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Under Lock & Key

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[Control Units] [Gang Validation] [California] [ULK Issue 45]
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The more things change, the more they stay the same

As early as October 2012, the administrators of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) have relentlessly advocated to the public how the step-down program (SDP) is an improvement upon the gang validation policies/practices that previously existed. But history informs us that any mantra of change being presented by the powers that be means more of the same, literally.

On a day in March 2015, I was the sole prisoner transferred out of Corcoran SHU via special transportation, as the warden issued some type of "special order" for me to be housed at CCI Tehachapi SHU. I have yet to see this "special order." I'm not going to get into the litany of horrendous living conditions that exist here at this point and time, however, I've witnessed countless prisoners be issued bogus rule violation reports (CDC 115 RVRs) and then coerced to start over and repeat the step that they were just in. This subjects the prisoner to being interned to indefinite solitary confinement status once again, as there are no mechanisms in place that would prohibit and/or prevent this process from reoccurring. It's nothing more than the same old barbaric and dehumanizing gang validation policies and practices.

For example, the most prominent reason for prisoners being issued CDC 115 RVRs is because their name has been found in a "kite" that was written by another prisoner. Not only is this contrary to our primary 5 core demands from the mass hunger strikes, in relation to behavior-based "individual accountability," but it is also contrary to the new SDP policy. In particular, CDCR memorandum dated 9 August 2013 states in part on page 4:


"At times this information includes a list of names or other personal information being found in another offender's possession that has some nexus to STG activity or behavior. During the DRB reviews, the offender whose name is simply on the list (versus the individual being in actual possession of the list) will not be held accountable for the contents."

But wait, it gets even better my people. While at Corcoran, counter-intelligence officer S. Niehus searched my personal legal property in February 2015 and stole ("confiscated") my legal exhibits for active legal cases under the false premise of it being gang-related contraband. In my first level 602 appeal interview with Institutional Gang Investigator Sergeant Pierce, he told me:


"Corcoran's litigation office has confirmed [your] active legal cases and that the confiscated materials were indeed legal exhibits for said court cases, but he is going to retain possession of them, as CDCR has deemed the materials to be gang-related contraband per CCR Title 15 Section 3378."

It can't be both ways! Either they're legal exhibits or not. This type of subjective rationale makes it fundamentally impossible to challenge these bogus allegations of gang activity, because no sooner do we get evidence that refutes these ridiculous allegations, it is then stolen under the falsity of being gang-related. How is this not more of the same old policies and practices? But more importantly, how can we win under these circumstances? It is imperative that the people send letters and emails to M.D. Stainer, Susan Hubbard, Scott Kernan and others in CDCR's headquarters in Sacramento, California to voice your outrage on this contradiction.


MIM(Prisons) adds: In the meantime, we will also fight from the angle of publicizing these abuses via our independent media resources (Under Lock & Key and prisoncensorship.info). We also fight injustice by offering educational materials and study groups to raise the political understanding of anyone with an interest in putting a permanent end to false imprisonment, torture via inhumane long-term isolation, and an oppressive state and military which tries to bully the entire world. The more we understand our oppression, the better equipped we will be to fight against it effectively.

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[Control Units] [Delaware Correctional Center] [Delaware]
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Delaware SHU Torture is Extreme

I'm currently incarcerated in a town I've never heard of called Smyrna, Delaware. I've been locked down in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) for 7 out of 9 years. The SHU torture here is something unheard of in regards to humanity. In my 7 years in the SHU I have received only 135 minutes of recreation a week and 45 minutes a week for showers. This totals to just 144 hours a year out of my cell, which is less than Gitmo, ADX, and Pelikkkan Bay.

We are not able to buy food on level 1. This means you come from the hole for 90 days only to do another 90 days in another building or tier. After 90 days if you don't catch a bogus write up for salt and pepper, reckless eye balling, not making your bed, or a fishing line, then you move to level 2. The reason the food buying is so critical is because they have us on an unwilling SHU diet - half portions of what the rest of the prisoners get outside.

Many guys like me have maxout dates, some are in the SHU with life for possession of marijuana under a bogus third strike. There are also misdemeanor convictions, parole violations, and probation violation. One more recently killed himself while waiting on a bed at the half way house.

They attempt to demoralize, dehumanize and ostracize us with their every move, and every rule newly created is another quadruple jeopardy.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade exposes more evidence of the unjust torture that are long-term control units. These exist in prisons across the country, and are the target of our campaign to shut down prison control units. There is no possible justification for the use of this extreme isolation, starvation diets, and inhumyn conditions. These units are tools of social control, primarily targetting prison activists, oppressed nations and others deemed a threat to the Amerikan criminal injustice system.

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[Spanish] [Control Units] [Gang Validation] [ULK Issue 46]
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Recreación Negada en Segregación Administrativa

Nosotros los que estamos en Segregación Administrativa fuimos puestos aquí por ser parte de un STG (Grupo de Amenaza a la Seguridad), supuestamente un pandillero confirmado. En el 2002 fui encerrado en Segregación Administrativa por corresponder con los presos de otra unidad que fueron confirmados como STG. Salí de prisión en el 2004, y recientemente regresé a prisión este año, nuevamente me encuentro en Segregación Administrativa aún no siendo parte de una pandilla. He tratado de escribirle a los oficiales que investigan a las pandillas, también escribí un reporte sobre mi asociación en el pasado; me dijeron que iba a ir a un programa (GRAD) diseñado para ex-pandilleros. Todavía estoy esperando.

Durante el tiempo en Segregación Administrativa, debemos de recibir una hora de ejercicio (recreo) por día, como parte de nuestros derechos. Yo he estado en esta unidad por seis meses y solo he salido a recreación dos veces. He escrito una queja como primer paso, solo me dijeron que me darán una respuesta cuando el personal lo permita. La población general recibe recreación diariamente, y tienen el personal suficiente para esculcar las celdas cuando salimos a bañarnos cada-otro-día. Hay otras unidades a las cuales les falta personal, pero todavía reciben su hora de recreación. Es triste porque unos necesitan el ejercicio por razones medicas y todos lo necesitamos por razones mentales. Estar constantemente en la celda del diario es una batalla mental y un problema de salud serio.


