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Under Lock & Key

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[Abuse] [Political Repression] [Campaigns] [Texas] [ULK Issue 25]
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Texas Limits Privileges and Denies Grievances

Due to the budget cuts and Governor Perry refusing the stimulus package, in Texas prisons they've attacked those housed here. They ceased serving prepackaged cartons of milk, and went to powdered milk, and now they have attached a fee of $100 annual to medical. If you need medical care you will be charged for a toothache, diarrhea, headache, etc. But what's devastating is TDCJ doesn't pay its offenders money. Instead it uses good time which they take away as a punitive measure, causing you to do more time.

Since TDCJ doesn't reward or pay offenders, money needed has to come from gifts via family, friends etc. In other words they're extorting our loved ones, and this will follow those who parole with money to be paid and attached to parole fees.

Upon being released from the Texas system you'll receive a bus ticket to your county of conviction and $50. Upon reporting to parole you'll receive the second $50 from which parole fees of $12, victim fees, educational fees, and restitution fees will be deducted, so you're to reenter society on a very small amount of money.

Texas's systems practically operate on what they produce themselves for consumption. Clothing, shoes, food, etc., is all made at the multiple units, sent to central stores and resold to each unit.

TDCJ has the offenders scared. They will stack free world time on any act of violence - any kind of unions or solidarity will be attacked as Security Threat Groups and figureheads will be placed in level III Administrative Segregation.

They have sought out to break any sort of groups and unauthorized activities. Since I've been involved in prisoner rights we've lost more than gained: We have lost smoking products, canned goods, beans, meats, fruits, educational classes, GED, college courses, radios with speakers, cable TV, art privileges, and even carton milk. Long hair and facial hair were banned. They hold supposed good time above these bamboozled offenders and make them comply.

I recently received a major rule infraction, just because I told the law library trustee to stop throwing my photocopies on the floor. So he filed a LID (life endangerment) on me: he forged a letter and signed my name to it - saying I asked another to beat him up, so I received a major rule infraction for Penal Code 71-02 Organized Crime. I've filed 4 grievances on his department and security staff for sabotaging my legal request and destroying my letters. All were denied.

So I wrote to the law library supervisor with no response. I then wrote to the senior warden to no avail. The Office of the Attorney General offered nothing, but they found a dummy letter forged and they promptly protected their SSI (Support Service Inmate).

In Texas you're only allowed to file one grievance a week, and I've been here two years plus. I've filed approximately 94 and all have come back denied - no proof.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This story of grievances being denied over and over for legitimate cases is all too common, not just in Texas but in prisons across the country. This is why United Struggle from Within initiated the campaign demanding our grievances be addressed. We currently have petitions for California, Texas, New York, Virginia, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arizona and the campaign is spreading. We need legal researchers to create petitions for other states. And if you are in a state that already has a petition, write to us for a copy and join the campaign to demand grievances be addressed in your state. It's time to destroy the idea that people can effectively go to the state for protection from abuse in prison.

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[Organizing] [California] [ULK Issue 24]
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Correction on SNY Debate

I've never heard of MIM(Prisons) but enjoyed reading your newsletter and could relate to most of it. I will pass it on to others (already have!) and get more to add to your mailing list.

Please, if it's possible, beg off a little on the SNY stuff! It really turns a lot of our stomachs, to be sure. When I came into the system in the 80s there was no such thing as SNY. Everyone held their mud, even those who got hit (because if they talked, they knew they wouldn't live through the next one.) If you "locked up" you went to the hole, period! No yard, no packages, no programming of any kind, nothing! Now, they make it too easy for guys to be weak and run off to the child molesters, rapists yard!

If you really feel you absolutely must print their filth, please get all the facts correct. Such as ULK 23, p. 13, Hunger Strike First Step in Building a United Front, second paragraph "and Pleasant Valley State Prison is SNY." I know more than a few guys who're going to be none too pleased about this news, as they are still there. I got my case (SHU) off of C yard, then got sent to Tehachapi SHU 4B, which is mostly GP, same for 4A Ad-Seg.

FYI, Pleasant Valley A yard is Level IV SNY, B yard is Level III GP, C yard is Level III GP, D yard is Level III SNY, and Level I is GP! Call CDCR and verify these facts if you will. It's your newsletter, but I would seriously consider (re-consider) who and what you print.


MIM(Prisons) responds: First we want to commend this comrade for recognizing that a few disagreements should not stop us from working together and spreading the revolutionary United Front. In that spirit we want to struggle for greater unity here.

