The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

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[Campaigns] [Oklahoma] [ULK Issue 26]
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Oklahoma's Failed Grievance System Challenged in Court

Recently there was a victory for Oklahoma's prisoner population, with respect to the difficulty of having grievances heard and adequately addressed. On February 29 2012, a magistrate judge held that Director Justin Jones "wrongfully established, maintained and enforced the grievance policy and authorized punishment for inmates who show disrespect to staff." The magistrate further held that Director Justin Jones had: "failed to establish an available administrative remedy on the claim involving the policy on grievance restrictions and disregarded the claim against Mr. Jones for the disciplinary policy involving disrespect to staff."

On February 2 2011, the Plaintiff in this case filed a grievance challenging his placement on a grievance restriction. Five days later, the grievance coordinator returned the grievance and checked the box for "Not an issue grievable to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (Private Prisons property, misconduct, see OP-090124, Section 11.B.1.), litigation pending, not within/under."

In response to a complaint made by the Plaintiff, Director Jones argued that the he had "failed to exhaust his administrative remedies." Director Jones's argument consisted of the following sentence: "Here the prison's administrative records demonstrate that Plaintiff has not filed any grievance/grievance appeal regarding his being placed on 'Grievance Restriction.'"

Director Jones relied on an affidavit by Debbie Morton, which stated that the Plaintiff had not appealed the February 7 grievance decision to her office. Presumably, the Plaintiff did not appeal the decision because the grievance coordinator has told him that the complaint was not grievable.(1) Even at the time of the magistrate's report and recommendation, Director Jones still did not submit any evidence to suggest that the complaint would have been grievable.

"The plain language of the [Prison Litigation Reform Act] requires that prisoners exhaust only available remedies." Tuckel v. Grover, 660 F. 3d 1249, 1252 (10th Cir. 2011) (quoting 42 U.S.C. 1997e(a)). The Oklahoma Department of Corrections's (ODOC's) special report includes excerpts from the grievance policy, but those portions do not identify the matters that are grievable. The magistrate held "thus, Mr. Jones has failed to satisfy his burden of demonstrating an available administrative remedy to contest imposition of a grievance restriction or punishment for disrespect to staff."

In his conclusion, the magistrate stated as follows: "When the Defendant's evidence is reviewed favorably to [the Plaintiff] as required, one can reasonably infer that there was no available administrative remedy to contest his placement on a grievance restriction or the punishment for disrespect to staff. As a result, the court should reject Mr. Jones' argument for dismissal or summary judgement on the basis of exhaustion."

As stated and shown above, my fellow comrades in Oklahoma prisons have no available administrative remedy to contest a grievance restriction or punishment for "disrespect to staff," due to an erroneous establishment of a grievance policy or disciplinary policy. The above outlined lawsuit was filed on March 17 2011 against the Directory of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. If comrades in Oklahoma have been placed on grievance restriction, follow the policy while on that restriction and see to it that the oppressor is dealt with justly.

Further, if comrades are housed at private prisons, know that the ODOC and private companies are in cahoots with each other in an effort to deny you a Constitutional right permitting you to petition the government for a redress of grievances.


Note:
Lyon v. Krol, 305 F. 3d 806, 810 (8th Cir. 2002) (en ban); Bright, J. dissenting) (stating that dismissal for nonexhaustion would have been unwarranted because prison officials may have "creat[ed] the impression that [the prisoner's] claims were not grievable through the [prison] grievance system").

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[United Front] [Organizing] [State Correctional Institution Huntingdon] [State Correctional Institution Camp Hill] [Pennsylvania]
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PA Tries to Divide Prisoners with False Rat Label

I recently returned from a trip to federal court in Harrisburg Pennsylvania. As I re-entered these battered walls of this prison I cringed and rejoiced because the conditions of the temp prison I was at are far worse than Huntingdon. SCI Camp Hill "AKA White Hill" is known for beating, starving, humiliating, and much more. I was housed in the SMU portion of the jail. It's a long-term disciplinary unit. I was banged off every door from booking to the unit, which was no surprise. There we got three cold meals a day, no yard, no shower. That place is crazy. I passed your address along and let the brothers know that there are people who care about these conditions of the PA prison system. These pigs, all ex-military, are overweight, out of shape, and relentless.