MIM(Prisiones) responde: En Under Lock & Key (ULK41) nosotros publicamos unos relatos de validación pandillera que han sido usados como instrumentos de control social.

El STG (Grupo de Amenaza a la Seguridad) está diseñado para sujetarse sobre las cabezas de los presos que son más conscientes en la política, y después es usado con excusa para aislarlos de los demás. Para la administración es irrelevante si los individuos validados se afilian con una organización lumpen. Hay lugares que te clasifican como una STG solo por trabajar/estudiar con MIM(Prisiones). Nosotros publicamos relatos como este para demostrar las condiciones de tortura en estos programas de aislamiento, y el arbitrario uso que el "STG" marca. En realidad no confiamos en el sistema de injusticia, que decida quien es una amenaza a la seguridad: Las amenazas más grandes a la seguridad se presentan en el gobierno Amerikano y en el ejercito y sistema de prisiones.

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[Control Units] [ULK Issue 43]
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Torture Spreading as Tool of Social Control

In this issue of Under Lock & Key we take on the issue of social control in prisons through long-term isolation, commonly known as control units (CUs). CUs are 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. Almost 50% uf ULK subscribers are in CUs, while this is true for less than 5% of the overall prison population in the United $tates.

This topic comes up a lot in ULK because control units are used to punish and isolate prisoners speaking up against the criminal injustice system, those with influence over others, and even those who just won't go along with the programmed repression of everyday prison life. Our prisoner activist comrades, United Struggle from Within members are often found in these long-term isolation cells, still writing for ULK and organizing others in whatever way they can. The real purpose of these control units is exposed in "Control Units: Social Control for Semi-Colonies in the United $tates," and several articles on validation for activism. Control units attack our ability to organize and are yet another way the prisons foment divisions between prisoners.

We know that long-term isolation has serious mental and physical health consequences. The conditions are eloquently exposed in the article on the Delaware Prison System. And the dangerous health effects are discussed in the article "Who's Defining Mental Illness?"

The use of control units is expanding within the Amerikan criminal injustice system and the past and future growth of control units are explored in the review of the book "Out of Control" and our summary of recent results from our own control unit survey.

With all this information on the development and purpose of control units we need to turn to activism and what we should be doing to fight back. Many of the articles listed above offer insights and options. And for the overall development of the movement we call attention to the article on the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity and the lessons for the United Front from the Bandung Conference. By building a United Front for Peace in Prisons we are laying the groundwork of unity and peace to take on important battles like the one to abolish control units.

The fight against prison control units is important for the anti-imperialist movement, but it can only be waged in the context of the broader struggle. We might win some reforms and gain some freedom for our activist comrades behind bars, and better conditions for the general prison population, but until we dismantle the criminal injustice system we won't be able to effect systematic change. And that will only happen with the overthrow of imperialism because, as is clearly exposed in this issue of Under Lock & Key, prisons are a critical tool of social control for the imperialists. There's no way the imperialists will give up that control, and they always look for new ways to spin national oppression to sound tolerable and even necessary to the Amerikkkan public.

Control Unit Survey Responses

MIM(Prisons) has been soliciting for data on control units for the past several issues of ULK. We're forced to do this because there is no central information source on control units in prisons in the United $tates. Even for states that publish data on their population and report on the existence of control units, the counts of prisoners housed there are not always accurate. and there is a trend to downplay and under report on control units. Whether this is by giving them a different name (administrative segregation, super max security, security risk housing, tiers, etc.) or by refusing to talk about these long-term isolation cells altogether, this subterfuge and denial is evidence that the prisons know control units are cruel and unusual punishment.

In response to the frequently heard question of how would we deal with crime differently, first we point out that we do not agree with a definition of crime that allows the biggest murderers and thieves to run the government and military. Once the people have power to control the definition and enforcement of laws to be in the interests of humynity and not profit, we'll be able to thoroughly deal with the real criminals. We hold up the example of prisons in China during the Cultural Revolution to show how communists handle crime and justice. Prisons in China during that time were places of political education and retraining. Landlords, capitalists, and spies were given an opportunity to understand their crimes against the people, to make self-criticism, and to learn new and useful skills so that they could return as productive members of society. This is in direct contrast to the Amerikan criminal injustice system, which builds recidivism and isolates politically active and influential prisoners in control units without even a pretense of education or rehabilitation.

We received 54 responses to the control unit survey over the past year and this article summarizes some of the new findings.

The respondents broke down by state as follows:


StateRespondents
AR, DE, FL, KS, MD, ME, MO, NV, OR, SC, UT1
AZ, CT, IL, PA, TN, WI2
IN4
CA6
TX8
GA13

The high response rate from Georgia, Texas and California is at least in part reflective of the activism going on in those states, as well as the control unit prisons and cell blocks that have proliferated in those states. In many cases we received data on the same prison from multiple sources.

While close to half of the survey respondents did not report on the year the control unit opened (presumably because they didn't know), 12 of the units reported on opened in the past 2 years. That's a lot of new prison control units. This includes prisons in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Maine and California.

Some prisons are control units in their entirety. Modeled after the first long-term isolation prisons in Marion and Lexington, these facilities are entirely dedicated to long-term solitary confinement. But most control units these days are separate sections within an existing prison. This might be a whole yard, several units, or just specific cells. This makes it more challenging to count the number of control unit beds/prisoners accurately, and gives the prisons a way to hide their torture programs within regular prisons.

