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Quejate, Quejate, Quejate; un Movimiento Creciente para Democracia

En este numero de Under Lock & Key estamos presentando reportajes de camaradas en varios estados quienes están dirigiendo esfuerzos por una campaña para tener las quejas de prisioneros eschucadas y respondidas por oficiales y empleados estatales. Esta campaña ha ido creciendo en popularidad, con mínimo esfuerzo por MIM(Prisons), pero aun muchos no han oído de ella y hay mucho espacio para expandir. Para todos que siguen inspirados por los ricientes esfuerzos de prisioneros en California y Georgia, pero sienten que sus condiciones no están tan avanzadas, les sugerimos que laboren con la campaña de quejas encabezada por USW para empezar ha organizar gente en tu área.

Las acciones básicas necesarias para avanzar la campaña de quejas son:
1. Presentar quejas sober las problemas que enfrentas donde estas. Hacer que gente a tu alrededor presenten quejas. Apelar tus quejas hasta el nivel más alto.
2. Si tus quejas no son contestadas, organiza la gente a tu alrededor para firmar y enviar las peticiones de quejas creadas por USW, distribuido por MIM(Prisons). Mande cartas siguiendo to queja periódicamente para averiguar la condición de tu petición. Manda respuestas a la petición de quejas a MIM(Prisons).
3. Si tu estado todavía no esta cubierto por la petición de quejas, pero tus quejas siguen sin contestación, traduce la petición para que trabaje para tu estado. Esto requiere buscar citaciones y pólizas, y figuran a quién sería mejor para mandarle la petición.

Aunque conseguir respuestas a las quejas es esencialmente un ejercicio en reformismo, vemos promesa en estos esfuerzos porque luchan para darle voz a unos de los mas oprimidos. Esto es una lucha democrática en una parte de los Estados Unidos donde la menor cantidad de democracia existe. Americanos te dirán que eso es la chiste, "haces el crimen, haz el tiempo." Pero nosotros no estamos de acuerdo. No pensamos que la sistema prisionero de los E.U. tiene algo que ver con justicia o aplicar leyes sociales imparciales a sus ciudadanos. La simple realidad de que la mitad de todos prisioneros estadounidenses son Nuevo Afrikanos, mientras que sólo son el 12% de la población de E. U., rebate la teoría de un solo golpe. En general, las naciones oprimidas han visto un aumento de democracia en los Estados Unidos, pero aun un creciente segmento de estas naciones, estan teniendo sus derechos negados legalmente. Esos que han cometido crímenes reales en contra del pueblo y deben pasar tiempo en prisión bajo estándares proletarios, creemos que un programa de reformación criminal requiere responsabilidad de ambos lados.

Algunos han empujado por campañas para darle derechos de votación a prisioneros como un método de aumentar los derechos democráticos de prisioneros. Pero nosotros vemos elecciones imperialistas como algo que tiene muy poco que ver o nada con las condiciones de naciones oprimidos. En contraste, vemos la campaña de quejas como una campana democrática que nosotros podemos apoyar porque verdaderamente puede tener éxito en dandole mas voz a prisioneros en sus condiciones de día a dia.

La campaña de quejas a cual nos refirimos fue originalmente despertada por unos camaradas de California en enero del 2010. Desde entonces se ha extendido a Aroznoa, Colorado, Missouri, Carolina del Norte, Oklahoma y Tejas. Las peticiones son puestos al dia regularmente basada en reacciones que recibimos de aquellos usandole. Los tres estados que son particularmente activos recientmente son Tejas, Carolina del Norte y Colorado.

La campaña en Colorado se lanzo justo antes de que recientes reformas fueron promulgados en la sistema de Colorado como resultado de resistencia pasiva por trabajadores de prisión siendo usada en industria a escala-grande. Similarmente, la petición de Missouri es especifica a sus condiciones de censura alrededor de una nueva póliza prohibiendo música con clasificación consultiva de los padres.

