As you are probably aware, Pelican Bay State Prison(PBSP) prisoners [and thousands of others across the state — editor] have resumed its Hunger Strike, due to the California Department of Corrections' (CDC) stopping negotiations around its validation process and long-term isolation. My actions, and participation in these actions are of great importance to me, not only because it's a just cause but because it exposes the CDC's long standing practices which strip us prisoners of constitutional rights. I am also fighting this in the Northern District Court.
I participated in the July 1st hunger strike, and was one of the 17 prisoners who were tortured via a 13 or 15 hour bus drive to Corcoran. Upon arrival I was given the Corcoran introduction also called the Corcoran welcome during which I was assaulted by 3 prison officers, then paraded around in disregard of my condition (weak from the hunger strike and leg injuries from the assault, which made it difficult for me to walk) until I blacked out. I woke up in the Intensive Care Unit on the 20th day. During my time at Corcoran I was denied all type of CDC forms and my assault injuries were ignored as soon as I mentioned staff assault as the cause. Upon arrival at PBSP I filed two CDC 602s alleging torture and assault, which are still pending.
In my current lawsuit I allege racial discrimination since the gang management targets Hispanic prisoners and validates and segregates them at disproportionate rates in comparison to any other race. I took this angle because most validation appeals are defeated by the courts application of the standard which only requires the "same evidence" to maintain a prisoner on indefinite segregation. In my angle of racial discrimination, a different standard of law will be applied of which will require more scrutiny of the CDC's actions. In order to prevail I need to show the disproportionate segregation of Hispanic prisoners, and as you know we cannot rely on the CDC's numbers. So I'm wondering if you can help in providing me with an actual number of prisoners in the CDC and their race, and then the actual number of prisoners in segregation and their race etc.? So that we can break down the numbers and show it to the courts.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We commend this prisoner for taking multiple approaches to the fight against the injustice system. Legal and organizational battles are both important. While we are not familiar with his lawsuit or the legal requirements around claims of racial segregation, this fits right in with our work to gather accurate statistics on control units in prisons across the country. We will supply the information we have to this prisoner, and we ask others to help with this project by requesting a survey to fill out about their prison and any others they know well.
Today (September 26) about fifteen comrades, so far, in the California Institution for Men in Chino, CA began an indefinite hunger strike and we will not stop until the Pelican Bay SHU demands are met for our comrades!
Push, pull, strive, struggle! Give Ruchell Magee, Hugo Yogi Pinell, and the SHU comrades my love! And long live the Guerrilla!
MIM(Prisons) adds: Other than Pelican Bay and Chino, the Hunger Strike Coalition has reported that prisoners in Calipatria, many of whom are in isolation awaiting space to open up in SHU, will also restart their hunger strike today. People on the outside need to step up the pressure again to support these comrades who are putting their lives on the line for basic rights for all California prisoners.
"The humaneness of a society can be judged by its prisons." - James Doare
On August 23rd, San Francisco Rep Tom Amiano and the Public Safety Committee in the state assembly held an informational hearing on conditions and policies at Pelican Bay - SHU (and we assume the SHUs here at Corcoran and Tehachapi as well). The NCTT Corcoran-SHU wishes to express our support for the people and organizations who have mobilized to lend their voices to this vital human rights initiative which began with our July 1st hunger strike and will not end until the 5 core demands have been appropriately addressed, the fundamental human rights initiative which is acknowledged, and the basic inhumanity of the prison industrial complex's use of sensory deprivation torture units is exposed and abolished.
But why should you care? Why should you care - men are being systematically subjected to psychologically torturous conditions in your name and with your tax dollars? The answer to that question requires you to have certain facts and accept some inconvenient truths. Prison is a socially hostile microcosm of society itself; a concentrated reflection of the contradictions of it's myriad socio-economic and political relationships, composed primarily of the surplus labor segment of the U.S. population. The SHU is a prison within prison, and the ultra-high security isolation units like Pelican Bay SHU's D-short corridor and Corcoran-SHU's 4B1L-C section are CIA style, experimental, psychological torture units.