The writer is responding to an ongoing debate in Under Lock & Key about prisoners who escape the mainline for Special Needs Yards (SNY) where they are pushed to "debrief" or snitch on fellow prisoners in return for better treatment (in particular in the context of California prisons, but there are parallel situations everywhere). Many prisoners have already testified that not all SNY prisoners must debrief, a fact that this comrade is not disputing. So the gist of his argument is that it's "too easy" for prisoners who run off to SNY. But prison is never easy, and as long as a comrade is engaging in solid and consistent political work, and not selling out his fellow prisoners, we don't care that s/he got moved to SNY to avoid persynal danger. Prisoners are constantly fighting legal battles to get moved away from dangerous prisons to places they hope will be better. Conditions are so bad in all prisons that this is rarely a significant change, but we won't tell anyone they have to stay in a situation that's dangerous to them if they have an alternative that doesn't involve endangering others.

As for the criticism of the facts in the Hunger Strike article, we take this very seriously. We rely on our comrades behind bars to report the facts about the prisons where they reside, but we do try to check facts wherever we can. In this case we should have caught this error about PVSP. It does not change the point made in that article calling for unity, but it's important we get facts correct.

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[United Front]
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Politics Over Personality

While reading the last few issues of ULK I have seen a theme which has appeared in the past concerning Special Needs Yards (SNY). Every state has its version of SNY. Whether it is called Ad-Seg, PC or SNY is a matter of the "weak."(1) People end up on SNY for all kinds of reasons. We have a whole pantry full of names for such people: PCs, catch outs, drop outs, victims, rats, rapos, cho-mos, or whatever the case may be.

When a person enters the penal system in the U.S. they are instantly thrown into a chaotic world of racial, religious and gang hatreds complicated by competing interests, decades-old animosities and a complex and contradictory idea system that we call the "convict code." All of that is coupled with the prison administration's coercive nature of "rehabilitation." The continued conversation over special needs yards demonstrates that many of us cannot see past the "institutional personalities" that the prison system forces on us.

The reality, whether one wants to face it or not, is many so-called PCs have been the ones that have fought for and secured many of the "rights" we have as prisoners. In the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Farmer v. Brennan 114 S.Ct. 1970, the prisoner was a so-called "weak" element. Farmer was a long-time prisoner rights advocate. It's ironic that the very people who point the finger at SNY prisoners then cite those same prisoners' cases to protect their own rights.

As prisoner activists one of our first goals should be in protecting the weakest and most vulnerable among us. Sometimes that means you have to overcome your own personal prejudices, fears and attitudes which might have developed as a result of the polluted psychological environment in prison. It also means careful self-examination. Socrates wrote, "do not do to others what angers you if done to you by others."(2) That is a concept we all could stand to reflect on.

Every person has their own cross to bear. We shouldn't add our weight to someone else's burden. I welcome the input of so-called SNY or PC prisoners. I have no interest in making their time harder. The first and primary concern we should have is how to collectively work together to secure rights and improve prison conditions and, second, to further political goals as they relate to the first. What we shouldn't do is victimize each other or conform to an institutional personality that hinders political reform.

Notes:
1. On p. 14 of ULK 20, "Not all SNY Prisoners Debrief" was a continuation of the SNY debate I've read over the years.
2. www.quotationspage.com

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[Political Repression] [Control Units] [California]
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Political Activist Locked in SHU on Falsified Evidence

Excerpted from a longer article by this prisoner: Who Am I

As is the case with just about every young Black male/female of the inner city ghettos of the world today, I first came to prison at a very young age, via several previous stints in juvenile hall, the California Youth Authority (CYA), etc. While in prison, I began to become politically and socially conscious through my individual studies and political education classes that I was fortunate enough to be involved with while housed in the adjustment center at San Quentin State Prison, with other like-minded brothers.

Due to my various political positions that became manifest in my active participation in speaking out against, and my refusal to accept, the many social injustices/abuses that were being perpetrated by our kaptors, against the prisoner class, I became the latest target of these gestapo agents' neo-fascist scheme of COINTELPRO [government counter intelligence program aimed at political activists such as the Black Panther Party]. In 1994, as a brotha was commemorating the historical significance of my New Afrikan Black ancestors' legacy of struggle, that entails the elaboration of, and the redemption of all New Afrikan Black people from the subjugation of U.$. colonial slavery, I was removed from the general population mainline of New Folsom State Prison, under the spurious premise of me planning a physical assault for a prisoner that I have never met, or been around, in my entire life!