En este numero, hay dos reportajes saliendo de Tejas demostrando los niveles variantes de organización dentro un estado. Un camarada en la unidad Connally reporta de una demostración masiva. Mientras otro camarada ha diligentemente presentado las quejas máximas que ha podido por casi dos años, el ha probado que este camino es inútil por si solo. ¿Pero cual es la lección aquí? ¿Valen la pena nuestros esfuerzos? Nosotros decimos que no hay derechos, solo luchas de poder. Nosotros ya sabemos que la sistema de injusticia va ha abusar de la gente, esta hecho para controlar ciertas poblaciones. Para ganar una lucha de poder, el otro lado tiene que sentir un tipo de presión. Algunas veces una queja a un nivel mas alto es suficiente para aplicar presión. Pero cuando el nivel mas alto esta involucrado en la represión, va requerir mucho mas que la queja de una sola persona. Mira el ejemplo del encerramiento de Escocia. Un camarada reporto que quejas estaban siendo ignorados, como ha sido común en Escocia antes del encerramiento. Pero hemos oido por un ULK corresponsal de ULK, Wolf que una combinación de quejas de prisioneros y partidarios de afuera resultaron en mejoramiento de condiciones, aunque pequeños. Esto es paralelo a las peticiones para acabar con el zoológico de modulario 2 en la prisión estatal de High Desert, que conoció algunos éxitos este año pasado.

La lección no es la del consiguiendo un poco de tiempo fuera de las celdas, o una gorra, es una gran victoria. La lección es como prisioneros y sur partidarios de afuera trabajaron juntos y ejercieron su influencia sobre el DOC como un grupo. Al mismo tiempo, un camarada de Carolina del Norte reporto como resistir a solas puede ser riesgoso.

Nosotros pensamos que la campaña de quejas es un buen paso firme para camaradas que dicen que unidad y conciencia estan faltando en su área. Como sabemos por los reportes en ULK, las condiciones en la mayoría de las prisiones en todo este pais son muy similares. Entonces la base para organizaciones masivas debe existir aunque requiere algún trabajo duro para empezar. Circular la petición de quejas no requiere mucha gente para empezar, y todos pueden identificarse con ella.

Un líder USW involucrado en la campaña original en California salió ha cuestionar la eficacia de la táctica de firmar peticiones mandadolas a oficiales estatales y observadores oficiales. El/Ella propuso moverse hacia demandas para hacerlos tomar atención, particularmente después de que un miembro del personal del CDCR insinuo que no oirán ni, una queja sin demanda. Como Jon Q Convict indica, todavía hay otras conexiones que hacer entre la campaña de quejas y el acceso a los medios de comunicación en estados como California para crear mas responsabilidad para los captores. La mejor táctica va depender en tu situación, pero la petición es un buen lugar en donde empezar y poner las aguas a prueba.

Este trabajo no es solo un camino para juntar aliados localmente, pero esta conectando luchas a través del país. Un camarada de Massachusetts fue inspirado por los esfuerzos de un camarada de Florida quien estaba teniendo problemas movilizando a otros y escribió ha decirle, "A mi camarada de Florida, te quiero decir que te mantengas fuerte." El/ella siguió ha citar Mao, "En tiempos de dificultad no podemos perder la vista de nuestros éxitos, debemos ver el brillante futuro y debemos animar nuestro valentía."

Por supuesto, opresión siempre existirá bajo imperialismo, porque es una sistema definido para la opresión de algunos naciones a otras. Y no podemos esperar usar reformas para componer una sistema que tortura gente y luego ignora remedios administrativos para cubrirse los traseros. (pagina B) Pero nosotros tenemos que empezar en algún lugar. Y la campaña de quejas abarca mucho de las batallitas que nosotros hemos peleado no mas para poder leer lo que queremos, hablar con quienes queremos y para tener una voz en esta sociedad.

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[Control Units] [Florida]
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Solitary Confinement Torture in Florida

Evidence is never impartially investigated or presented at disciplinary hearings. Contrary to claims of disciplinary teams, captives are railroaded and cheated, subject to arbitrary one-sided, kangaroo court, despite the evidence (camera and/or eyewitness) in captive's favor.