Following the temporary halt to our peaceful protest on July 20 to give CDCR time to make some meaningful changes in line with our 5 core demands, Scott Kernan's first act was to publish a statement in the Sacramento Bee characterizing us as "violent gang leaders who've committed horrible crimes against the people of California", as though we are not a part of the people. I think it is of vital importance that this, as well as the actual motive force underlying such thinking be addressed.
Over the last 20 years there has been a successful campaign to demonize those convicted of a crime in the U.S., and a degree of social indifference in how they are treated. Through the successful efforts of such lobbies as the California Correctional Penal Officers Association (prison guards union) and it's front groups such as 'Crime Victim United,' and with the assistance of mainstream media programs covering everything from America's Most Wanted to Cops; from Dateline to your local news. The public has been systematically indoctrinated to not merely fear "prisoners," but to effectively dehumanize us as some subspecies of not quite humanity.
Your entertainment programming is 75% crime and punishment content, from the Law & Order franchise to CSI, from Justified to Hawaii 5-O, which not only brings in millions of viewers and sells billions of dollars in products annually via advertising, but divorces the so-called "criminal" from the human condition and casts him/her in the role of perpetual villain in the subconscious mind, deserving neither rights, compassion, or basic humanity. This was not some unconscious effort on the part of your elected officials, public servants, and corporate entities, no, this was a conscious program to dehumanize a specific segment of the U.S. population in order to ensure the speculative profits of the burgeoning - and now well established - prison industrial complex would go unchallenged and unprotected.
The fact is the origin of crime is relatively simplistic: the origin of all crime can be inexorably traced to the disproportionate distribution of wealth, privilege, and opportunity in a society. So what we find here is not a matter of public safety proponents versus criminal fiends or "gang leaders", but more accurately an internal contradiction of the state itself which pits public safety versus social control and profit.
Contrary to the propaganda of politricsters such as Mr. Kernan, California SHU's are not inhabited by the "worst of the worst," and especially not in these ultra-high security isolation torture units like Pelican Bay SHU's D-Corridor or Corcoran SHU's 4B1L-C section. In fact a significant segment of this population has been consigned to these dungeons decades on end solely based on their political ideology and world views. Left-wing political ideologies and revolutionary scientific socialists are labeled "gang members" and tossed in the SHU with no thought to the contradiction this presents to the constitutional basis of freedom of speech, thought, and expression.
The truth of the matter is most here in Pelican Bay SHU D-Corridor and Corcoran SHU 4B1L C Section haven't had a rules violation, let alone broke a law, in decades. Institutional gang investigators claim to seek to mitigate the violence and socio-economic damage allegedly caused by "gangs" - yet the NCTT in Pelican Bay and Corcoran SHU over the course of the past 2 decades alone has developed and attempted to initiate numerous programs that would effectively do just that, and even more.
This hearing was a prime opportunity to declare, if the state will truly make rehabilitation their primary objective they may:
Meet in full the 5 core demands of the SHU human rights initiative, acknowledging the dismal failure of their "lock em up - lock em up" philosophy and its fundamental social and economic unsustainability
Restructure the entire correctional system and approach to imprisonment.
Mandate safe, clean and healthy rehabilitative environments where higher education and viable wage job skills are offered to all prisoners ensuring they can compete in today's technology society, ensure parole suitability, and make meaningful contributions to the community, institute community based parole boards, where the communities prisoners hail from decide when they can return to them.
Re-institute media access and transparency
Re-institute community ties programs such as social and family visiting for all prisoners, especially those in SHU-indeterminate units
Develop community reintroduction programs where prisoners have a community based support network that helps them re-acclimate to society and be re-integrated successfully.
Disband the CCPOA's stranglehold on elected officials which range from DAs and judges to the governor himself.
If this were to occur, crime and recidivism rates would drop, prison populations would decrease drastically (as would the violence which plagues them), thus failing to justify the fiscal expenditure for all these prisons, cops, guards, prosecutors, judges and many industries which serve them. The CCPOA's power would wane as it's membership and dues decreases. The state will not make rehabilitation (which begins with humane conditions of existence) their #1 priority because this is not in their economic and political interests.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This NCTT statement does a good job exposing the criminal injustice system as a tool of social control with no real interest in actually addressing crime or rehabilitation. We do disagree with one point here: while the vast array of people working in and around prisons certainly are motivated to protect their high wages and benefits, prisons themselves do not make a profit and so can not be working to protect their "speculative profits." As this article notes, those working on the side of the prison system do have a strong motivation to sustain and even grow them, but this is for social control fundamentally.