A prisoner supposedly sent me a letter through the regular U.$. mail system, and ordered me to do this physical assault. It was later proven that no such letter ever existed, and I was never found guilty of anything. But nonetheless, I was still given an indeterminate Security Housing Unit (SHU) term, based on this one source of information. A room full of informants collaborated this information to prison officials, along with the fact that I was supposedly a prison gang member. This collaborated information was coerced from these prisoners via the arbitrary threat of them being removed from the general population mainline. It has been proven that some prisoners, as some civilians of the free world, would sell you their soul to keep from being locked up, or as in this case, from being placed in the SHU indefinitely.

My validation as a prison gang member, on this one source of information, violates the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's (CDCR) own rules and regulations. In particular, CDCR Title 15 Section 3378, that states that for a prisoner to be validated as a prison gang member, there must be three independent sources of information that are proven to be reliable. My case is a concrete example of the fruit of the poisonous tree phenomena, because as the years passed on, with me now being housed in the SHU indefinitely, more and more informants have been forth to accuse me of being a prison gang member. This makes it impossible for me to be released from the SHU to a general population mainline.

But in addition to these material factors, Pelican Bay State Prison's (PBSP) Institution Gang Investigation officers have instituted a new phase of fascism, for purposes of implicating the indeterminate SHU class of captive New Afrikan Black prisoners as allegedly being involved in gang activities, by way of the political and social commentary that we send out through the mail to people of the free communities. This practice amounts to state-sponsored persecution for our political beliefs. This phase of fascism is continuing in spite of the court having ruled that:

"PBSP - CDCR Institution Gang Investigation unit officers, have been utilizing a race-based (e.g. 'racism') approach to say that our political and social commentary is gang activity."

The courts even went on to say:

"That PBSP - CDCR Institution Gang Investigation unit officers have not produced any evidence that said political and social commentary is gang related."

Make no mistake about it, 17 years later, and the struggle still continues as a New Afrikan Black political prisoner of war!

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[Organizing] [Missouri]
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Drawing Hunger Strike Connections Internationally

I'm scribing this missive out of solidarity and admiration for all the comrades participating in the hunger strike in California, Georgia, Ohio and abroad. Thinking of this brings me back to a book I've scrutinized in my captivation recently titled Ten Men Dead by David Beresford. It's about the Irish Republican Army's (IRA) organized hunger strikes, pig assassinations, and overall solidarity of the politically conscious convicts confined in the infamous Long Kesh prison in Belfast. These brothaz (I say brothaz despite ethnicity because we're all "born" from the same struggle) struggled to overcome oppression, implement justice, and overcome oppression toward for freedom. These comrades were willing to fast until death if demands were not met by the tyrants who oversaw them. They also had political support on the outside.

I see the same thing transpiring in California as you read this. I'm intrigued and am in constant awe at the consciousness that permeates from that SHU battle which pivots on the anticipation of that "moment of truth" - the immediate prospect of death. The build-up to that moment is marked by the two sides to the dispute maneuvering to heighten the psychological pressure on the other. And the groundwork for this was carefully laid for this feat of courage I read about in MIM(Prisons)'s ULK.

My plantation has no solidarity amongst us. If you try to manufacture some you're put in long term administrative segregation (Ad-Seg) on solitary confinement for up to a year, due to safety and security being breached or a panya (rat) wanting you out the way before you get h privileges taken. I write this from Ad-Seg. Currently I'm a lone soldier in this struggle but as Terence MacSwiney, the Lord Mayor of Cork and commanding officer of the IRA said in a political essay, "A man who will be brave only if tromping with a legion will fail in courage if called to stand in the breach alone."

Comrades don't give up, fight on, our day is near. The weight of the people will soon crumble this paper tiger. You have my support. Shout out to my Gaidis confined in these gulags. Keep yo face up and chest out.


MIM(Prisons) responds: It is true that the hunger strike in California required much work to build unity and organization before the action. But those comrades in other states who complain that there is no unity should not be thinking that California is so very different and united. It is only through hard work and organizing and educating about common goals that any unity can be built. Across the country this kind of work is punished with solitary confinement by the prison administrators because they know that we are effective. It's often hard, slow work, but it's the only way we can build a united front and take the fight against the criminal injustice system beyond words and into actions.

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[Middle East] [ULK Issue 24]
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Imperialist Warmongers Target Iran

U.S. military surrounds Iran
Stars on the map indicate U.$. military bases, demonstrating who is the aggressor against who.