The reasons given for locking prisoners up in long-term isolation vary, but most come back to some sort of justification based on safety and security, citing a history of violence or fighting, or rule violations. In many prisons there is a policy of locking up "Security Threat Group" members, also known as "gang members," for which validation is arbitrary and punitive, as we discussed extensively in Under Lock & Key 41. As one prisoner explained: "If you are politically conscious and write about such they claim 'gang activity'." Several others described the arbitrary nature of control unit assignment, explaining what gets people into these units in their prisons: "COs will falsify the lock up order and sergeant and lieutenant will go along", "Any and everything. Such as litigator-grievance filer", and "No information in inmate handbook. As far as known, administrative discretion."

Most people were unaware of new control unit prisons being opened or planned for in their state, but 13 people reported on known plans for new control units. This underscores the importance of our work to shut down these torture chambers.

Many survey respondants reported on the conditions in these control units. Below are some of the representative descriptions:


"Subpar treatment of prisoners, small food portions, withholding of property, mail, etc."

"They are all sensory deprivation torture at its best"

"We don't get yard correctly or food in proper proportions"

"Barbaric, human degradation less than dogs receive at the pound"

"We are locked in for 24 hours a day. Shower, sometimes every other day for 30 minutes. We get outside recreation for 5 hours once every 7-10 days"

"Each cell here only gets 30 minutes a day of dayroom and 3 hours of yard a week"

"They lie on us, beat us up, starve us, they don't give proper medical attention"

"While in segregation for almost four years, myself and other prisoners were subjected to the most inhumane and barbarous treatment. There were periods in which we went months without getting showers. In my almost 4 years here, I had recreation/exercise maybe 20 times. Prisoners would be stripped out, completely naked in their cells for days. Prisoners would be gassed/maced with multiple cans of this toxic agent – guys were sprayed so regular and with such large quantities of gas, they many of them had built up physical and psychological resistances to the torture – guys would brag about being able to 'eat' the gas, and the officers were so use to using such large quantities of gas, if they gassed someone with only one can and the person coughed and choked, they'd say things like 'you lil' bitch, you can't even take a full can.' Prisoners would be denied food, prisoners were beaten with restraints on, prisoners were shot with the canisters of tear gas guns, while locked inside of their cell, and on May 7th or 8th of 2012, one mentally ill prisoner was allowed to hang himself, while the officers simply slept the night away. There are so many crimes that have been committed behind these walls by animals that have the audacity to call us (the least of these) criminal."

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[Hunger Strike] [Control Units] [Georgia State Prison] [Georgia] [ULK Issue 43]
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Georgia State Prison Hunger Strike Against Control Units

A hunger strike against the Tier program at Georgia State Prison started on February 24, 2015 and will be official as of February 26. So far four prisoners are refusing food trays!

I was recently transferred to Georgia State Prison and arbitrarily placed on a Tier 2 Step Down Program. These administrators have placed a ban on all newspapers, magazines, and any publications dealing with any form of press, so I have not received any of your periodicals since I was transferred from December.

I have filed grievances challenging this violation of the First Amendment and also the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments due to these prisoncrats stripping me and others of all personal property, denying access to the law library or outside recreation, and deliberately abusing grievance procedure by refusing to process any grievance that is submitted.

Further, prisoners are being placed on this so-called behavior modification program with no due process! Prisoners are being punished for disciplinary reports that are five years expired, and for sanctions already served. No one in this program has been given any form of evidentiary hearing nor any Disciplinary Report (D.R.) that has sanctioned this so-called program. In fact, all are being punished for past behavior. Even if the D.R. was dismissed or expunged from the prisoner's file he is still forced into this Administrative Segregation Unit.

Prisoners are being housed two men to a cell and locked down 24 hours a day. Prisoncrats state that this is not for punishment, nor is it solitary confinement, but they call it "isolation" with a roommate. There is nothing habilitative about this program and it only instills anger and hate into the individuals housed here.

The only prisoners who have been released off this program are prisoners that have either maxed out their sentences, died back here (3 prisoners in the past 90 days), or debriefed and turned snitches for the prisoncrats.

The majority of mail sent out to family and press is shredded or tossed into the trash, so we are struggling to get public attention drawn to this torture program. It looks as if we will be forced to participate in a hunger strike in order to get help in ending this prolonged solitary confinement program. So we ask that eyes and ears be placed upon this place because there are those ready to starve themselves in order to force these prisoncrats to remove us from these cruel and inhuman conditions.


MIM(Prisons) responds: Comrades in Georgia have been aggressively exposing and fighting the Tier program since it was implemented in 2013, and in some facilities have been writing petitions and gathering signatures against the torture. We offer much respect to those willing to sacrifice their health in order to demand changes to these horrible conditions. And we will do what we can to support this battle (which we only learned about in mid-March due to mail delays). We can not advise on the specific situation in GSP, but we caution activists behind bars that whenever possible we should build support both inside and out before engaging in such a potentially dangerous action. ULK is one good venue for building public opinion, and when we can get the publication into prisons it also serves to help build the cadre of dedicated folks willing to take these actions. Without this support the prisoncrats have an easier time isolating and breaking activists, and can even use this to permanently harm or even kill someone.


Update 9 April 2015 — I'm here in Georgia State Prison on hunger strike, in protest to my 1st, 5th, 8th, and 14th Amendment rights to the U.S. Constitution being deliberatily violated by the Georgia Department of Kkkorrections (GDC). Other prisoners and I have been arbitrarily and unlawfully stripped of all personal property, mail and phone privileges, access to satellite law library, contact visitation, commissary privileges, and to add insult to injury the Warden has taken the toilet's flush button from inside the cell and placed it on the outside. Now here's the kicker: prisonerers are being housed two prisoners to a single-occupancy cell with no way to flush the cell's toilet. This is part of Georgia Department of Kkkorrections' new Administrative Segregation Tier program of prolonged solitary kkkonfinement.

The Standard Operating Procedure states that this program is not to be used as a punishment measure, but GDC's actions are contrary to its stated purpose. According to this policy, a prisoner must be sanctioned to disciplnary Administrative Segregation in order to be placed upon the program. I have yet to come across any prisoner that has received a disciplinary report that sanctioned such a placement.