In early May 2009 over 125 prisoners of all nationalities came together for a food strike in United $tate$ penitentiary, Lewisburg, PA to protest their confinement and conditions in the newly opened Special Management Unit (SMU). Hundreds of letters were sent out to media outlets across the country and SMU prisoner family members were called who then contacted national news services. The administration conducted talks with two prisoners who were the alleged "ringleaders" of the food strike on ways to remedy the situation to try and stop the strike. Their story was never heard about on TV or in the newspaper, nor locally in the Pennsylvania paper The Daily Item.
Part of the food strike was to protest for more commissary items since the administration had refused to allow soap or shampoo to be sold on the store list. Their reasoning was that the one tiny bar of soap the correctional officers gave out once a week was sufficient. Also there were no food items, not even coffee being sold to prisoners, nor were they allowed radios in their cells or personal shoes, and a big part of the strike was to protest double bunking in the newly created Super-Max. The media didn't think this was a story since many prisoners gave in to finally eat after the administration threatened to force feed after people passed out from malnutrition. A couple prisoners were even fed intravenously by force after being cell extracted.
Family members of SMU prisoners have since created websites and chat rooms to discuss and expose the harsh procedures and conditions their loved ones are facing. The Lewisburg Prison Project has sent concerned citizens into the SMU to talk with prisoners and administrators, some of whom have recently been allowed to tour the facility and speak to Warden Bledsoe who claims the 2 plus year forced Super-Max program for the "worst of the worst" is working. The Lewisburg Prison Project has been pushing for single-cell status for prisoners like in the ADX, Florence CO to ease tensions created when two people live in such a confined area. Sometimes days will go by and cellies no longer talk to each other, they begin to plot and fight, even murder occurs in cells. Recently one prisoner strangled his cellie due to the tension within their cell.
Since the creation of the SMU multiple prisoners have suffered lung damage and gotten emphysema due to the ongoing construction to renovate the housing units after asbestos was found. USP Lewisburg was not ready to house hundreds of prisoners in 23 hour lockdown. They built recreation cages no bigger than the cells forcing 6 to 8 people to inhabit the area for exercise. Only recently have the exercise cage rules been changed to only allow 2 people at a time after the cages were called "Thunder Domes" with assaults happening daily. There is only one block, Z, with cells having their own showers, forcing most prisoners to only receive 3 showers a week. And sometimes the SMU will be put on lockdown, sack lunches are the meals for weeks, leaving prisoners hungry and bird bathing in their sinks to remain clean.
There are 4 phases prisoners must go through to successfully make it out of the SMU taking many months in each Phase to complete. In each phase certain assignments are given by workbooks from the psychology department to complete for advancement, and in turn the prisoner must not get into any kind of trouble or face the possibility of restarting the program. Like the new Federal CMU's (Communication Management Units), the SMUs are special prisons designed to isolate prisoners from the outside world. All aspects of a prisoner's life is monitored and up until phase 3 to go to recreation or medical the correctional officers must cuff the prisoners through the tray slot in the door and escort them to their destinations.
All communication is monitored, no contact visits are given until one has fully completed phase 4 and returned to general population at another USP. Up until then, in phase 1 and 2 visits are conducted via video monitor, and through glass for phase 3 and 4. Few phone calls are allowed, and photos can't be taken to send to loved ones until reaching phase 3. In such a confined space, even with cellies, prisoners become incoherent, their minds break down mentally, thoughts become confused, speech is difficult and you'll stutter and not be able to complete sentences, many go paranoid and irrational and plot against each other and fights break out due to panic and nerves breaking.
How do I know this? Because I was there! I lived through it, and experienced it first hand. Luckily I successfully completed the SMU after being their over 2 years and I'm currently in a Florida prison. Upon arrival here it literally took weeks to calm down from my anxiety being overcome with noises, crowds, people moving around and near me, and not being confined in such small spaces for hours and days on end. Just think of the prisoners who are released from Super-Max's to the streets!