As I entered back to the RHU part of Huntingdon I was greeted with "there he is!" "That's the Rat!" I was puzzled, I've never told on anyone in my life. I did a little research and learned that while I was away a couple pigs were telling other prisoners I was ratting on them for passing stuff. We came to the conclusion that my letter to the Department of Justice made these pigs mad. I wrote a letter to the Department of Justice in Washington naming several COs chewing snuff and spitting it in our food, the mice that run this place, the lack of heat, and the neglect of a young Spanish boy who hung himself. The boy survived only because we were kicking our doors and yelling for help. He was in a camera cell with 24 hours live feed to a screen in the RHU bubble, but the pigs were watching TV and playing on the computer while this young man was trying to end his life. So I'm a rat for helping my fellow man. We straightened that all out, and now the pigs are our target once again.

I try to stress to these young brothers, we can't oppress each other. We are already being oppressed by the PA DOC. I tell them if you feel like oppressing another prisoner, take it out on the pigs. I'm spreading copies of all you send me, I'd like to know about how to start a study group here. I want to push your theory it seems to be positive growth material.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We commend this comrade for taking on the "Rat" label head on and clearing his name with his fellow prisoners so that he could continue his organizing work. As point 2 of the United Front principles states, "To maintain unity we have to keep an open line of networking and communication, and ensure we address any situation with true facts." To help prisoners like this one, we run a study group through the mail that provides basic political education, and we also have a guide to forming study groups in prison, so that people can take what they learn and share it with others and have discussions in the yard or wherever else it is possible to gather and talk. Write to us for more information.

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[Organizing] [California State Prison, Corcoran] [California] [ULK Issue 26]
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Retaliation for Hunger Strike and New Protest Ideas

Corcoran prison officials have been retaliating and harassing the prisoners. They started feeding us on small paper trays, leaving us in our cells for days without exercise yard, and openly telling us it's because of people going on hunger strike.

Institution Gang Investigations (IGI) has been harassing everybody, even me. They came and took everything out of my living cell claiming that I am a suspected BGF member. That's crazy! I'm not from any gang at all. Corcoran prison officials got me going back to court facing 10 years to life. They wrote up several false reports on me stating I assaulted staff and the Hanford County DA picked up all the cases.

They are retaliating and punishing everybody. And get this: the prisoners are running scared. They stopped filing complaints against the police, saying: "I don't want IGI fucking with me." Man! It hurts bad to see my own comrades laying down and giving up.

I have been really pushing hard to shut down the Security Housing Units. I have been telling everybody to stop taking a cellmate. Can you imagine the panic that will come over head officials if everybody with a cellmate said no, I'm not taking a cellie. Imagine that. Then ask yourselves should we push for another hunger strike and hurt our health and become too weak to fight these pigs? Or should we push for a big movement to stop all comrades from taking a cellmate? I'll give these pigs 30 days and they will shit on themselves and give up whatever we demand.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We know that the California prisons have been retaliating against prisoners who participated in the recent hunger strikes, and this comrade raises a good point in pushing forward the discussion about best tactics for next steps.

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[Organizing] [Abuse] [Political Repression]
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Organizing in the Face of Retaliation

The conditions under which we prisoners suffer must not go unchallenged by the public. I am targeted by prison staff with cold food, half portions of food, many times 1/4 portions of food, false incident reports written against me, and kept bound under the strict and harsh maximum security classification. I am a revolutionary, I study different methods and test theory from different schools of thought.

