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[Control Units] [Indiana]
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Unlock the Box survey - Indiana

These are two prisons that have designated cells where prisoners are in solitary confinement for at least 22 hours a day with no congregate dining, exercise or other services.

1. Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, Secure Confinement Unit, PO Box 111 Carlisle, IN 47838

2. Maximum Control Facility, PO Box 557, Westville, IN 46391

I have been in both and the following statistics apply to both prisons:

There are around 250-330 prisoners
It is around 48% white and 48% Black and 2% Latino
The units opened 15-20 years ago
Prisoners have been abused physically by offers in the past
Prisoners are regularly subject to humiliation and refusal of showers

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[Control Units] [Texas]
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Unlock the Box survey

Concerning the Control Units, the designated cells are called Administrative Segregation. Depending on who the Warden, Major, and other low ranking supervisors are, all or different types of abuses take place within these housing areas. Ranging from unlawful denial of special privileges and rights, to physical abuse and food tampering. You are confined to these cells 22 or more hours a day and eat inside the cell, limited recreation, and virtually no programs for prisoners. It can be a very depressing and non-rehabilitative atmosphere. Over half of Texas Prisons house inmates in Administrative Segregation. And the mistreatment varies, so I will only speak on what unites I know of from experience.

Hughes Unit, Route 2 Box 4400, Gatesville, TX 76597. I was housed in Ad Seg from 10/2003 until 03/2008. There are approximately 500 beds in these buildings. One prisoner per cell/bed. The whole unit does not fall under the definition, only "12 Bldg" is where Ad Seg prisoners are confined, controlled and monitored daily. The racial makeup of the population is majority Hispanic, then Black, then white. Most prisoners are placed in Ad Seg for being part of a Security Threat Group, or assault towards staff and prisoners. Most situations aren't as serious as the administration makes it seem. These Control Units began opening in the late 80s and early 90s, and four of them were expanded and opened in 1999, adding 660 cells labeled as "High Security." I have no knowledge whether the state plans to open any others. Here are the addresses to the other three units that have been expanded:
Allred Unit, 2101 FM 369 North, Iowa Park, TX 76367
Lewis Unit, PO Box 9000, Woodville, TX 75990
Smith Unit, HCR7, Box 187A, Lamesa, TX 79331

Prior to being transfered from the Huges Unit in March 2008, there were several prisoners complaining about food tampering in 12 Bldg. The tampering didn't start until 2006. The substance being used attacked the immune system, causing severe headaches and drowsiness, heart trouble, high blood pressure, loss of energy, etc. I noticed the difference in my body and energy level once I got transferred and the food got out of my system.

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[Control Units] [New Mexico]
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Control Units in New Mexico

I am currently housed in a CU as of June 18. There are approximately 30 people in this unit. About half of this detention center is control units. Pods D1-D4, B1, B4, G1 and G4 are regular population. Units F1, F2, B2, B3, C2 and the SHU are all lock down. Originally in 97 when this facility opened it was only the SHU that was a CU. Since then the CUs have been expanding, moving from unit to unit, most recently to C2 which only happened a month or so ago.

Most of the population of the CU is Latino which some whites. I have seen no Blacks.

We are only given 1 hour out of cell rec time, every other day.

I was placed in here for "failure to obey" and "disrespect to staff." I was told to close another prisoner's door and when refused was placed on "pre-disciplinary lockdown" (CTQ). I told the officer she was a bitch and was moved to here. People are in here for various reasons. Being "gang affiliated" or fighting mostly. One prisoner is here because he has a clover tattooed on him and it is believed to be a gang tattoo but he's just Irish.

I have no idea how long I will be in here or when I will get any kind of hearing. This is a county facility and I am a pre-trial detainee.

I have also been in CUs in R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego CA, Mule Creek State Prison in Ione CA and Palm Hall in Chino Prison. The last one you get about 2 hours a week out of your cell.