Air Conditioning is used as a torture device in disciplinary confinement. Cells are kept freezing cold, so cold that frost can be seen coming from the AC vent. Captives are allowed no sweat shirts or long johns from their personal property, only thin, torn and inadequate state issued blues, boxer shorts and socks in these freezing cold cells. Cruel and unusual, inhumane. Lights on, whistle blow wake up calls 4:30 a.m. every morning including weekends screaming "wake up, get dressed, bunks made." Captives are not allowed under their sheets or blankets till 5:30 p.m., forced to remain exposed to the cold in these locked cells. How cold is it? Between 50-60 degrees. Prolonged hours of cold causing numbness of bones.

Confinement meals are always cold due to being intentionally left to sit on the food cart in the hallway, way before feeding time.

Strip (property restriction, steel) captives are placed on steel or strip by overseers for 72 hours or more at a time in these cold cells. Stripped of all property except boxer shorts and a steel bunk, based on fabricated reasons of zealous overseers. If captives are caught under their covers, or wrapping themselves in their sheet worn under their blues, or overseers claim that captives are too loud, standing on the door or talking on the door, overseers will lie that captives have been disruptive and disorderly. They would write on a captive's contact file that he is being disruptive even while he's not just so he can be placed on steel or gassed (sprayed with chemical agents, i.e. pepper spray). Picture prisoners being gassed, placed on steel, and receiving more disciplinary reports. Captives are being gassed or placed on steel for asking for 303s (grievance forms), request forms, sick call forms and/or ink pens, tooth brushes, tooth paste, toilet paper and other necessities permitted by law but are denied.

Captives arriving in confinement any time after the monthly issue date of tooth brushes or the biweekly issue date of tooth paste or the weekly issue of toilet paper are deprived until next issue date. No toilet paper? Use your hands or your sheets.

Captives cannot file complaints due to being intimidated with retaliation or due to being denied ink pens and 303 forms. The grievance box is empty, not because captives are okay but because of the above mentioned reasons. Without ink pens, captives can not only not file complaints, but cannot write or contact family or outside sources, cannot fill out sick call or canteen forms. Overseers and the whole administration adhere to the rules only when and if convenient.


MIM(Prisons) adds: It is descriptions of conditions like this one that led us to initiate the campaign to shut down prison control units. Part of our work on this campaign is documenting both the conditions of torture in these isolation units and systematically documenting where and how many of them exist. Write to us for a survey of control units in your state if you can provide an accurate count for your prison or others.

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[National Oppression] [Release] [New York]
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Parole Denials, Solutions, Winning Cases

I am writing to your publication to report some troubling statistics concerning Black men incarcerated, the parole system, and the latest Supreme Court cases regarding parole denials.

Black men incarcerated

There are approximately 27,494 Black males in the New York state prison system (50.8%) - New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) - and, that's over half (51%) of the prisoners in custody as of January 1, 2011, according to DOCCS Under Custody Report: Profile of Inmate Population. These figures are extremely drastic, appalling and warrant investigation by the United Nations, because Blacks are being targeted to fill up NYS prisons in order for certain whites to maintain employment in the rural areas up north in NY.

Black females incarcerated

In NY prisons DOCCS is warehousing 965 Black females (43.7% of the female prison population). Of the total number of prisoners (54,109) under custody in NY (including DOCCS, jails and other facilities), 2,206 (3.9%) were Black female, according to the Under Custody Report (2011). Compare these statistics to the white prisoners women who are only 1.5% of the prison population.

Blacks and Parole

Dating back almost 50 years, the Board of Parole (BOP) commissioners have been denying parole to Blacks more than any other ethnic group in NYS. Despite our (Black male and female) efforts to rehabilitate ourselves via obtaining education (GEDs, mandated programming by DOCCS and college), the BOP continuously denies Blacks parole at an alarming rate compared to other nationalities. Also, for years the BOP has utilized the nature of the crime as the sole reason for denying Blacks parole - although the nature of the crime (NOC) will not change - it is whatever someone was locked up for. This means that those convicted of some crimes have no chance at parole no matter what they do in prison. This amounts to the BOP admitting that prisons are not about rehabilitation since the one thing a prisoner can not change is the NOC.