I was an activist in society (revolutionary) and I've helped to organize many communities. I now teach and organize the prisoners here, those who have a will to struggle against our current conditions. The organizing I teach is to serve our daily needs/human rights. The air conditioner is blowing full force half the winter, keeping it a cold and icy season. I openly work with all prisoners around our daily needs including protection from beatings by prison officials.

I use mostly methods from revolutionary books by mostly the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army, Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, Elaine Brown, David Hillard, Bobby Seale. These people gave their lives for the struggle. The text from this material has the power to transform minds. Education is a must.

Prison high ranking officials force prisoners to have sex in exchange for fair/humane treatment. I challenge all my fellow prisoners to stand against this oppression to join me in legally fighting it. Once again the prison officials increase the level of abuse, retaliation and torture against me to isolate and discourage others.


MIM(Prisons) replies: Retaliation against prisoners organizing for their rights is a common practice in the criminal injustice system. The best way to fight this is by building our movement. This comrade is right that we must educate and organize because the larger our forces the more difficult it will be to single out organizers for retaliation. The Black Panther Party literature provides important historical material that has relevance today. We encourage our comrades behind bars to also use MIM(Prisons) literature as an organizing tool. Under Lock & Key contains news and analysis to help educate and inspire prisoner organizing. Form study groups with others, share the newsletter, and contribute articles to help build this important resource.

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[Abuse] [Mountain View Correctional Institution] [North Carolina]
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When the Morning Comes: Current Prison Conditions

Imagine being in the body of an animal who lives the zoo-life everyday for long periods of time. Waking up in the wee hours of the morning I see the same wall, same toilet and sink 8 feet from me; I feel the same back ache from last week after another night of "sleep" on a metal bunk with a 2 inch thick pissy mat. The food trap has been popped open with a loud thud - time for breakfast. As I arise from that bunk, I notice the darkness through the mesh metal covering my small window. As I stretch I jam yet another finger because I can't stretch my arms fully out.

Breakfast meals become predictable: eggs, bread and a 7 oz cup of cereal. After eating my meal I go to brush my teeth and wash my face and notice the 15 to 20 year old dirt ring around the sink and toilet. So much for effective cleaning supplies. Here at Mountain View Correctional Institution in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, we never get a fresh change of clothes. Just a wash twice a week with no detergent, soap, or anything of that matter. My white shirt matches the color of my brown pants. They issue s state-ordered Black slip-on shoes despite the fact I have my own shoes, which I'm not allowed to have in isolation. My 1 hour recreation time only 5 times a week is hardly recreation in a 15x15 steel cage with no workout equipment.

The only thing to look forward to is mail (if you're lucky enough to get it) and showers (which are only 10 minutes), and food trays. Don't forget looking forward to the hundreds of ants and rodents you will have to kill during the day that are living in your trash bag. As I talk to a friend, I get told by authorities to keep the noise level down. My friend is 5 doors down and everyone's talking at the same time, which will make this impossible. He closes a steel slider which has been placed over my door window - which they say is for "noise control." Everyone is still talking at the same time so, again, quieting down is impossible.

Finally mail call comes. They arrive at my door with a notice of publication disapproval, yet again. This is the only mail I have coming in, yet they deny this to me, always for the same reason - "may cause violence or disorder or insurrection which is a threat to institutional security." Moreover, the department and constitutional rights and policy violations are rampant. I sign away the only thing I depend on for outside contact with the world, being that visitation and telephone privileges have been restricted.

What am I to do? How about reading a book? The two I'm allowed have been read several times. After studying some material for the 5th time today, I sit and stare at the same white wall I wake up to every morning. I look down at the rib cage bones that are showing now due to the excessive weight loss from lack of adequate food. As my day winds down, I go to brush my teeth in the same dirty sink and notice against that I am forced to use state-issued hygiene when I have a tin of my own hygiene I have ordered from canteen. State-issued toothpaste, soap, deodorant that breaks my arm pits out. I see why they say the state is going broke. Even the state-issued paper I write on is a puzzling thing because I have two full 80 sheet notepads that they have denied me from having.