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[Control Units] [Pennsylvania]
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Control units in NY and PA

I see that comrades are working on producing a movie that exposes the corruption which is taking place in control units all over the country. Hence, I would like to take the time out to touch on some of the things that I've seen and experienced in these types of confinements.

I've done time in New York and am currently trapped in Pennsylvania. Between the two, I've been in five control units, and know of several more. I can't remember the addresses to the ones in New York because it's been some years since I've been there. However, the names of the ones I've been in are Southport, Marcy S-Block and Lakeview S-Block. I know of others in New York such as Malone's Upstate, Green S-Block, Cayuga S-Block, Collins S-Block and Fishkill S-Block.

In Pennsylvania I was in the now defunct Long Term Segregation Unit (LTSU) which was at SCI Fayette (PO Box 9999 Labelle, PA 15450). It originally opened in 2000 at SCI Western but was moved to Fayette in 2004. That so-called "program" was totally shut down in 2007 because of the barbaric conditions. It was since converted into what's called SMU (Special Management Unit). I was never in the SMU at Fayatte, but I was in the SMU at SCI Camp Hill (PO Box 200, Camp Hill, PA 17001).

New York is designed just to be a Control Unit. It has 1200 people in the Control Unit, then an additional 300 people to do the cooking, cleaning, etc. Marcy, Lakeview and the other S-Blocks in New York are units built at "regular" prisons and confine 200 people apiece. Southport is predominantly a Control Unit, but I don't know the head counts.

The SMUs in Pennsylvania are units built at "regular" prisons and hold about 70-something people each. The LTSU was a unit within "regular" prisons and housed 40 people.

In terms of the national/racial make up of the people in the CUs I've been in, I would estimate that they all had about 90% Black/Latino and about 10% white.

The ways that the CUs are run varies, especially from state to state. Nevertheless, they are all different from the "regular", "holes", "boxes," or whatever the 23 hour/day lockdown units are called in each state. One of the biggest differences is that these CUs have several levels that a person can be on and these levels determine how many privileges are supposed to be afforded to them. For instance, in the SMUs in Pennsylvania, people on Phase 5 cannot have personal pictures, newspapers, magazines and many other things. The LTSU was the same way on levels 4 and 3.

Often times, persons with mental health issues are placed in these CUs, at least in Pennsylvania. It is not uncommon for them to bang on their desks, toilets, etc. for many hours at a time being as they can't deal with the confinement. Many even throw feces, urine and vomit on other prisoners and guards.

Several people enter these CUs with no history of mental health issues, but develop them while they're in there. They begin banging on things all day as well as throwing feces, urine and vomit. Suicides/attempts are not uncommon in these units.

Many guards antagonize prisoners and deny them food trays that they are supposed to be given. Or they may put things such as dead mice in the trays.

The physical abuse from the guards is a common thing. They sometimes beat handcuffed and shackled people bloody. They'll even do it while video monitors are recording by yelling "stop resisting!" to make it seem like they're to restrain a person.

They also have restraint chairs that they put people in. These are chairs in which people are strapped down for hours at a time - in Pennsylvania it's for a minimum of eight hours. People have been known to urinate or defecate on themselves while in these chairs.

These are just some of the things going on in these CUs. People have filed numerous grievances and lawsuits about the things that are going on, but for the most part there have been very few changes made. Usually a person's claim of being denied a food tray is dismissed as being "frivolous," or something of that nature.

I think it's a good idea to expose to the public what is actually going on behind these walls. Not only in Control Units, but in these neo-plantations in general. I will be of whatever assistance I can.

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[Control Units] [Texas]
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Administrative Segregation in Texas

I have been in administrative segregation on two different types of units. On the Ferguson Unit, 12120 Savage Dr, and the Connally Unit I am presently housed in at 899 FM 632. On the Ferguson, it is three tiers with 24 cells on each row in one straight line, with a shower at the front of each row. Recreation areas are cages fit for one person with a pull up bar and a basketball goal and basketball. We got one hour recreation a day or two hours every other day.