The SMU's, CMU's, ADX, and other facilities like Pelican Bay for the "worst of the worst" are terrible places which destroy prisoners lives, relationships, family ties, as well as our minds. Slavery and torture exists in the United $tate$ within the prison industrial complex, especially in such programs as I luckily made it through. Please, let's shut them down!
MIM(Prisons) adds: Prisoners on food strike in California Security Housing Units will be lucky to receive the type of program that exists in Pennsylvania SMUs as a result of their current struggle. This just goes to show that reforms in these long-term isolation prisons are nothing but reforming torture. We echo the Pelican Bay prisoners' call for an abolition of torture. And ultimately, we must replace the current injustice system with one that serves the people and works to rehabilitate those who have truly committed crimes against the people.
I am currently serving an indeterminate SHU term here at the infamous Pelican Bay. All the SHU space is full here yet they continue to send prisoners to their torture compound. To make room for the growing number of (unjustly) validated prisoners B-4 mainline has been manipulated to accommodate them. And B-5 A section now houses Administrative Segregation(ASU) overflow.
This leaves me and others like me (with long SHU terms) to merely exist in ASU, a concrete soul snatcha. The powers that be will tell some of us that we're property housed due to lack of bed space. According to their rules SHU prisoners are allowed one appliance. Everyone knows TVs can be poisonous but they can come in handy during situations like this. Never the less death island (ASU) does not issue out appliances (per chapter 5, article 43 ASU IMs are allowed an appliance). Pelican Bay ASU is one of the last ASUs not to be modified to support electric appliances. Without hesitation I continue to put pen to paper in an attempt to slay Goliath by making him play by house rules.
The saga continues here at Skeleton Bay where double standards are eroding the conditions of professionalism amongst staff, which is worn on the population's face. Prisoners are eroding mentally, physically and spiritually from the elements of sucka punch justice applied by the powers that be. It is unexplainable to me why we all are not fifty pounds lighter. When the strike was announced, all of us here in ASU had all the motivation in the world to go in hard on that. Due to lack of communication, the foundation of structure and organization were unapproachable, resulting in the scrambling for excuses and loopholes not to stand up and be accounted for.
MIM(Prisons), asante for allowing me the time and space to exhale. By the way I would also like to congratulate you on your coverage and support of the hunger strike. Also, what you're doing with the Peace Summit is active! I'm working on something as we speak. It would be a shame if I didn't get in on that. Major props to MIM(Prisons), ULK, United Front and all the dedicated women and men at the MIM(Prisons) fam. I build on every issue of ULK then spread the wealth.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We have a few things to add to this useful account of the situation with SHU in Pelican Bay. First, we hope this comrade and others, who are stuck in their cells 24/7 make good use of their time and read and study! There is a lot that can be done. TVs should not be necessary if you have books and pen and paper. Let us know if you need something to study, and write articles about what's going on like this comrade did. Second, we need our comrades in this situation to start the educating of others now, so that next time there is a mass action in the prisons we can count on everyone to understand the importance of participating. Share Under Lock & Key, start study groups, and get organizing!
I am a prisoner at New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, NJ. I am presently housed in what is called the Management Control Unit (MCU). I have been in this unit since 2008. New Jersey's MCU is basically the equivalent of other states Security Housing Units (SHUs) or Intensive Management Units (IMUs). The reason I'm writing is to alert you of the numerous human and civil rights violations that we have been subjected to here. I also want to bring to your attention the fact that the administration at the prison has intentionally instituted a system designed to violate procedural due process rights of the prisoners in MCU.
Design and intent of the Management Control Program
The MCU program was designed to house the prisoners the administration considered a threat to the daily operations of the prison, to the correctional officer, or those they considered unable to house in general population with the other prisoners. The MCU unit in theory was not supposed to be a punitive unit for punishment since you could be placed there coming directly from the street never having received a disciplinary infraction inside of the prison. The prisoners of the MCU unit were told that the MCU is basically a "population for MCU prisoners." However, the MCU is anything but.