Then, daily, these prisoncrats come around and spew lies as to why this program was started: "To reintroduce prisoners back into the general population and back into society." This is a farce because none that have completed all phases have been placed back into general population. They've come up with a phase "+" (plus) to keep all prisoner who've defended themselves from guard attacks on permanent lockdown with all segregation/Hi-Max mandates stripped from them.

So I initiated a strike which started 23 February 2015 and ended 19 March 2015, has been resumed since 20 March 2015, and is still going on. I am also putting together a 1983 Civil Suit to challenge and abolish this torture program! I've posted several articles on this subject on IndyMedia hoping to expose this neo-fascist torture program for what it really is. There is nothing rehabilitative or positive in any aspect pertaining to this so-called Step Down/lockdown program. These Klu Klux Klan and bootlicking Negroes are working overtime to keep all grievances/complaints from reaching the courtroom. So this is a war and I'm fighting to destroy this torture program.

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[Control Units] [ULK Issue 43]
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Book Review: Out of Control

Out of Control: A 15-Year Battle Against Control Unit Prisons
by Nancy Kurshan
Freedom Archives, 2013
web book available here

"All human activity is collective - a combination of the work and inspiration shaped by those who came before us and those who labor with us." - Nancy Kurshan

Nancy Kurshan does an excellent job of highlighting the significance of a 15-year struggle of the Committee to End the Marion Lockdown (CEML) from 1985-2000. This struggle was initiated to end the lockdown at Marion Federal Prison, located in the state of Illinois, which morphed into one of Amerikkka's earliest and most notorious control units and isolation-based torture chambers. At its core, the book illustrates countless examples of mutual aid and cooperation, along with emphasizing the importance of having clearly established goals and objectives that can be reasonably achieved.

As with any struggle that is geared towards movement building, CEML began with the idea of a few individuals; founding members Nancy Kurshan, Jan Susler, and Steve Whitman initially just wanted to educate the people by exposing to the public the systemic practices of social, political, economic and racial injustices that are inherent in the prison system, and how these contradictions impact and affect our communities. It wasn't long before their work took on a life of its own, that was molded by their relentless strategical planning and organizing.

Unbeknownst to many in society, solitary confinement units were originally modeled after the diabolical techniquest of the mad scientist, Dr. Edgar Schein of MIT. He provided a blueprint on how to break and brainwash the Chinese prisoners of war in his book Coercive Persuasion. Nancy Kurshan excerpts a passage from Schein's article "Man Against Man":

"In order to produce marked changes of attitude and/or behavior, it is necessary to weaken, undermine, or remove the supports of the old attitudes. Because most of these supports are the face-to-face confirmation of present behavior and attitudes, which are provided by those with whom close emotional ties exist, it is often necessary to break these emotional ties. This can be done either by removing the individual physically and preventing any communication with those whom he cares about, or by proving to him that those whom he respects are not worthy of it, and, indeed, should be actively mistrusted...

"I would like to have you think of brainwashing, not in terms of politics, ethics, and morals, but in terms of the deliberate changing of human behavior and attitudes by a group of men who have relatively complete control over the environment in which the captive populace lives."(p. 12)

This history gives relevant context to the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation's (CDCR) gang validation policies/practices, and in particular to CDCRs newly-created step-down program (SDP). The SDP is where we prisoners have been targeted and persecuted with the same purpose and objectives that Schein had in mind — to break and brainwash us! It must be noted that Pelican Bay's counter-intelligence unit (Institution Gang Investigators — IGI), has successfully destroyed the only real outside support I had. They falsely accused my beloved lil sista of promoting gang activity via a letter she sent me to tell me that Black Panther Party members were going to be attending and supporting a community event that was being held on my behalf to raise awareness about my status as a political prisoner and forthcoming parole board hearing.

Instrumental in CEML's successful grassroots organizing were several key factors:

1) They made a point of not just jumping into activities but rather committed fully to doing the groundwork necessary to make events successful. This allowed them to preserve and maximize their limited resources. For example, they would initiate plans 3, 6, or 12 months in advance, containing specific objectives that they wanted to achieve in their line of work.

2) Their collaborative work with political prisoners such as Sundiata Acoli, Oscar López Rivera, Alejandrina Torres, Bill Dunne, Safiya Bukhari, Hanif Shabazz Bey, Carlos A. Torres, Silvia Baraldini, and Susan Rosenberg, which later included the prisoners who were also being subjected to various human rights abuses. CEML members were able to learn first hand of the contradictions that plagued Marion Prison and others like it, thus equipping CEML with the necessary tools to achieve their objectives, while providing substantive support to prisoners. Pivotal in this exchange was CEML including the prisoners in the decision-making process when strategizing for a particular action and/or a community event.

3) CEML understood the importance of having organizational infrastructure. They constantly distributed pamphlets, leaflets, flyers, brochures, and other propaganda-based materials via the workshops, seminars, and study groups they held, to educate the people about their line of work. This ensured the basis of clearly-defined organizational expectations being set forth, which made it easier for CEML to receive support from the community.

4) CEML did not limit the focus of their primary objective to just ending the lockdown at Marion; they also instituted additional campaigns that became interconnected to their pursuits. For example, the prisoners at Marion were being forced to drink, shower, and wash themselves in toxic, polluted water. The exposure of this contradiction brought about outrage from the environmentalists, and allowed CEML to forge a united front with them.

And so I close with a clenched fist salute to Nancy Kurshan and the entire CEML staff for a job well done - but more importantly, for having the wherewithal to share their struggle and life experiences with the people. I urge people to read and study Nancy Kurshan's book Out of Control and build upon the framework that she has provided us. The book is available online at: www.freedomarchives.org.


CLASS="no-indent">MIM(Prisons) adds: We agree with this writer about the value for activists in the Committee to End the Marion Lockdown's (CEML) summary of their 15-year history. Out of Control provides valuable historical documents and analysis on the development of control unit prisons in the United $tates and their use for social control, as well as organizing lessons from fifteen years of CEML activism dedicated to fighting the torture units. By linking to historical documents, the online version of this book provides a particularly useful resource and should serve as an example to other activists about the importance of not just doing our organizing work, but of documenting and summing up our lessons for the future. (Quotations below will reference chapter numbers because the online book does not have page numbers.)