The feeding practices are such that food carts are brought to the block and the trays are prepared right there on the run in front of the cells. Only the prisoners right in front of the cart can see their trays being made. All food trays are prepared by the same adseg prison guards who work the blocks for that day. The mail is also gathered up and distributed by the security adseg correctional officers so there is no way for a prisoner to know if his mail was actually sent to the mail room to be mailed or thrown away, nor is there any way of knowing whether the incoming mail was actually given to the prisoner.

I had difficulties on the Ferguson Unit adseg because the prison guards were harassing a lot of different people and claimed that I was snitching on them. They also put chemicals and infected blood in my food from prisoners who thought I was snitching on them. They conned these dudes into believing I'm an informant then give them my food tray and allow them to do whatever they wanted to it. Then the prison guard would bring me the trays to eat. Before I found out what was happening, my eyes and skin turned yellow and I started vomiting up blood and getting real sick. I have permanent liver damage right now and I think I have hepatitis but the medical department have been told not to diagnose me with any type of disorder or disease so I haven't received any treatment.

Here on Connally Unit there are only two rows with a picket in the middle and the cells arranged to form a U around the picket to allow the prison guards to see any one of the cells at any given moment. The recreation consists of only two cages fit for one person with a basketball goal and ball, a set of weights, a water fountain and urinal. We are allowed to recreate one hour a day on the rec yard or day rooms which consist of a table and pull up bar.

Just like in Ferguson, all our mail is gathered up and passed out by the security correctional officers. The feeding practices are a little different even though we are still fed individually in our cells. All of the food trays are prepared in another section of the unit and placed in a hot box and brought to the pods. Once there, trays are put on tray carries and brought to each prisoner. No one is able to see their trays being prepared. Whenever prisoners get into confrontations with the adseg guards, they regularly taint food trays with an array of unknown substances because we have to rely upon security to feed u. As a result, thousands of prisoners in adseg suffer just as I do from liver/kidney damage.

Most prisoners are aware of what is happening and refuse to file any type of complaint or grievance against prison guards for fear of being retaliated against as I have. And a number of prisoners have virtually lost their sanity and committed suicide because it is virtually impossible to prove that these practices are happening.

I've been trying and am presently in the 5th circuit court waiting on a ruling, but I can already predict the outcome. These prison guards developed a form of neo-police brutality that is being upheld by federal courts merely because prisoners are not in position to prove that our food is being tainted. Many prisoners back here, mainly on level 3, throw urine and feces on the guards, spear them with shanks on the tip of poles made of news papers, curse them out regularly, and tension between the prison guards and prisoners is just as natural as the conflict between cats and dogs. Yet in adseg we must rely on these same guards to prepare our foods trays outside our presence, to distribute all our incoming and outgoing mail, and to provide us with grievances to make complaints against them. And sometimes even to investigate those same complaints.

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[Culture] [Control Units] [ULK Issue 4]
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Unlock the Box movie previews at StopMax

MIM(Prisons) interviewed Reel Soldier, who previewed a new film they are working on at the StopMax conference in Philadelphia in May.

MIM(Prisons): What was the purpose of the conference?

Well, the StopMax campaign mission reads, "Our mission is to promote and support a national movement to end the use of solitary confinement and related forms of torture in US prisons." And i think it did a very good job of that with the conference. It brought together an impressive group of organizations and people that have been doing work around the issue of isolation and prison torture.

MIMP: So your film fit in well with the theme of the conference. Can you tell us a little about the film?

Yeah, it was really good timing for us. The film is called Unlock the Box, and it is all about the history of and the struggle against the use of long-term isolation in u$ prisons. It is very clear about the emergence of control units (and large-scale incarceration in general) as a form of political repression. If you look at the history of penitentiaries and more severe forms of isolation, it was largely determined to be a failed experiment over a century ago. But with the effective end of Jim Crow and other overt forms of white power, and the national liberation struggles that emerged from that struggle, prisons and isolation become an important tool for controlling the oppressed populations within u$ borders.