The MCU is supposed to be governed by what's called the New Jersey administrative code 10A. However, the administration does not adhere to it's own rules as put forth in the 10A. The so-called release program of the MCU is a three phase program (levels 1-3, one being the lowest). Completion of the following programs are requisite: Cage your Rage, and Thinking for a Change. The problem with this criteria is that the programs are very seldom offered, or capriciously and arbitrarily offered. This situation has only gotten worse recently. Since April of this year (2011) the administration has had the unit on lock-down. This lock-down is supposedly the result of a couple of random fights between a few prisoners (no correctional officers were involved in either of the situations). Since these random fights, the administration has done the following:
Canceled all requisite programs needed to be considered for release
Painted the cell windows so that we can no longer see outside
Closed down the pantry in the unit where the food is served
Taken all the jobs from the workers in the unit
Canceled indoor recreation
Changed the outdoor recreation schedule from every other day to once every four days
Changed the amount of people allowed to go to the outdoor recreation. Everybody that was on MCU was able to go to the yard together. Now only six can go at a time.
It is my opinion, which I believe to be firmly grounded, that the couple of fights had nothing at all to do with the draconian measures taken by the administration. On July 2, 2010 the superior court of New Jersey appellate division issued a crushing ruling that the administration of New Jersey thought would never happen! In that ruling the court said that once a prisoner has reached phase three (the highest level in the MCU program) the burden then shifts to the prison to show why the prisoner should be held in MCU. The burden the administration must meet is to show a present identifiable threat that the prisoner presents. Up until this ruling the administration in New Jersey was just throwing prisoners on MCU and leaving them there. The average prisoner in MCU has been there for about a decade.
To circumvent this ruling the administration has canceled the programs preventing prisoners from reaching phase three which would render them eligible for release if the administration is unable to meet it's burden. I have more proof that this is the administration's intention. The court ruling was issued on July 2, 2010. Up until that ruling whenever a MCU prisoner would appeal the Management Control Unit review committees (MCURC) decision to continue his placement in MCU, the administrator would quickly respond to the appeal 99.9% of the time upholding the MCURC decision.
Let me explain. Every three months the prisoners in MCU are given what's called routine review where the committee decides whether or not the prisoner should be released or if his placement in MCU should be continued. Every MCU prisoner is allowed to attend even though you must be phase three to even be considered for release. This is not more than a ceremonial display and out right sham. Again, after these hearings about a week later you receive the MCURC decision on paper which you can appeal to the administrator. The decision from the court was issued July 2, 2010 and since that decision none of the MCU prisoners have received a response back from any of the routine review appeals which would be September 2010, December 2010, March 2011, and the last one June 2011. I do not believe in coincidences. As I said up until that decision from the court we were getting every single one of our appeals back.
There are a few prisoners in the MCU unit right now that are phase three and still the administration have not let them go. Not only have they not let them go, but by not responding to the appeals they are preventing prisoners from taking their case to the court. The court has ruled that before a prisoner can prevail on his complaint s/he must afford the administration the opportunity to make it's final decision. Thus, the administration is violating the MCU prisoners procedural due process rights! If this is not suppose to be a punitive unit and a general population for MCU prisoners, how do you explain the actions taken by the administration?
They have stopped me from being able to finish the programs, they have painted over my cell window so that I can't even see outside! I'm only allowed to go outside every four days and you cover my window. This is treatment one would expect to hear being done at Guantanamo Bay. Before the covering of the window the MCU unit was already a socially and sensory depriving unit. The prisoners are in single cells and the only time they come out in the unit is for a 15 minute shower one at a time. Thus any conversation is carried on by yelling through the crack of the door. The only contact you have with anyone is during recreation every four days. I truly hope that my concerns and suffering, as well as the concerns and suffering of the other prisoners will lead you to pick up our cause and help us fight for and defend our human and civil rights. We are still humans.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Lack of due process and group punishment were two of the main complaints behind the California hunger strike that started in the Pelican Bay SHU and included participation of at least 6600 prisoners across the state. As stated by the author these conditions of long-term isolation are very similar across the United $tates, as are the policies that keep people there. This example also parallels that in California where the courts are ordering the state to make release easier (whether from MCU or prison altogether). But the interests of the Amerikan workers has made sure that in neither case has the state government begun to comply with court orders. While the courts offer a facade of justice, the state continues on as it always has in its efforts to control oppressed people.