In a recent ruling the court wrote: "...they [BOP] cannot base their decision exclusively on the seriousness of the crime and must explain their denials in detail..."(1)

On March 31st, 2011 several significant amendments to the Executive Law (BOP) were signed into law - including Executive Law (Exec. Law) 259-c(4); however, BOPs "lawlessness, arbitrariness and their refusal to follow the mandates of the legislature..." warrants an independent investigation by the United Nations (UN) for further scrutiny about denying parole to eligible inmates who have earned their freedom by doing the right thing (i.e. completing their minimum, taking responsibility for their crime(s) and obtaining their mandated programming).(2) If you are reading this article and you have been denied parole after March 31st, 2011, or you know someone in NYS-DOCCS who has been denied parole unfairly, then please be aware of the following cases recently appealed by inmates that - as a result of their litigation - were released:

  1. Velasquez v. NYS Board of Parole (Feb 6, 2012)
  2. Thwaites v. NYS Board of Parole, 934 NYS 2d 797 [see also Pro Se, Vol 22 No 1] and;
  3. Winchell v. Evans, 27 Misc. 3d 1232(A) (Sup.CT.Sullivan Co. June 9, 2010), [reported in Pro Se, Vol.20, No.4].

All the above cases (Article 78s) are winning cases which resulted in prisoners - who chose to litigate their matter by challenging the BOP - being released from DOCCS custody.

Out of twenty years of my incarceration, I have witnessed the BOP deny parole to many men and women based upon their nature of the crime - despite their efforts to rehabilitate themselves. Some of these people have earned Master degrees, Bachelors and the minimum of an Associate degree, only to be denied by the BOP commissioners who judge the prisoners for a period of 15-30 minutes, if that, during their parole hearing.

The nature of the crime doesn't, will not and cannot change so why are we being denied parole solely based on the very element which will not ever be different?

Conclusion

In my humble opinion - after serving 20 years in NY DOCCS - the only way we prisoners will receive justice is by taking our case to the UN for review. How do we attempt to go about this? Reflect back on the Egyptian people and how they were successful in spreading the message of support for their cause via internet. This tactic will have to involve our families who are already walking around with cellular phones all day so this should not be a difficult project. I strongly believe that we can change the BOP unfair practices against us Blacks and Latinos. If we care enough to work together, putting your petty differences aside to bring our relatives home. Our family members have served their time, changed their lives by establishing entirely new ways of thinking and by obtaining higher education. It's time now for our people to step up and support our cause for challenging the BOP unfair parole denials against Blacks and Latinos.

Notes:
1. Pro Se, Vol.21 No.5 2011
2. For more information contact parolereform.org


MIM(Prisons) adds: As we reported in our review of The New Jim Crow, these statistics on national oppression in the criminal injustice system in New York mirror what happens across the United $tates. This author makes a good point about parole hearings and reasons for denial. If parole is going to be based on the very crime for which someone is locked up, there is no point to having a hearing. If prisons in Amerika were truly serving a rehabilitating purpose, the work prisoners do educating and changing themselves should be the primary basis for granting parole. It is good to hear that some court cases are being won on this front.

We do agree that this is a battle worth fighting to help get our comrades onto the streets sooner, but we don't anticipate the imperialist-dominated United Nations to offer any support for the oppressed people of the world. We may win small reforms through the courts and with mass protests, but the only way to truly put an end to the criminal injustice system is by dismantling the imperialist system it serves.

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[Prison Labor] [Organizing] [Estelle High Security Unit] [Texas]
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Fighting Trickery and Abuse by Texas Prison Industries

Without a doubt, prison is a microcosm of "free world" society and with that being said, revolutionary-minded men and women who are serious about combating oppression face similar struggles that "free world" comrades face. Earlier this year, on this unit I sat down with two of my comrades to discuss how we could awaken and revolutionize the minds of the proletariat on this particular unit. The proletariat group we were specifically interested in were those who worked in the Prisons Factory/Textile mill on this unit.