So it gets into some history. We also have some factual information on what control units are including new research some comrades have put together on the number and extent of long-term isolation. We think we have the best numbers out there right now, and they're a lot higher than the usual 25,000 that people have been citing for some years. We're seeing upwards of 100,000 people in long-term isolation. But this research is ongoing because it is so hard to get complete statistics, and a number of groups at the conference are collaborating to share this information. The plan is to publish the stats on [url=http://www.abolishcontrolunits.org]www.abolishcontrolunits.org soon, where you can also get information on the movie and how to order the DVD.

MIMP: What led you to create this film? What do you hope to accomplish with it?

The film came out of work that some of us were doing with the United Front to Abolish the SHU, which was a collection of organizations in California working together to build the campaign there. After doing a conference in 2005 by the same name, some of our public work died out and some of us changed focus for various reasons. But it seemed like a good time to sum up and document what had been years of work in California, and we knew of others, including MIM, who were carrying out similar campaigns across the country. In addition, we had felt we had put enough energy into petitioning the legislature to shut down the SHU, and that our window of influence there had closed with little success. We did have success in reaching the public and bringing light to an issue that is very hidden from the public eye though. And the movie was an idea to continue public opinion work in another format.

MIMP: What did people at the conference think of the film? Did you get any useful feedback to help shape the final version?

The response was great. I have to give props to the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) for bringing together so many people who were so involved in this issue. The audience couldn't have been more catered to the movie. Unfortunately, we only had a rough draft done at that point, but people still felt it was very moving and on point. I was actually even a little surprised, because the film gives a pretty radical analysis of the international connections with the war on terror, the war on gangs, and the role of the amerikan oppressor nation in supporting this torture. And yet, everyone that responded seemed to really like the message and the content of the movie.

As far as feedback, the main thing was probably the suggestions of things that we should add to the film. And with all the great resources at the conference we were able to gather a lot of material to incorporate some of those suggestions. We don't claim to have a comprehensive coverage of the struggle everywhere, but we've got a lot of good examples, and a lot of information packed in to this movie. We got one suggestion to add more persynal stories to win people over on that level, which we have done. Our preview focused on some of the more theoretical material that we wanted to get across for that forum. And a couple of us that have been involved in the film production itself used the opportunity to look at the technical aspects and overall flow in a little more critical light. Just having an audience in the room with you allows you to say, "man, this part is too long" or "that visual just looks cheesy" when just a day ago you're sitting in front of the computer and you can't imagine cutting anything out or changing something.

MIMP: What were the key accomplishments of the conference?

Well, for us it was a huge accomplishment to get a preview of our movie on the screen. If it wasn't for this conference who knows where this project would be now. It really pushed us to get something on disc. I mean i was literally compressing the movie and burning it to disc for the first time less than 24 hours before our presentation. So we got to expose people to the film and we got lots of pre-orders for the DVD. This is important, because at this point we don't have a distributor so we're just going to do one big mass mailing when it comes out in September. So people need to send in their orders now to get one.

But the conference as a whole really seemed to solidify for the first time, what many of us have been striving for for years, a national campaign to oppose control units. The AFSC has stepped up to play the role of providing infrastructure to promote continued communication and collaboration between different parties working around this campaign.

So, it seems like the campaign has reached a critical mass of a sort. And it may be good timing in regards to how many states are re-evaluating their tough-on-crime laws and prison-building crazes.

MIMP: How will attendees be working to carry the struggle forward?

That's a good question. People were really enthusiastic about working together. But we will see how that plays out. Sharing information is always good, so that should help all of us if that continues effectively. But, as we learned with the United Front to Abolish the SHU, it is sometimes hard to bring a lot organizations together when politics are very different. We had some experiences where it seemed that sectarianism seemed to prevent groups who were nominally working on the same issues from joining the United Front, or causing them to leave. And it's clear that some groups have different approaches stemming from their different politics. Which shouldn't necessarily be a problem, since a United Front has room for many different political lines and strategies.