In this book we learn that CEML was the original source for some of the critical statistics we still use today about the disparity in incarceration of New Afrikan people in the United $tates. And based on their correct understanding of the use of prisons as a tool of social control targeting oppressed nations, and the use of control units to target revolutionary activists, CEML correctly predicted the dramatic expansion of the prison population and of control unit prisons. CEML's analysis of the criminal injustice system in the United $tates lines up well with our own:

"[W]e realized that there was virtually no connection between crime and imprisonment. Rather, imprisonment was being used as a method of social control for the most rebellious segments of society, in this case Black people and other people of color.

"We reasoned and asserted that just as prisons were to control rebellion in society, control unit prisons were to control other prisons, and that the 'holes' or 'boxes' within control unit prisons were used to control control unit prisons, etc. Just boxes stuffed in boxes."(ch. 29)

CEML was initiated by Nancy Kurshan and others, coming out of movements such as the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee. Kurshan summarizes their view on organizing: "In our corner of the movement, we felt we had a particular responsibility to organize other white people to fight racism and injustice."(ch. 4) MIM(Prisons) agrees with some of the theory behind this approach, in particular the idea of focusing on the needs and goals of oppressed nations' struggles for self-determination within the United $tates. Kurshan writes: "We thought it was important not to compete with the self-organization of people of color, and everything we did was in close consultation with activists in those communities. In addition, we tried to support the agendas that were developed by those activists."(ch. 4) Kurshan goes too far into identity politics in some of her statements, as it is critically important not to abdicate leadership to others simply based on their nationality, but rather to look for correct political line. However, the real problem with this idea of organizing white people to fight racism and injustice was found in CEML's incorrect analysis (or lack of analysis) of classes within the United $tates. Talking about "racism" rather than "national oppression" is indicative of this mistake.

The United $tates is a society based on national oppression with the white nation in power and the oppressed nations facing dramatic disparities in education, housing, income and of course imprisonment. Further, the United $tates is a wealthy imperialist country where the vast majority of citizens enjoy class privilege. And so when we look at who we want to organize we need to first understand what their class and national interests are in the status quo. Those suffering national oppression have an interest in changing the status quo but they still benefit from class privilege just by virtue of their U.$. citizenship. And those benefiting from national oppression (the predominantly white Amerikan nation), and enjoying wealth from the exploitation of the global proletariat, have a strong class and national interest in upholding the status quo including the oppressive criminal injustice system.

And so strategies like the one CEML undertook in Tamms, Illinois to organize the community incorrectly tried to pose the opposition to the prison in the economic interests of the community members: "When it looked like the small southern Illinois town of Tamms might be the site of the new control unit prison, Erica, Leila, and Joey traveled to Tamms to speak with members of the community regarding the nefarious nature of these control units. They distributed literature debunking the notion that the prison would provide locals with an economic shot in the arm."(ch. 22) In reality prisons often provide economic help for the communities where they are built in the form of new jobs and spending. We should take on the nefarious nature of control units without misrepresenting the economics of prisons and the interests of those employed or potentially employed by the prisons. In 2013 Tamms was closed for budget reasons and the guard's labor union delayed the closure with a lawsuit allegedly over safety concerns.

Kurshan explains CEML enjoyed only small victories while facing defeats in all of their larger goals. Our understanding of national oppression within the United $tates helps us see why we are unlikely to win big victories for the oppressed while the imperialists are still in control. Further, CEML put too much faith in their ability to impact Congress, although CEML did recognize that politicians would not take action without outside pressure:

"Our focus on Congress was never exclusive, because we realized that only through grassroots activism — people in the streets — could we hope to get any action from the politicians on these issues. We had to build a movement of people to challenge the dominant ideology regarding imprisonment."(ch. 21)

Ultimately to win this battle against control units and the criminal injustice system we will need to dismantle the capitalist economic system itself. CEML did not put their work in that context and so were not pushing forward the important work of building towards communist revolution. Only with a dictatorship of the proletariat in power will we be able to make fundamental changes to Amerika's injustice system.

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[Gang Validation] [Control Units] [Darrington Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 43]
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Denied Recreation in Ad-Seg

We are placed back here in Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg) for being part of a security threat group (STG), a supposedly "confirmed" gang member. I was placed in Ad-Seg in 2002 for corresponding with other prisoners in another unit who were already confirmed. I got out of prison in 2004, and have just recently come back this past year, and once again I find myself placed in Ad-Seg even though I am not part of a gang. I have tried to write to the gang officers and even wrote a history report about my association in the past. I was told I would go to a G.R.A.D. program that's designed for ex-gang-members. I have yet to hear anything.

During this time in Ad-Seg, we are supposed to receive an hour of exercise (recreation) per day. Well I have been here on this unit going on 6 months and have been to recreation only twice. I have written a Step 1 grievance only to be told that they would get to us when staff permitted. They claim to be under-staffed. But general population gets their daily recreation, and they have enough staff to allow them to shake our cells down every other day during showers. There are other units that are really under-staffed, yet their Ad-Seg blocks receive their hour of recreation. It's sad because some of us need the exercise for medical reasons, and all of us need it for mental issues. Constantly in the cell all day every day is really a mind battle and a severe health issue.


MIM(Prisons) responds: In Under Lock & Key 41 we published many accounts of gang validation being used as a tool of social control. The STG designation is held over the heads of prisoners who are often among the most politically active, and then used as an excuse to isolate them from others. It is irrelevant to the prison administration whether or not these "confirmed" people actually affiliate with a criminal organization. And in some places, working with MIM(Prisons) is considered criteria for classifying people as a security threat. We publish accounts like this one to demonstrate the ongoing conditions of torture in these isolation programs, and the arbitrary use of the STG label. But in reality we do not trust the criminal injustice system to decide who is a threat to security; the biggest security threats are running the Amerikan government and its military and prison systems.

