng was kicked out of the Communist Party of China and readmitted under Mao's watch. Communist China's prison system was focused on re-education, not punishment and ostracization. People who betrayed the revolution or took actions that harmed others were locked up to study and learn from their mistakes. This is a revolutionary model that we should emulate, even while we don't hold power.

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[Civil Liberties] [Gang Validation] [Security] [New York] [ULK Issue 41]
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Beware of Gang Intelligence in New York

In New York what you call "gang validation" is called "gang intelligence" and every prison has at least one sergeant who works on it full time.

Alleged gang members are very often self-identified by foolish displays of colors, flags, and wacky writings found on cell searches. Sadly, many are not real gang members in any substantive sense, but foolish young wannabes who are horribly manipulated by "gang leaders." In New York, and likely everywhere, nearly all "gang leaders" are really collaborators of the worst, most manipulative kind, and they are nearly all rats. It's pretty easy for the "gang intelligence sergeant" to look good when the leader gives him a written membership list! Which doesn't have to be at all accurate, of course.

The biggest gang intelligence tool is the phones — New York State prisons record 100% of phone calls on digital hard drives. Obviously, there are not enough ears to listen to 80,000+ prisoners all the time, so they just sample or review a particular prisoner's calls. Or they may review calls to a certain phone number by multiple different prisoners. And the authorities are very careful. They rarely make direct use of recorded calls to nail minor offenders. I know about the extent of the monitoring because I double-bunked with a guy whose ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend was beaten up very badly. My bunky was questioned harshly and almost charged based on calls going back two years. Another man, who I worked with, a defrocked politician, got six months in the box, when "they" had it in for him, based on year-old recorded conversations.

A technical note: hard drive voice recording costs about 1 cent per hour once the system is set up. Put another way, it would cost more to have someone periodically erase old recordings than it costs them to keep them indefinitely.

From snippets of phone conversations I've overheard while making my own calls, nearly all prisoners are lulled into complacency and extreme carelessness by the authorities letting little transgressions slip by while they wait for the really useful information.

In New York, men identified as gang affiliates go to the most miserable prisons which have the fewest educational and remedial programs (nearly zero). Young, generally terrified, totally uneducated men get no help. I call them "five centers," just empty recyclable cans. Recidivism is good for job security. Just like a hotel or restaurant, prison employees make real money on repeat customers.

Another method is to record the information on the outside of mail. I happen to know Green Haven Correctional Facility was doing that big time (probably related to Muslim prisoners). Authorities look for multiple prisoners written from or writing to the same address. Same game with phone numbers. It's not likely ten guys have the same wife or grandma.

Regarding the petitions advertised on page 12 of Under Lock & Key, please be very careful. Petitions from prisoners are completely illegal in New York. A clear constitutional violation which has, unfortunately, been allowed by every level of New York and federal courts. Please find another word, at least, and please don't encourage more than one signature on any piece of paper, or multiple letters mailed together. Anything considered a petition in New York is a quick bus ride to a six-month box stay.

I do not mention anything in New York out of admiration. It's the worst and sometimes the best because they spend (waste and steal) the most. The real fixes are real pay, real freedom, not the phony kindness of the dictator. The most distressed prisoners must get the most help, not the least. The gangs exist mostly as a tool of domination and manipulation — in the larger view they are created by and for the system, not combated by the prison system. The only usefulness to my mind of somewhat better practices in New York prisons or elsewhere is that New York's practices may temporarily help men's arguments in other states.


MIM(Prisons) responds: There are people out for themselves in all prisons, who will sell out their fellow prisoners to the guards. But we would not categorize all so-called "gang leaders" as collaborators. No doubt some are, but some are working with lumpen organizations that have a genuine interest in the anti-imperialist fight. We need to judge each individual for their own actions and political line. Similarly we judge each organization in the same way.

This comrade correctly points out the many difficulties prisoners face with secure communications and general security of self-preservation. As we've written in the past, secure communications are a critical part of self-defense at this stage in the struggle. Everyone needs to be conscious of the many ways the imperialist state can monitor our work and communications. The Amerikan public knows that all its communications are being monitored now, and prisoners should be under no illusion about theirs.

Along those lines, comrades in New York should take heed of this warning about petitions. At the same time, we should not be scared into complacency. Petitioning the government is a basic right guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, which reads, "the right of the people... to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." So while we should be strategic about using petitions in conditions where they have been used as an excuse for political repression, we must fight these battles for basic civil rights for the imprisoned population in this country. MIM(Prisons) will work with comrades in New York to push this battle further.

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