There is a question of whether some strategies or political interests within the movement are somewhat antagonistic though. For example, there is a strong focus on getting the mentally ill out of SHU, which in our analysis usually plays into the states goal of using the SHU as a tool of political repression. This has become the standard because it works. But by works, i mean that they can get the laws passed, but it doesn't necessarily translate into less people being in SHU, just different populations - generally populations that are or potentially would pose political challenges to the white power structure. So this could be a net setback.

Some state campaigns have been successful in actually getting the numbers in SHU decreased legislatively. In contrast, court challenges to the SHU as a whole have been ineffective, only having limited successes in regards to specific conditions or to the mentally ill.

New legislative campaigns are well under way in places like Arizona and Illinois, and likely to spread. Others were more focused on the need to organizing prisoners, street organizations and the oppressed nations in general. Hopefully these two major focuses can complement each other as the campaign advances.

MIMP: How can people who are interested in this struggle get involved with the film or the United Front?

Well, this movie has been largely inspired by the work MIM and now MIM(Prisons) has been doing. And our analysis in the film is along those lines. Which puts us more in the camp of focusing on the organizing of prisoners and by extension street organizations. In fact, i've been talking to a number of comrades in this process about a second film that focuses on the lumpen on the street. But i think one of the lessons you can take from the movie is that control units are a response to a powerful movement of the oppressed, that included a strong prison movement. By prison movement, i mean prisoners organizing on the inside. We don't really see anything like that today, though the possibility exists.

So people on the inside need to make that happen. We need strong cadre organizations with a real analysis and political line to back up these more reformist oriented campaigns that some of the outside organizations are focusing on. And since the nature of prisons and control units is to prevent that from happening, we need people on the outside to provide the infrastructure to help make that happen. I'd point to MIM(Prisons) political books to prisoners program and study programs as important to developing cadre level comrades behind bars. As the movie points out in the conclusion, this is what we need to put an end to the pointless violence that is going on in there right now and to create a system that serves the people. And of course, we've got to work to keep people out of the SHU.

As far as getting involved with the film, we just need to get it out there at this point. Check out the website to order a DVD. And any indie distributors or online stores out there should email the contact there if they are interested in making this thing generally available in the future. If you're on the outside and interested in joining this campaign a good first step would be hosting a showing of this film in your area. You can usually get a free space at the library or local college or church. We will probably post some promo materials online at some point for people to use. And if you are gonna do a showing send them an email and they will promote it on the website, we've actually already had a few groups host other showings of the preview we put out.

I mean, i assume anyone who's reading this is gonna be hip to MIM(Prisons), so that's where i'd look for specific info on campaigns that need your support. And there are a lot of other groups out there working on this issue you might support as well. But i'd encourage people to think seriously about what the best strategy is to actually achieve our goals (and before that you might need to define what your goals are). That is what we are striving for constantly, and i hope this film helps us all consolidate our thoughts around that question.

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[Control Units] [South Carolina] [ULK Issue 4]
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Challenging SMU policies in the courts

I am known as the litigating terrorist. I have filed many actions challenging South Carolina Department of Corrections. What they are doing now is totally in violation of the constitution.

Two years ago they implemented a policy that Special Management Unit (SMU) prisoners can not receive newspapers, books or magazines. This is legal and religious. The religious materials can get slid in through the chaplain but legal is dead. In mid 2003 they stopped ordering legal books so we SMU prisoners have no way to obtain up to date law materials, being mindfull that the law is forever changing.

Just May 1st of this year they changed the policy so an indigent prisoner can only write to lawyers, courts, judges, legal aid organizations if they represent you in a pending case or you have a pending case in that court. And prisoners must show proof of the case. They won't allow us to make copies of their policies because we use it against them too much.