This article referenced in:
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[Control Units] [Mental Health] [ULK Issue 43]
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Who's Defining Mental Illness?

Psychological diagnoses made in bourgeois society seek not only to isolate and treat mental illness on an individual basis, but also says the illness neither affects, nor is affected by, others.

Taking isolation in prisons into account (where research shows that being locked up in itself can cause mental illness) one begins to see the so-called facts in bourgeois reasoning behind individual diagnoses as fallacious. Individual diagnosis benefits the bourgeoisie by separating the individual from h environment, forcing the illness to be considered through the biological lens where it is said to be internally developed. This method negates a persyn's social and cultural influences, economic plight, outside forces acting upon h social milieu, as well as individual interpretation of all the above.

Inside isolation pods in U.$. prisons we are subject to sensory deprivation, restricted movement, lighted cells 24 hours a day, the constant clanging of metal doors, bullying by guards, unhealthy food, as well as sporadic screaming and banging by those even more deeply affected by imperialism's woes. This constant barrage of negative stimuli over a period of time is agitating, if nothing else. Agitation leads to the need for an outlet for the release of pent up tension. That tension leads to anger and resentment. This anger can have far-reaching, long-term effects. This awareness is underlined by my own persynal experience of having a quick temper, blurred reasoning after being agitated, and less thought-out reaction to anger with little to no thought of consequences.

The bourgeois system is backwards because it is idealistic (diagnosing as biological and as not affected by environment) and metaphysical (mental illness affecting only the individual and unchanging). Both these are world outlooks that imply things are what they are and will always be what they are. These outlooks are supported by the bourgeoisie because they compel apathy (indifference to the rule of the bourgeois because there seems to be little we can do to change things) and acceptance of the "order of things" by the masses who come to accept the conditions as inherent and the dominance of bourgeois leadership as unchanging. Basically the bourgeois classes push this line of reasoning because it allows them to hold on to power.

While the bourgeois classes perpetuate imperialism and deny responsibility for world conditions (including the systematic incarceration of oppressed nations) they also label all who refuse to subscribe to their world view as sick, radical, deviant, disillusioned and, of course, mentally ill.

In Under Lock & Key 15 after asking the question "who is mentally ill?" MIM(Prisons) quotes MCB52 that those who are diagnosed with mental health problems are mostly "pissed off people rationally resisting the hegemonic culture one way or another."

The method of diagnosis will change once the people begin defining and deciding our own conditions. Fed up with the conditions we find ourselves and the world in, fed up with being agitated, let's begin to agitate back. And let's build independent institutions that operate outside the diagnosistic structure of the bourgeoisie, where the people decide who is mentally ill based on their contributions to the further development of the people's interest, not because we refuse to take part in a system that oppresses us and others.

Revolution starts in the gulags.
All power to the people.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this comrade on the problem of individual diagnosis for mental illness in bourgeois society. This standard especially benefits Amerikkka because it justifies drugging up oppressed nationals full of psychotropics in the name of psychology, while leaving the structure of prisons and solitary confinement intact. We have heard reports from many comrades in prison that the so-called therapists want to prescribe them strong psychotropic drugs (or even force them to take these drugs), which they refuse because it will have a negative impact on their ability to engage in politics. Yet these comrades' requests for a resful night's sleep, or adequate nutrition, are ignored. Individual diagnosis permits individual (mis)treatment.

The most progressive of psychologists in the bourgeois countries do see a connection between the individual and society. But the vast majority of those are reformists who do not see the link of the individual's mental illness to the capitalist economic system itself. These academics can be our allies, such as those in the struggle to abolish long-term solitary confinement. But their reformist leaning is inherently limiting.

There is use for mental health practitioners and counselors to work with revolutionaries in our present social context in order to help us resolve the mental illnesses we pick up just from living in an imperialist society. The goal of this mental health work should be to make us better revolutionaries, and not just so we can feel more comfortable going along with the status quo.

Of the few mental health practitioners that do see the bigger connections between capitalism and mental illness, most present-day radical counselors are found in the anarchist movements. A challenge with anarchism is it often seeks persynal "liberation" from capitalism today without a long-term plan of how to achieve liberation on a worldwide scale and for the most oppressed peoples in the world. We are not opposed to anti-imperialists of all stripes achieving a higher level of mental health. At the same time, we have to acknowledge that mental illness can be a persynal motivating factor for many people into revolutionary politics ("i am depressed because this world is so fucked up and makes no sense"), and a resolution of persynal mental illness combined with the frustration many feel by the dead-end strategy of First World anarchism is a perfect formula to push people to age out of political struggle for good.

Professional psychological standards in the United $tates push for "objectivity" of the therapist, which is actually just institutionalized Liberalism. In Communist China, mental health workers were educated in political economy and would use Mao Zedong Thought to help people understand how their depression, suicidal tendencies, or even schizophrenia fit into an international and material context. Rather than being limited to defining somone's "personality" or persynal chemical defect, mental health was seen on a mass scale as a product of society. Anecdotal evidence from our prisoner comrades and outside recruits has shown that mental health challenges can often be resolved on an individual level by taking up revolutionary politics and studying to understand all the nonsense of capitalism.

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[Control Units] [Delaware] [ULK Issue 43]
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Delaware Prison System Exposed as Tool of Social Control

In the early 2000s Delaware spent tens of millions of dollars to develop supermax (SHU) and maximum security (MHU) buildings. These buildings house nearly 1,000 prisoners — a robust portion of Delaware's prison population. Destined for these torture chambers were supposedly the most unruly and depraved individuals: those with violent crimes and violent prison records; the kind of people widely considered to be beyond rehabilitation. The problem is, Delaware doesn't have many prisoners who fall into that category. So while some of the few prisoners who fit that description are in the SHU, it is filled mostly with prisoners guilty of only minor infractions such as using drugs or getting into minor scuffles. Even infractions for innocuous "contraband" can earn a prisoner enough "points" to be sent to the SHU.