What prompted this discussion was the arrival of a new plant manager who was implementing a new oppressive system. Now I want you to remember in Texas, inmates are not paid anything! Some years ago when the feds took over Texas prisons, a question was put forth to offenders "would you like to get paid for your labor or would you like to receive good time and work time credits toward your sentence?" Offenders were bamboozled and hoodwinked into choosing good time and work time credits. I say offenders were bamboozled and hoodwinked for this reason: I have seen numerous men who had time slips that have shown a combination of flat time, good time, and work time exceeding their sentence length! In some cases I have seen time slips in which offenders have served, or more accurately been credited, 150% to 200% toward completion of their sentence. Why are they still here? I thought Texas Department of Criminal Justice had told Uncle Sam they would honor an offender's good time and work time credits. Comrades - they lied!

So with this and other relevant factors considered I came up with an idea for a "flier" to be posted up on every housing block on Estelle urging Black men, Brown men and white men to stand up. Basically I was calling for a work strike to protest the 10 hour work day and the austerity campaign implemented by the new plant manager. Please note in 2011 the Textile Factory at Estelle Unit made about $1.8 million. How many deodorants, toothpastes, or "zim-zims" and "wham-whams" do you think the prison workers received for their labor? Zero, nada, zilch!

In the aftermath conditions improved slightly inside the factory. Prisoners still aren't paid a penny and are treated like scum. However, there is more than one way to skin a cat. With the application of the dialectical problem solving method as well as employing some "covert" tactics the struggle continues, it's just not "televised," or telegraphed.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We commend the scientific process undertaken by this comrade to think through the contradictions within the prison and figure out what strategies and tactics will be most effective in pushing the movement forward. This is the discussion and debate that we must undertake within each state and prison.

While the proletariat in U.$. prisons is a small minority (see previous articles on prison labor), these types of organizing strategies are useful in many situations where prisoners are employed in running the prisons themselves.

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[Campaigns] [Fremont Correctional Facility] [Colorado]
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Grievance Campaign Update in Colorado

I have received a response from the Warden - Ms. Susan Jones - who was only temporary (we've had three wardens in the last 6 months here at Fremont Correctional Facility) and it was a two paragraph "toe-the-CDOC-company-line" statement of how CDOC has a solid policy for grievances and all are addressed all the time. Basically a complete lie, as it did not raise serious awareness for our issues here at FCF.

However, there have been at least 30 inmates who filed the Colorado Petition that I know of for a fact, and only a few of us actually got a response, the identical B$ response that CDOC is doing the legally right thing, BLAH BLAH, BLAH, and that these matters have been addressed. Well, they literally have done nothing, and now with another new warden, all petitions were also reported to the U.S. Attorney General's Office as per the petition design, so at least somebody outside Colorado's corrupt system got the same message. I have not received a response from them, nor has anyone here that I know of.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade is building off the grievance campaign that is spreading across the country. The petition for Colorado was designed for exactly the situation described here: prison administration ignoring prisoner's grievances while pretending they are following policy.

This campaign is part of the United Struggle from Within organizing work to gain some basic protections for prisoner's legal rights. We know that under the existing criminal injustice system we will never have broad sweeping change. But as long as we live in a bourgeois democracy, and not a fascist state, we can win battles holding employees of the state to their own rules. And the rights won through grievances create space for prisoners to organize and build the anti-imperialist movement. Write to us for a copy of the petition in your state, or to create one if it doesn't exist.

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[Organizing] [Missouri]
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Pick Your Hand: Oppression or Liberation

I just got done reading Retaliation for Hunger Strikes and New Protest Ideas in ULK 26. My prayers go out to the comrades in the California prisons and every other state's human warehouses who have to suffer from retaliation when we exercise our rights. Although Missouri isn't gang affiliated as bad as most states. We still suffer from racist DOC workers who enjoy making our time hard.