In SMU we get an hour recreation. I am a level one prisoner so I get my rec with leg irons on, belly chain with a crotch chain and a black box. I have so much iron on I can't sit down without pain. Your rec can easily be taken away. They pass out brooms, dust pans, mops, etc. to clean cells once a week on Saturday or Sunday. This past Thursday an officer took my rec because I had legal work on my floor but he said I needed to sweep my floor. The officer did it because I wrote him up for staling pornographic drawings from me. He took the drawings and claimed he turned them in to the contraband office. The contraband office does not have the original drawings, the officer took them home. He may lose his job.

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[Control Units] [Organizing] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 4]
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Using time in control units for the revolution

As they keep moving me from penitentiary to penitentiary I can’t help but realize that the majority of prisoners serving indefinite life and death sentences in control units are Black and Latin brothers who, due to their lack of knowledge, had their rights violated and like myself were railroaded and ambushed by this corrupt injustice system, and eventually thrown into these control units. I consider these human warehouses, where we die a slow agonizing death.

I am one of the very few who has managed to maintain my sanity. And rather than serving this tortured time, I’m having this time serve me by educating myself and as the sun bringing light to all corners of my circumference, waking up all those who have been sleeping in the graveyard of ignorance, to unite and assist in organizing a revolution that will bring an end to the oppression of all groups over other groups, classes, genders and nations.

I agree with those who believe that crime is the bad oppressive things we do to each other. The more people you hurt and oppress, the bigger the criminal you are. So the big criminals in our country are the bourgeoisie – those who are rich while others are poor, those who make profit from other peoples misery, street crime is a very small part of all the crimes committed each day in comparison to unemployment, homelessness, discrimination, bad education and bad health care.

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[Control Units] [California] [ULK Issue 4]
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Gang validation of the politically active

A revolutionary abrazo given and sent to all, from the depths of the gallows of chain link fences and barbed wire that has met the consumption in the harvest of plantation Amerikkka. Deprived of our livelihood and recruited in this Industrial Army. We have removed the yoke of oppression creating a commune that refuses to bow to the dictates of this prison industrial complex. Our single cell of multicultural backgrounds has fought against the system since birth. Victims to the judicial demagogue, comprehending that the blind lady of justice is only weighing our pockets.

Because of our political beliefs (that always get misconstrued) we've landed in these deprivation units, for our individual cases as men, we the people, are now prisoners of war. We are labeled and branded from the many scattered sheep entwined in hives of "rehabilitation". We have been singled or rather targeted by networks of a controlled government that uses force to impose rules against our race from above, suppressing individual initiatives in the interest of maximizing these control units, to meet their economic consumption that exploits our people.

Those of us who do not prostrate before CDCR economic, political, and militant demands, can be branded associates to prison gangs. These aggressive policies will not be the means of our demise. I am a Marxist-Lenninist-Maoist and I will not subside my resistance to this Abu-Grahiization (torture). But, on the contrary, I will attack the social injustices that commonly validate our people. CDCR has openly declared its intention to agress and colonize our people by rapid and violent assimilation.

Ideologically, CDCR validates [as gang members] groups cast as enemies by the states hegemonic myth or by the need to isolate people who can be portrayed as the embodiment of absolute evil. CDCR has also campaigned to control the mindset of our people to impose a solution to tough on crime legislation by forcing gang validation as a means to deliberately destroy our culture, which systematically liquidates all of our characteristics of our national society.

In closing, the battle has only begun. The proletariat will mobilize in mass demonstration in words with a singe of revolutionary fervor. Our social being has led to our consciousness, we serve as the vanguard for and of the oppressed. So, it is our obligation to help awaken the nucleus of all our peoples, in seeing that we've all been validated in classes and singled out by this fascist plutocracy.

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[Control Units] [Florida]
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Control Units in Florida

In Florida these units are called Close Management (CM). There are around 5 of these units throughout the states. They are similar to most control units in the other states. I have never been there but numbers are certainly in the thousands. Prisoners who file grievances or lawsuits are prime targets for CM The Florida DOC had to close a lot of its CM units a few years ago because of a successful inmate’s lawsuit.

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