In the SHU prisoners spend all but 3 hours a week locked in their cells. They come out for "rec" 3 times a week for 45 minutes each time, in a cage roughly 200 square feet in size, followed by a 15-minute shower. They have no contact with other prisoners and are handcuffed whenever they leave their cells. The SHU possesses an eerily Machiavellian structure where everything is incentivized, from how many phone calls and visits a prisoner can have each month, to how much commissary they may purchase, and even whether or not they are allowed a TV or radio. All prisoners entering the SHU start out with the barest of privileges (if they can be called that) and may earn an increase in their "level" every 90-120 days. If a prisoner fails to graduate to his third level (out of four) he will likely remain in the SHU for an additional year. On the lowest levels prisoners are severely isolated from the outside world, being allowed just one phone call and visit each month. Commissary is limited to $15-$25 every other week.

Implicit in nearly every interaction with the guards is the potential, the threat, of violence; every breath is a potential disciplinary infraction, or "write-up." Many rules are either unknown or go unenforced, making for a milieu where a guard could enter, quite literally, any cell in the SHU and find a reason to write up its inhabitant. If you have more than three books at any given time it could be a write-up, or you put water in your Pepsi bottle, or put a picture of your family in your locker, or hang wet clothes up to dry. Almost anything can be considered "non-dangerous contraband." Any guard has the power to keep a prisoner from seeing or talking to his family, a power not infrequently abused. This kind of isolation and control is maddening for the individuals who live under its influence; any refusal to comply with these instruments of violence — any lack of submission — can be met with a can of mace followed by beatings, restraints, and time in the "hole."

It is not too late for Delaware — or any other state, for that matter — to acknowledge and fix their mistake, converting these buildings into "normal" medium or medium-high security housing. Recidivism has not declined, and neither has the number of institutional disciplinary reports. Meeting violent offenders with more violence, along with mental and physical torture, is not an effective method of reform. It will only make the prisoners more fluent in the language of violence. The millions of dollars spent could have been more wisely invested in productive programming and treatment, methods that would actually improve the quality of life of these prisoners. The SHU costs more than twice the amount to operate as ordinary prisoner housing. Converting these buildings would free up funds that could be more wisely spent on means to reduce recidivism, instead of in a way that only worsens the lives of prisoners, and serves to perpetuate a lifestyle of violence and crime. Prisoners released directly from the SHU are frequently angry, bitter and full of resentment. Studies have shown that these individuals are at a much higher risk for recidivism than those released from general population.

The SHU not only allows the administration to control the prisoners within its confines, but also the prisoners in general population. They are able to control and bully the prisoners-at-large with the mere presence, the threat, of the SHU. Looming in the background is the implicit threat that if you step out of line, even for small infractions, you may ultimately be carted off to the slow-motion torture chambers. This provides great leverage against the prison community.

Corruption amongst, and abuse by, the guards is not some abstract concept, but rather a pervasive, daily reality throughout the prison. This manifests itself in a number of ways from filing illegitimate disciplinary reports, to provoking or sanctioning physical altercations between prisoners. Guards will disseminate information that leads to violence, such as if a certain prisoner is a sex offender or a snitch. On more than one occasion I've witnessed a guard provoke a prisoner verbally, and taunt him until he had a reaction, which was then used as an excuse to assault the prisoner, claiming the prisoner acted aggressively.

There is almost nothing a prisoner can do to address such abuses. A group of prisoners that does manage to unite in an effort to organize, make their voices heard or address social concerns will quickly be exposed by some informant (often from within their own circle) and then targeted by the guards and administration. Something will be "found," or some reason invented to have them moved or sent to the SHU. The guards may simply make something up and call it an "investigation." And why not? Nobody is going to stop them. All the power to do so has been stripped and suppressed.

These deplorable conditions create an environment that often feels helpless and insurmountable to the prisoners who live through it. They are being oppressed and controlled, mistreated and abused, on a daily basis. They have no means of addressing these abuses — even the grievance procedure is hopelessly flawed, not permitting the prisoners to grieve the conduct of the guards, or any procedure whatsoever. They recognize that they are being subjected to conditions that surpass mere punishment for their crimes. They are playing in a rigged game. The parole board isn't actually there to help prisoners obtain their freedom; it's there to give the illusion that it is possible, so that prisoners may be controlled. The few that are successful will emerge as scarred, changed men, living with the knowledge and pain of what they were forced to endure, and the daily suffering that continues by the people they left behind.

Readers may wonder why they should care about how prisoners are treated. The majority of them did, after all, commit some sort of crime. But it is no secret that the United $tates imprisons more of its citizens than any other country, with a prisoner population numbering more than 2.2 million, which is 25% of the world prisoner population. We breed criminals to feed into the prison industrial complex for profit. It is a new form of segregation and slavery, done under the guise of justice. We should care because people who would otherwise be productive, contributing members of society are being indoctrinated and conditioned to perpetuate the revolving doors of recidivism. We are not "correcting" bad or criminal behavior; we are not reforming lives or serving justice. What we are doing is abusing millions of our very own, our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, our neighbors. These people seldom come away from the experience cleansed of their criminal inclination or reformed in any productive way. We should care because if this system of injustice operated the way it was intended, we could actually reduce crime and make our neighborhoods, our country, safer. We should care because while most think it won't happen to them, injustice may strike anyone at almost any time. It could very easily be your loved one on the opposite side of the razor wire. And in that moment it will be no consolation that the general public will find them deserving of the mistreatment they will endure at the hands of our deeply flawed (and too often corrupt) "justice" system.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This essay from our comrade in Delaware does a good job exposing the criminal injustice system as a tool of social control rather than a system for punishment and rehabilitation. In particular, the uses of long term isolation, and the effects on those locked up this way, are important reasons behind our campaign to shut down all prison control units.