I lay down without brushing my hair nor combing it because I'm denied those things as well. I can expect a ton of lint to be in my head due to me being denied a wave cap to cover my head. I lay! I think! Lay on the same sheets I've had for months. The same blanket I've had for months. I think of what the morning holds. I can expect the captain to come attempt to pacify me for the grievance I just wrote on foul conditions. On the notification the secretary of divisions of prisons received about these foul conditions. What will be brought up is the numerous food strikes that have occurred. The numerous occasions where the facility's "swat" team was brought in to "Rodney King" me. The property confiscation, mail stoppage. It's always been a "reminder."

I could very well expect to be told to pack my things to be moved to another facility after just being moved from unit to unit to unit. Could it be better anywhere else? Will things change? I guess I'll see in the morning in this cage. You have no "freedom." You have no "rights." There is no "rehabilitation." No "correction" by the Department of Corrections. Only control, repression, depression, suicide, violence, problems. You do what they tell you to do or resist and face crucial and sometimes deadly consequences. Welcome to the zoo-life - and this is just the isolation unit of more vulnerable zoo-life. Where the morning is unwanted and the night is hell. But when the morning comes, we'll do it all again.


MIM(Prisons) adds: These conditions, and the punishment prisoners face when fighting for their rights, are pushing forward the campaign to demand our grievances be addressed. In reality much of the horrible conditions faced daily by prisoners is considered legal and so can't be fought through the grievance system. No surprise in a country where we let mass murderers run the government while locking up Blacks and Latinos at astronomical rates. This is why the grievance battle is part of a larger struggle against imperialism. We won't be able to reform away this injustice, in the end only revolution will allow us to make real and lasting change in the interests of the people.

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[Abuse] [Campaigns] [Stiles Unit] [Texas]
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False Charges and Grievances Ignored in Texas

I'm writing to you in hopes of receiving relief or at least a thorough investigation into the matter of a grievance I filed. It's an appeal to a disciplinary case I received on November 2, 2011, for allegedly "Threatening an Officer," which was completely false and untruthful.

At approximately 3:00AM on November 2, Officer Nwanko let inmates out for breakfast. Because he didn't give prior notice, as standard procedures, a lot of inmates were caught unaware. Officer Nwanko was closing prisoners in their cells for not being ready. A college class I was taking started at 5:00AM I explained this to the officer but was ignored. It was during this time that other prisoners who were stuck in their cells were hollering to get out for chow and AM lay-ins, and were cursing the officer. Officer Nwanko proceeded to let out 3rd row, then left. On his way out the door, another prisoner made a comment for which I was written up.

After he finished letting all the inmates on the pod out, he went to the front desk and called for rank. Officer Nwanko explained that someone made the threat, but had no knowledge who the offender was that made the threat. He stated "When I was leaving, 35-cell (my assigned cell), was trying to get back in to get a school pass, ask him." Because of this statement, I was called to the front desk where I was then confronted by Lt. Davis and Cat. Graham, who both ask me about the threat made to the officer. Lt. Davis wanted to know who made the threat against the officer. When I had no knowledge, Lt. Davis made it quite clear that unless I told them what they wanted to know, that I would be locked up, and charged with threatening an officer. The officer was instructed to write the case, knowing this to be false and untruthful.

During my disciplinary hearing, the charging officer didn't have his story straight. The security tape will refute his testimony which the hearing officer relied on in finding me guilty of the charged offense. He stated that as he came down from third row, I intercepted him and proceeded to follow him. I requested that the security tape be made available for review, for that day and time that this alleged threat was made against this officer by me. The footage will refute the charge and discredit the charging officer's false testimony. The hearing officer refused my request for this security tape to be presented in my defense.