I want to touch on what the CA writer said about prisoners running scared. Man this is common here as well. It's hard to get unity in a place that only wants to divide and conquer. Why would these professional kidnappers want us to unite? They know when we turn against each other, some will eventually turn against themselves. When this happens we as a whole crumble like cookies in a closed fist.

I like to use this metaphor a lot when I am talking through my cell door to other comrades. Picture this, in one hand you have some sugar, in the other hand you have feces (shit). Now there comes a time in everyone's life to choose what they want so they can push forward in life. You have to pick which hand you want to live with, because sugar and feces do not mix!

Every state human warehouse has it's own ways of suppressing us. We as a whole should never look at another comrade across this racist country as if we're better off where we're at, with comments like, "at least we don't have to go through what their going through." No, you're wrong for saying this or even thinking this way. Each of us are comrades (soldiers) in this struggle and when one comrade hurts we should all feel it. When one comrade falls down after so many battles with these racist pigs, then we all should help him up and protect his mind, because let's remember they may have our bodies, but they will never get our minds unless we give it to them.

So let's choose the hand with sugar in it. Stop the cookies from crumbling and unite as a whole. Then enjoy the sweetness of overcoming our oppressors. Keep fighting CA comrades and know you're supported even though I'm in Missouri. Do what you have to do to let them know. But stay healthy in the process. A soldier, a comrade always stays in training, both mentally and physically. Stay up and always stay real!


MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade demonstrates in practice how to uphold the Unity principal of the United Front for Peace in Prisons. "WE strive to unite with those facing the same struggles as us for our common interests. To maintain unity we have to keep an open line of networking and communication, and ensure we address any situation with true facts. This is needed because of how the pigs utilize tactics such as rumors, snitches and fake communications to divide and keep division among the oppressed. The pigs see the end of their control within our unity."

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[Control Units] [Gang Validation] [Texas] [ULK Issue 27]
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New Prisoners Isolated as Security Threat in Texas

The control units here were designed for prisoners the state couldn't control physically. Later it became a place for those it couldn't control mentally as well. Example: I was placed in Administrative Segregation immediately upon my arrival in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) because of tattoos. These were used to confirm me as a member of a Security Threat Group (STG). I don't deny I am a member of [an organization]. However TDCJ made it a rule violation to be a member of any STG. All members are placed in isolation, no matter if they participated in clashes or not. I was never given a chance in population nor is any other confirmed member of any STG. We are all judged on the actions of others who are/were incarcerated.

If an organization will give over a list of its ranking structure and work with the state, then the label of STG may be removed. Prisoners can return to population if they participate in Gang Renouncement and Disassociation. Yes, it's a program and they attempt to program the individual. It's straight up brain washing.

All organizations (or gangs as they call them) were in population somewhere. Only by their own actions should they be segregated, admitted to the Special Management Unit or ADX.


MIM(Prisons) adds: Across the country prisoners are placed in isolation based on labels the prison imposes on them. Often this has to do with who the prison administration thinks they associate with, and nothing to do with the prisoners' behavior as described above. Either way, these isolation cells are torture, causing many to become both physically and mentally sick. MIM(Prisons) is keeping one of the most comprehensive counts of control units as a part of our campaign to abolish control units. To help collect statistics for your state write to us for the control unit survey.

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[Organizing] [Campaigns] [Texas]
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Grievance Petition Spreads in Texas

I got the grievance petition, and I need more. 350 copies is only enough for 35 people, and I've got 144 on my pod x3 pods my building x8 so send me some more please.

Also, I got a reply from the state bar of Texas. They sent info on how to complain about your [state-assigned] attorney that we can use for the grievances in TDCJ.

I did get a response in person from the grievance regional investigator in a personal interview. They basically told us to keep filing grievances and they will work on problems.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We commend this comrade for his ambitious work to spread the Texas grievance petition to every prisoner in his institution. But it is quite costly for us to make so many copies and send them in so we need to encourage everyone to make their own copies if possible. We know that sometimes this will not be possible, and if this is the case for you please explain why and we will try to supply you with the necessary copies.