MIM(Prisons) sent another stack of letters in support of the prisoners on hunger strike across California to the so-called Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation with the cover letter below. There will also be a demonstration in support of the prisoners' demand outside of the CDCR office today:
Monday, July 18th 1-4PM Demonstration outside CDCR Headquarters. 1515 S. St. in Sacramento, CA
Warden Greg Lewis Pelican Bay State Prison P.O. Box 7000 Crescent City, CA 95531-7000
18 July 2011
Dear Warden Lewis,
Two weeks ago we sent dozens of letters from residents of California who are concerned for the welfare of the prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison. As the conditions outlined by the prisoners have still not been addressed by the CDCR we are sending additional letters of support (see enclosed). We are all aware that the conditions of many prisoners are becoming critical and we urge you to take immediate action to remedy the conditions. The conditions addressed by the prisoners demands are in no way conducive to rehabilitation and no one should have to die for these basic requests.
We have also forwarded copies of these letters to CDCR Internal Affairs and CDCR Office of the Ombudsman.
Sincerely, MIM Distributors P.O. Box 40799 San Francisco, CA 94140
"Solitary confinement is not something that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations engages in," according to CDCR Spokesperson Terry Thorton.(1) According to our surveys, California has around 14,444 people in Control Units, defined as "permanently designated prisons or cells in prisons that lock prisoners up in solitary or small group confinement for 22 or more hours a day with no congregate dining, exercise or other services, and virtually no programs for prisoners." This is more people than any other state.
Thorton claims that prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison's Security Housing Unit (SHU) have access to cable TV, books, yard time, the law library, weekly visits with family, and correspondence courses.
Yes, it is true that prisoners can occasionally receive books through the mail, as long as they aren't by or about Blacks or Mexicans. If you're not in SHU yet, such books might be used to validate you as a gang member and throw you in SHU on an indeterminate sentence. Otherwise they are often just censored as "gang material."
Correspondence courses are occasionally allowed, too. But we've confirmed 35 incidents of study materials from a MIM(Prisons) correspondence course being censored in California, 15 of which were at Pelican Bay. We've also been told that a radio show that broadcasts to Pelican Bay was shut down there after broadcasting a correspondence course on a show popular among prisoners.
Interaction with family, inmates and staff is greatly exaggerated by Thorton. We've known comrades whose only physical contact with another humyn being for many years has been guards putting cuffs on their wrists. And while Thorton makes family visits out to be a regular thing, the distance to Crescent City, California for most families is the first barrier that makes visits rare at best. One family member who spoke with MIM(Prisons) at a table while we did outreach in support of the strike described how they went to visit their brother at Pelican Bay once and had to talk through a TV screen. They have not gone back since. Others who visit Pelican Bay talk about how their freedom of association is limited just as the prisoners' is. If they are seen speaking to the wrong persyn (another visitor) while going on visit they can be restricted or banned from coming back.
Thorton described "the two ways" one can get into SHU in California, painting prisoners as either violent attackers or mob bosses running organized crime. Yet, as those who were there when Pelican Bay was being conceived can attest, it was built in response to those who dared to organize and stand up for their rights as the thousands of prisoners who went on food strike across California have done. As prisoners continue to organize and move in a positive and united direction, it will become harder and harder for the state to paint the organizations of the oppressed as enemies that deserve any torture or punishment they receive.
Within the Black Order Revolutionary Organization we educate to create real meaningful change. The old saying says "action makes the front." But to take this analysis a step further, "bold, intelligent, revolutionary actions make the front." The war is real and it's a war that is physical as well as psychological and educational. The imperialist strives to physically as well as psychologically dominate, subjugate, manipulate and control the masses in prison and out of prison by creating and engineering social conditions that fit their agenda. The enemy of humanity understands the driving force behind action is man's mental orientation. So if they control our mental atmosphere and mental appetites they will control our social behavior. This is the reason why we as front line Askaris must always understand our greatest weapon is a correct analysis of concrete conditions as we strive to crush imperialism/colonialism in its total. To do that the Askari must keep his/her mind sharp.