I never threatened this officer, nor approached this officer at any time, as the tape will substantiate. Despite the credible defense evidence of the existing tape, I was found guilty by the officer. The appeal process was equally unsuccessful. This greatly affected my chances for parole consideration, as the board relies heavily on what the "papers" say not on truth/or ones claim of innocence. Any input by you will be appreciated.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade sent a copy of his grievance petition looking for our assistance. Unfortunately MIM(Prisons) doesn't have the resources to help with each individual battle against injustice like this one as there are so many going on in the Amerikan prison system. But we encourage everyone to participate in the campaign demanding our grievances be addressed as a systematic way to deal with this problem. Of course addressing grievances still won't put an end to the injustice in the criminal injustice system. But it will help prisoners like this one shorten their time behind bars and create more organizing space for anti-imperialists building the movement behind bars.

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[Security]
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SNY Debate: Everyone Must Prove Themselves Through Actions

Seeing as I am SNY [Special Needs Yard], I'm compelled to put forth a few words on this matter. I've met many folks who neither "debriefed" nor snitched on anyone. After so much time on these lines, just how much b.s. can one person take? Unnecessary politics and needless racial tensions get old. That opinion is being held on the line. When young people get to prison and hear this type of talk, of course they will go SNY when confronted with an issue that will jeopardize their freedom or personal health and well being. Why fight a battle that the leaders are clearly undecided about?

To blame this or that generation is neither manly nor responsible, it's downright cowardly. Everyone is to blame and once an individual recognizes that there are responsibilities and duties to be upheld, that whether SNY or not, let him be a man and uphold those responsibilities and duties. Stay in your own land and quit trying to tell the next man what you think he should be doing. There are recriminations coming from this side (SNY) that there is more telling on the line than anyone will ever let on. The point is: get the beam out your own eye before you can get the speck out mine.


MIM(Prisons) responds: There has been a lot written about the SNY in the pages of Under Lock & Key as prisoners line up firmly on one side or the other of the debate over whether SNY prisoners can be revolutionary comrades. Our position falls in line with what this prisoner writes: we want people to demonstrate their commitments to the struggle through action. There are many reasons why people go to SNY, and not all of them snitch or debrief. Similarly, there are many mainline prisoners who snitch or work with the guards in other ways. So we must judge each person, SNY or not, by their actions.

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[United Front] [ULK Issue 25]
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Internal Unity Should Precede United Front

As an active outstanding member of the Growth & Development struggle down in Texas, I feel it's my duty to speak up on the article "Criticism and Good Communication Helps Us Grow and Develop" by Ras Uhuru in ULK 24.

In the vision of our great leader, growth starts on an individual level; to reach the great discovery you got to have self-growth. Once you reach that then as a nation, as a movement, we can develop. That's where the three Ds come in - Dedication, Determination & Discipline. The three Ds in self are three keys to reaching development. Our great leader tells us to let these concepts reside in our hearts & be guiding light for us. Everyone wants to change the world but our honorable chairman tells us revolution starts with self: educate yourself, be dedicated, determined & disciplined, grow as individuals then we can develop as a nation. That's the "Blueprint" and the 21st Century concepts for GD are all based on this.

I wouldn't say we are a revolutionary organization but fo'sho' we are political and struggle and strive for success in everything we do. To the Revolutionary Gangstas, I preach that to you brothers, regardless of all else, always strive & struggle for success. Educate yourself on the new concepts of GD. As for Ras Uhuru, the Growth & Development movement is obviously something you don't have a full understanding of either because the four stages of GD start at Gangster Disciple and end in a Great Discovery. Maybe these brothers in South Carolina have not reached past the first stage of GD. But to be aware is to be alive and so I strongly advocate that all of these brothers from Mr. Uhuru on down to the Revolutionary Gangstas educate themselves about a movement before speaking up on it.

The Growth & Development is FOC - For Our Children, For Our Community, For Our Cause. The new struggle is for education, politics, economics, unity, organization & social development. Get on point brothers and keep ya shields up and your swords sharp, and always seek and share in the vision of our great leader - Free King Larry Hoover!