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[Organizing] [Ohio State Penitentiary] [Ohio] [ULK Issue 27]
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Ohio State Penitentiary Hunger Strike Ends

ohio state penitentiary
Ohio State Penitentiary
9 May 2012, Youngstown, Ohio - Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) hunger strike ends. After long negotiations with Warden David Bobby on 7 May, the hunger striking prisoners at OSP began eating again. Two of the men held out through the eighth, unsatisfied with the agreement. The warden met with them separately and they agreed to come off the strike. Warden Bobby reported that "by lunch time today, everyone was eating." This was confirmed by two prisoner sources.

At this point details of the agreement are unclear, but sources say that the hunger strikers are satisfied and feel they achieved results. One source described the demands and the warden's response as "reasonable." Without going into detail, the main concerns were in regards to commissary cost, state pay rates, phone cost, length of stay, and harsh penalties for petty conduct reports. The warden said that he discussed "many issues" at the meeting with strike representatives, "many things beyond the main demands," but he would not share any of the details.

The strikers are resting and recovering, but have mailed detailed information to outside supporters at Redbird Prison Abolition, which will be released to the public as soon as possible. The warden admitted that one of the hunger strikers was transferred to disciplinary segregation for unrelated rule infractions, but stated that there were no reprisals or punishments for participating. One prisoner source agrees with this statement.

The hunger strike began on April 30 and was timed to align with May Day protests outside.


MIM(prisons) adds: This hunger strike demanded many reforms related to conditions in the prison. As with hunger strikes from California to Palestine, the prison administration made promises to get the prisoners to end the strike. At least one prisoner resumed the hunger strike on June 4 after the warden failed to follow through on his promises.(1)

Hunger strikes are becoming an increasingly popular tactic in the struggle against the criminal injustice system. Prisoners are forced into a position where there is very little they can do to fight for their rights. The legal system refuses to respond, grievances are ignored or destroyed, and on the streets there is more support for "getting tough on crime" than for prisoners' rights. And so prisoners feel their only choice is to put their lives in danger by refusing to eat.

MIM(Prisons) supports outbreaks of organizing and struggle against the criminal injustice system, and we urge prisoner activists to take seriously the need for study and organization before taking action. Not everyone will be a communist, but we can all advance our theory and practice through study and discussion. And we need good organizing theory to make the best use of unity and actions.

A good place to start is the United Front for Peace Statement of Principles. Struggle with us if you disagree with any of them, and if you agree, come together with prisoners across the country to build our unity and struggle.

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[Organizing] [Heman Stark YCF] [California] [ULK Issue 27]
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MIM(Prisons) Too Dismissive of Rebellions

In ULK 25 you printed an article of mine about prisoner struggles in the Youth Training School (YTS) in Chino, California. I'd like to comment on your response.

The main points in your response criticize our efforts to better our own conditions. And that's MIM(Prisons)'s common ideology as I've noticed from the material of yours I've read. MIM(Prisons) is quick to condemn and downplay rebellious actions as premature, saying the rebels ain't "ready" and lack unity of the masses to obtain success. But I don't believe that's always the proper analysis of the rebellions you speak against. Ultimate victory is obtained through action, by taking chances. Is it proper revolutionary conduct to sit on the sidelines and cheerlead, even in the midst of war? That makes me think of the Muslim Brotherhood. They failed to participate in the revolt that happened in Egypt, but they were quick to celebrate the victory, they were quick to want to enforce their ideologies in the new government. True revolutionaries must, at some point, get their hands dirty.

To constantly speak against taking action, for lack of proper political education (or for whatever reasons), is to tell Rosa Parks she should've just moved to the back of the bus. It's the same as telling indigenous peoples they're ignorant for fighting back against the oppressors to preserve their way of life, or to tell the rebel fighters in the African and Arab countries to lay down their arms because MIM(Prisons) doesn't feel those citizens are ready. But as we've seen, many oppressive governments have been toppled successfully.