Comradez, I've been on lock down in a federal SMU program since 2008. Since the fedz closed Marion max the fedz have created the same lockdown scheme with the Special Management Units (SMU). It continues to be for the express purpose of controlling outlaw/anti-authoritarian revolutionary conduct. Every organizational structure across amerika can be found held within the lockdown yet there is no meaningful dialogue between parties, groups or organizations to effect meaningful change.
The project for peace in prison is a foundation laid so that inter-organization/multi-organizational communication can begin. But for the project for peace to work we need the leaders and spokesmen for these street and/or progressive organizations to accept the peace project. In a lot of these organizations, directions flow down the chain of command. The Latin King wrote in [to ULK] about Kingism, which was good. But he is only one man and cannot make an organizational commitment to accept the peace in prison project. That must come from Lord Gino, their crown. So I am calling on all leaders nationally from the Crips, Bloods, Vice Lords, Latin Kings, Mighty Mighty Black Nation, G.D.s, and all those in between to unite in principle and contribute to our collective struggles. T-fly, Bay Bay, Minister RKO for the Vice Lords where y'all at? G.D. Crusher holler at us brotha, Crown Prince AB for the MMBN, OG Mojo New York Damuz and all the other unmentioned men and women that have a voice in their organizational community, let's squad up so that the peace in prisons project can be real and used as a weapon.
MIM(Prisons) replies: We echo this call to those in leadership positions to represent what so many of the LOs already have in their bylaws and histories. But we want to reach all potential comrades with the message of the United Front for Peace in Prisons, from the capo to the pee wee on the street. While some of the leaders mentioned above could have a quick impact, we've learned from the past the short-comings of LOs whose leadership went radical, but the soldiers only followed the leader and never embraced the movement. It is not sustainable. Slowly recruiting a hundred local chapters or representatives to sign on to the Statement of Principles will mean more in the end. And building solidarity between organizations around common struggles at each locality is how we can build real peace. In many places this is already happening.
[Editor's note: We want to remind our readers that USW is open to anti-imperialist prisoners of all nationalities, just as the strike is being led by prisoners of all nationalities. MIM(Prisons) agrees with the line put forth here, because it is by building movements for national liberation from imperialism that we can best conquer the oppressive system we currently live in. And any genuine national liberation movement supports the liberation of all people. We want to be clear about this because there have been reports of the CDCR attempting to fuel divisions among the prisoners on strike along long-standing organizational and national divisions as they always do.]
A people's salute goes out to all who find themselves under lock and key in Amerika! I wanted to write and send a brief update on the conditions here in Pelican Bay coming from one of the participants of the hunger strike (HS) that began two weeks ago, on July 1 of 2011. I figured the historic precedent that the HS has accomplished thus far is worth noting as the cause of the non-violent protest is one in which many people find themselves in across Amerika. The material conditions that have forced prisoners to deny themselves nutrients and sustenance are not exclusively bound to Pelican Bay, California. Whenever imperialist lackeys run a country they will also be expected to round up the most rebellious and potentially revolutionary populations and bury these people alive as these are the ones who pose the highest threat to the ruling class.
The fact that the protest is in regard to torture chambers known as the Security Housing Unit (SHU) in California, a state that has more prisons than any other state in a country that has more prisoners than any other country, should be examined more closely for what it means to oppressed nation prisoners in general but to people of Aztlán in particular. The fact that the state of California, which is geographically in Aztlán, has initiated what amounts to a war on the people of Aztlán by setting up more koncentration kamps (prisons) in Aztlán than anywhere else in Amerika, along with incarcerating more Latinos in California than any other oppressed nations, and the fact that Latinos are now the largest population of captives held in Federal prisons, and the fact that most of the prisoners held in California SHUs are Latinos, all show that oppressed nation are under attack via the injustice system, and that prisoners from the Aztlán Nation are particularly targeted in Aztlán. California is also the state with the largest Latino population in Amerika.(1) Thus the scope of what is taking place should be seen for what it is - the assault on Aztlán is real and should be met as such.