However, we do not agree with the analysis of the "prison industrial complex" (PIC) or the claim that the United $tates is locking up people for profit. The term PIC implies this profit motive, and it's just factually incorrect. While individuals and some private corporations do make lots of money off the prison system, this is not money that comes from prisoner labor but rather a subsidy from the government which is footing the bill for the imprisonment of so many men and wimmin. The rest of this writer's article actually underscores the point that prisons are for social control, not profit.

So while we agree with this comrade's appeal to Amerikans to join the struggle against the criminal injustice system, we don't think that the general public will join up because injustice might strike them at any time. This injustice is actually very targeted to oppressed nations within U.$. borders. The general white nation Amerikan has more interest in rallying behind expanding prisons in order to preserve their national privilege. We call on Amerikans to join the struggle, but not out of self interest, rather because it is in the best interest of humynity to put an end to national oppression and social control.

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[Gang Validation] [Control Units] [California]
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It's Phase Two, We're All Goin' to the SHU

The January issue of ULK really grabbed my attention with its front page article Agreement to End Hostilities is Main Struggle in CA. As my last article to ULK can attest, there is a whole lot going on in CDCR right now with the SHU lawsuits pending, a court order for CDCR to release people to manageable levels due date on 2/28/15, STG "phase two" pilot program blowbacks, and a general sense of what almost seems like panic among the prison bureaucracy. It's starting to look like CDCR just might have bitten off more than it can chew and the hogs are starting to realize that the tax payer gravy train isn't endless and everyday more and more people on the other side of these electric fences are waking up to the fact that they have been lied to and stolen from by the very people they have placed their trust in for years.

As MIM points out, although it's nice to hear that finally after years and years locked in the torture units, people are starting to be moved back to the mainline, we all have to take heed and remind ourselves that it's just more of the smoke and mirrors that these prisoncrat cowards have been hiding behind for decades. Although they are finally going to acknowledge international laws regarding "long-term" isolation, the SHU torture units remain open and as I can personally attest, still being held and threatened with SHU placement, the pigs are far from being done with using torture units and are currently, and as quietly as possible, filling those same SHU beds with new "STG members and associates."

It is simply a change in official CDCR stratagem. Now everybody they cannot outright "classify" as a "gang member or security threat" they now simply label as an "associate." That way we are all eligible for SHU placement under the terms of the new "phase two of the STG pilot plan" and they can peddle to the public how CDCR "no longer holds prisoners in long-term isolation" per international law. It's a twisted game of musical SHU beds and no one in CDCR, regardless of SNY placement, or non-gang member status, or even an absence of disciplinary write ups, is immune from catching a SHU term. The way the pigs look at it they can cover up their illegal torture programs to the public while carrying on with business as usual by keeping the SHU units constantly full with large numbers of "new gang members/STG associates." All they are going to do now is rotate us in and out at will. I even heard an unconfirmed rumor that they are currently opening up more ASU (Administrative Segregation Units) at prisons in order to accommodate the coming influx of torture victims while maintaining the lie that they will not build anymore SHUs in California.

The orchestrated riot that I was found "guilty" of back in July 2013 is an example of these new "phase two" programs at work. The pigs are using prison yard politics, or better yet what they think are our politics, to pit prisoner against prisoner and place everyone on their STG lists. Once they have "official, confirmed STG activity" placed on every prisoner's file, they are able to pick and choose who they deem a dissident and send them to the gulag units for up to 6 years at a time. As I like to say, "it's phase two, we're all goin' to the SHU." And with this new system in place, they don't have to worry about wasting time with all that "validation points" nonsense that they apparently had in place before to separate the "gang members" from the average prisoner in order to "keep the prison yards safe." In fact, with the new phase two STG program, they have streamlined the SHU placement process so although it might appear that they are releasing those that they have held in the gulag for decades, they are also quietly setting the stage for their eventual return along with all of us "Associates."

It appears CDCR has spent at least some of their stolen money on a think tank along with prison litigators in order to conceive and implement this new STG program as well as getting it written up in the official Title 15 for the Operations of Cali prisons. So although it is pleasant to read that a lot of those long-term political prisoners are being "released" to mainline prisons, we all need to make sure we see these events in the proper context. These pigs care for nothing but money and power and want to be able to steal as much as they can with the least amount of effort. If they are being forced to release those SHU prisoners in order to appear just and in accord with international law, you can bet they are going to do whatever they have to do to confirm their hegemony over the prisoners.

We cannot let up the pressure until all the SHUs/ASUs are closed, prison population levels are in check, and the illegal conviction rates that these corrupt courts maintain in order to keep CDCR growing like the malignant cancer that it is, is overthrown. Let's not start celebrating and discussing setting up a "round table" "powerhouse revolutionary structure," quite yet. Just as the swine are taking a fresh look and stratagem so shall we. We must remember that the end hostilities agreement is a great weapon against the pig dominance and they will do everything in their power to destroy it thus, the orchestrated riots they are staging in increasing fury.

I suggest we all take it up a notch and all start refusing to be placed in a double cell environment. Imagine the chaos that would ensure if CDCR was actually forced to proper prison capacity limits. As of now, under section 3005(c ) of the Title 15 inmates that refuse to double cell will be punished with SHU placement, (I know first hand, as of now I am pending a SHU term for this very violation among other things), yet the "sting" of this punishment for a non violent "crime" is worse than it appears to be. With phase two SHU prisoners quietly, but quickly being used to fill those SHU beds left vacant, they would physically not have the SHU torture cells to punish all of us and set their "example of proper behavior." They might have the guns, but we've got the numbers, which becomes glaringly obvious when all prisoners, of all demographics, stand together on an issue. History has shown, it's the only thing that will without doubt, force their hand. Let's not wait until phase two is fully implemented. Let's act now with a pre-emptive attack on their cute little "rehousing plan" and start refusing cellmates! Much love and respect to all in this struggle.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We agree with this comrade's call for a collective response to put an end to torture in Calfornia prisons. However, we print h suggestion of refusing double celling only as an idea, which others have brought up as well. We are not advocating the use of this tactic at this time.

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