When Fidel and Raul Castro, Che, etc, invaded Cuba they did it with only 82 men. But they only had 22 left after the first ambush. They lacked the loyalty of the masses, took a chance, and succeeded!

In the situation at YTS I admit we were young and lacked the proper political education, and as I've said, I now see all our energy should've been focused on the system itself. But our technique was a success according to our young, uneducated ideologies at the time. Our goal wasn't to try to change the whole California Youth Authority system itself, but to reform YTS, to make our living conditions better, to get things back that had been taken from us. The power was in our hands, the hands of the people. Administration clearly saw that and eventually relented to our demands. The administration's intent was to pacify us, but in my article I never said anything about being pacified. The "few bones" thrown to us did nothing to calm us down. And in the process we learned something of value: we learned an art of war against the system, and how to organize, even if you do choose to call it focoism. Experience in war, even if that battle is lost (ours wasn't), is intrinsically valuable for the preparations of future battles against the oppressors. "Talk," verbal education, can only go so far. Experience is the ultimate teacher. And it's my experience at YTS that has now made me hungry for revolutionary education. I now study politics and try to get my priorities in order to help clean up the hypocrisy of the injustice system. I doubt I'm the only one that's been motivated as a result of my experiences. So wouldn't you call that a victory?!

Any patriot whose ever lost a battle will tell you he's learned something of more value than just how to shed blood.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We appreciate this writer's commitment to struggle with us over this issue after reading our response to h article in Under Lock & Key. This is a good example of Unity-Struggle-Unity. We must fearlessly tackle our ideological disagreements and questions while working together for change. Theories can only truly be tested in practice, and so in this way we agree that experience is the ultimate teacher.

This is a debate over the lessons of experience, not one of "talk" vs. experience as this prisoner represents. The article we printed talked about the YTS Chino prisoners who engaged in "race riots" where nations fought nations because they were being punished already for violence. The prisoncrats eventually saw the wisdom of resolving the situation by improving conditions rather than increasing repression. Certainly all of the youth involved in these struggles learned some valuable lessons. Most important is the lesson about the arbitrary nature of punishment meted out by the criminal injustice system. But we look to the practice of prisoners across the country and see that violence among prisoners generally leads to more violence and repression by the prison pigs, not the administration giving in to demands.

If we really want to learn from practice we must look at more than just one situation and draw scientific conclusions from history. It is likely that more than one individual prayed for change to the conditions in YTS Chino during this time, but we don't conclude that praying to god results in improvements in prisons just from this one experience. Similarly we can't take this one situation as evidence that violence among the people will lead the oppressors to lessen oppression when this is contradicted in the vast majority of prisons.

MIM(Prisons) does walk a line between supporting just struggles of the oppressed wherever they break out, and drawing lessons from the struggles while trying to push them to ever more advanced and successful levels. While we struggle against focoism, we have a bigger problem of inaction due to fear among the prison masses. So we recognize the positive aspects of immature rebellions that serve as breeding grounds for more advanced comrades and strategies. When these struggles present just demands we will support them, but we should not blindly cheerlead for every outbreak of rebellion.

The case of Cuba is a good historical example where we would defend their just struggle against imperialist aggression while pointing out that their revolution ended up dependent on Soviet imperialism and this hindered their ability to develop socialism and advance further in the interests of the Cuban people. This is a scientific analysis of history that must be undertaken so that we can learn from successes and failures. Many times in many countries people take up armed struggle without Maoist leadership and people's support. We resolutely support these struggles when they oppose imperialism, but we don't want to mislead people by suggesting that this is the best path to follow for other struggles.

This comrade's development of political awareness out of his experience at YTS Chino is a victory for the oppressed. But to sum up that history overall as a victory would imply that random violence among the oppressed wins victories from the oppressor. What makes it useful to retell these histories is to say here's what was righteous, and here's what was backwards or immature in our approach, to apply those lessons to our future struggles and share them with those who find themselves in similar situations today so that they can do better than we did.

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