MIM(Prisons) responds: First, we hope everyone can agree that Under Lock & Key is not the place to have internal debates within other organizations. If there are disagreements within a group about what the group should stand for, those debates should happen within those organizations' own independent means of communication. At the same time, we print statements from other organizations to establish where MIM(Prisons) has unity with them, and to struggle where we disagree. This is a key principle to ideological development for all of us.

We printed the article by Ras Uhuru in particular because we thought it brought up an important concern, which is that we should promote unity whenever it exists. Ras Uhuru's criticism of the Revolutionary Gangstas statement was that it could be read as an implied criticism of Growth & Development, but without any substance. We agreed with Ras Uhuru on this and printed h article in response. Ras Uhuru also felt that the Revolutionary Gangstas should be working for better understanding and unity within their organization as opposed to forming a new organization. This may or may not have been good advice, as this would depend on the conditions these comrades faced on the ground.

As for the position of the responder above, we agree that one must educate oneself first, and that struggling within allows for greater unity with others. This is also true for organizations, which must develop greater internal understanding and unity before they can ever unite with others (see Ras Uhuru's article on United Front). While pushing many positive principles that align with the United Front, the author above states clearly that s/he does not see hself as part of a revolutionary organization. This is a good example of what a United Front looks like. There are clear differences between MIM(Prisons) and GD (even if this author's vision is disputed by others). And yet we can agree on the certain key principles that we both think will further the goals of our respective organizations.

It just so happens that "Growth," the third principle of the United Front addresses this point. The United Front principle of "Growth" states in part, "We support members within our organization who leave and embrace other political organizations and concepts that are within the anti-imperialist struggle." So we are not idealistic in promoting unity; we know that sometimes groups will not want to unite with us even if some of their membership does. We know individuals will leave organizations, and sometimes whole organizations will split. But this should be done in a principled way, with clear political explanations and an attempt to maintain good relations as long as we are all still moving in the same general direction as a United Front.

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[Organizing] [Control Units] [Colorado]
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Restricted Privileges in Colorado is Another Name for Control Unit

I am writing from a prison in Colorado. Here they have special units called RP or Restricted Privileges. These units are 22 and 2 lockdown. They will put you in here for anything they feel is right. Like being fired and having reasonable excuses for missing work. Also for not admitting guilt to your crime when your case is still in appeal. They want you to admit to your crime so you can take their classes and be in compliance. I'm in a camp that houses persons with a sex offense. 85% of this camp has some sort of a sex crime. They will violate you and put you in RP if you do not participate in a group, but they are understaffed and so it takes years if not a decade to get into these groups.

In this RP we are limited to almost everything. We are called last for chow, which usually interferes with our two hours out a day. Also they let us only look through a preselected book cart with books that are not rotated out. They keep us from the library here. This keeps us from learning and making copies. Our yard time is limited as well. We get one hour out, once a week. Even people in the hole get one hour out every four days. Our visits are restricted to a two hour visit on a Thursday afternoon. My family lives out of state so a visit is impossible. Also they turn off our phone time so we are unable to call home or friends. And lastly they restrict our mail.

Their grievance process is impossible here. You properly file step one, two, three and still they tell you "you failed to follow the proper grievance steps." If somehow you do make it through their grievance process, and you fill out all the forms properly, still there is nothing done.

I'm trying to create here a strong offense and a powerful defense. Educating others and myself about ways we can stop this injustice. This is supposed to be "the land of the free." Well we all know it's not. I, however, shall stand strong and fight till the better end. I shall stand till we overcome! I shall fight for peace and inform all.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This story of lockdown and lack of effective grievance procedures is echoed across the country throughout the criminal injustice system. It has become acceptable in this country to lock people up in long-term solitary confinement for years, and then to deny them any legal recourse to even enforce the prison's own rules and policies. United Struggle from Within has initiated the grievance campaign to demand our grievances are addressed. But this is just one small part of the larger fight to do away with this system of injustice. Write to us for a copy of the petition for your state or to help modify a petition to the laws of your state if we don't yet have one.

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