What is occurring here at Pelican Bay is an attempt to break the will and desire to resist state repression plain and simple. The SHU was opened in 1989 and this facility was designed to isolate and deprive people of the most basic "human rights." Things like human contact, a cell mate, the ability to eat salt in one's food, the ability to correspond with friends and family via the mail, the ability to have natural sunlight or even to be able to read political literature have all been stripped from prisoners in the SHU. Brutality here has been documented for decades. Beatings and physical torture have even been brought to the courts to no avail. Recently the U.$. Supreme Court has ruled that California prisons constitute "cruel and unusual punishment." They are telling the state of California to clean up its act.
Medical services are even used as barter. One prisoner was told if he wanted medical treatment then he should "debrief" (snitch on another prisoner). This is the depraved culture that has thrived here in SHU. This is a world where prisoners who are most often poor Brown and Black people are subject to a whole plethora of experimental depravity which in some cases would probably have Mengele raise an eyebrow.
It is well known that solitary confinement causes very real psychological damage even if used for a few weeks, yet here in SHU prisoners have endured solitary for years and even decades in some cases. Human rights groups have condemned solitary confinement, yet the SHU continues this brutal practice. Once here in SHU the only way back to general population is to snitch on others (even if it is false accusations), die, or parole. Keep in mind the vast majority sent to SHU have not committed any crime or physical acts but are labeled a "gang member or associate" and thus locked in this control unit for one's supposed gang affiliation, i.e. one's beliefs. They are locking one in a solitary confinement cell, sometimes for life, for what amounts to thought crimes!
Placement in the "hole" or SHU is frequently due to political affiliation of prisoners who are members or may associate with revolutionary groups or lumpen organizations that the state labels as "gangs." In their play on words, any attempt at oppressed nations to organize in a way that is not state sanctioned, is a gang. Similarly, they call uprisings "riots" in a derogatory way, to hide the real causes behind them. But many times people aren't even members of any organization and are falsely accused by others who are trying to get themselves out of SHU. In either case, prisoners held in SHU conditions overwhelmingly qualify as political prisoners.
The world would gasp should they find out the thought police are goosestepping in lock step here in Pelican Bay, jack boots and all. The Gestapo in Nazi Germany rounded up communists and others and placed them in kamps and jails under "preventative custody." And now the imperialists' first line of defense keeps oppressed nations in neo-kamps (SHUs) under "validation custody." This is what the lumpen face in the United $tates; this is our apple pie in the home of the incarcerated, land of the oppressed.
Yet, prisoners have always defied the lash, because as Mao said, where you find much repression you'll find much resistance. This is the dialectical materialism that manifests itself and blossoms, even within cinderblock gardens, in the form of our united resistance.
The first of the five demands issued for the hunger strike here at Pelican Bay is to end group punishment. This happens frequently where one prisoner breaks a rule and that whole group or ethnicity will be locked down or penalized in some way. We are talking about one person doing something against prison rules and two or three hundred people are then locked down for months over it. This is common practice and is meant to pit prisoners against prisoners.
The second demand is to abolish debriefing and modify active/inactive gang status criteria. Debriefing is used to force people held in SHU to give up names and activities of others in order to leave SHU - even if the information provided is false. The accused cannot even present a good defense as the informants are not identified and often times the accusations themselves are considered "confidential." Active/inactive status is when after six years if one has no new activity one may be given "inactive" gang status and released to the general population. But this is rare since anything qualifies as "activity." For example, participating in this hunger strike will be considered new gang activity.
The third demand is that the CDCR complies with recommendations from a 2006 U.S. Commission which called for an end to isolation. The fourth demand is to provide adequate food. The food here would make a racoon's stomach turn. Often we don't know what it is we are eating and we get no salt, so all food is bland. For punishment often times we get boiled beans with no salt, and this has gone on for years. The fifth demand is to expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU prisoners. This means those of us who must stay in SHU will be able to have educational courses, art supplies, and the ability to make a phone call, which some have not done for 30 or more years.
These points are basic things that should be given, especially to people who have not broken any rules to be placed in SHU in the first place! What is happening here in Pelican Bay SHU amounts to crimes against humanity. To have people in solitary confinement in some cases for decades is incredible, and it's incredible that this has gone on so long and that for the most part the public has been silent over this. Well, today the light is shining on these torture chambers and Pelican Bay prisoners will no longer be silent while taking the lash.