While Israel/Netanyahu proclaim that Iran has, or is developing, a nuclear arsenal and that nuclear research by Iran can be dangerous for peace in the Middle East, Israel continues to stockpile nuclear weapons freely, without any restriction or limit from the international community; the same as the U$A! So why is Israel allowed to develop all kinds of nuclear arsenal and weapons of mass destruction, as is the United $tates, but Iran is not allowed to have any kind of nuclear research, not even for peaceful purposes, such as energy? Is Israel less aggressive and less war-waging than Iran? Is the U$A less war waging than Iran? Are the U$A and Israel more democratic and just than Iran or Syria or Iraq or Afghanistan?

It looks like democracy, to the U$A, is in the eye of the beholder! To the imperialists, democracy means providing for the elite, the top aristocracy and their lackeys, but not for the oppressed and exploited of the world. This is part of the principal contradiction in imperialist society. It is selfish and cannot see democracy from the vantage of the oppressed nations and the Third World nations!

So Israel can have nuclear warheads, pointing toward Iran, Syria, or any Arab-Muslim country that they claim threatens Israel, but none of those countries can have nuclear research, even if it is for peaceful purposes like generating electricity. With this kind of provocation, Israel is ushering the Arab-Muslim countries to war; but that might be unfortunate for Israel!


MIM(Prisons) responds: This is a good point about imperialist double standards that we need to hammer home each time we see examples of it. The imperialists define who they want to label "terrorists" while they run around the world committing real acts of terror: mass murder, widespread destruction, and environmental devastation. It is the imperialists who will be the cause of the end of humyn life on earth if we do not come together with the oppressed of the world to put an end to imperialist terror.

Today, the United $tates threatened to trigger conflict with Iran when one of its unmanned drones allegedly lost control and flew into Iranian air space.(1) If it was Iran's drone that had flown over the United $tates, we would again see the double standard at play. Last month the Amerikans made unlikely accusations against Iran's Qods force that it plotted a terrorist attack in Washington DC with the Mexican drug cartel, Zeta. Amerikan politicians attack the Third World as "terrorists" and the internal semi-colonies as "gangs." While they tell fantastic stories(2) to link foreign terrorists with North American gangs, we work with lumpen in the United $tates to develop in a united front with the struggle of Third World peoples to end oppression and exploitation. Many people join the anti-imperialist movement out of persynal reasons (for instance fighting against the horrible conditions of imprisonment in Security Housing Units) but we need to broaden our thinking beyond our persynal struggles and see the connections to the oppressed of the world if we hope to make real and lasting change.

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[Political Repression] [Organizing] [Connally Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 25]
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Peaceful Protest in Connally Yard

On November 14, 2011 in 4 building recreational yard, 20+ prisoners (Brown, Black and white) gathered in an historical moment in the state of Texas. This gathering consisted of different organizations, and was the result of the Connally Unit's continued lack of responsibility:

  1. unsanitized trays in the chow hall
  2. no cleaning supplies for individual cells
  3. lack of nutritious food
  4. medical enslavement
  5. high commissary prices
    etc.

As a result of this peaceful gathering, we were targeted and harassed by the units of "gang intelligence," Ms Gonzalez and 30+ officers, all coming out to the recreational yard and surrounding us as we sat on the ground discussing our reasons for coming together. The unit warden also came out but never asked us any questions as to why we were gathered. I did have a piece of paper stating all the above and more, that Ms. Gonzalez took from me. Ms Gonzalez questioned me as to why this gathering was in place and I simply stated that she needed to read the piece of paper she got from me. But she didn't believe what was on it and stated that we were there because we wanted to start a racial riot. As we sat peacefully with their cameras on us we continued to discuss some of the concerns prisoners had pertaining to the health and well being of every individual.

One by one we were stripped and placed back into our cells. The whole building, which consists of 432 prisoners, got locked down for over 24 hours due to our actions and the administration's lack of understanding.

Seeds were scattered that day and the growth of these seeds we shall continue to maintain for a better tomorrow. We have reason to believe that persistence and dedication will soon give us a beautiful "rose within the garden."

I hope that those who read this article familiarize themselves with past experiences before trying to engage in the same, from the uprisings in the plantation camps, to the more modern times: the Attica uprising and Georgia's historical lockdown December 2010, and the more recent, Pelican Bay fasting this year.

Together we can move mountains!


MIM(Prisons) responds: This severe repression in the face of peaceful protests for modest demands provides a good example of the importance of building a strong and unified prison movement if we hope to fight the criminal injustice system. To further build this unity we are calling on all lumpen organizations to join the United Front for Peace in Prison. The Statement of Principles of the UF includes this first point of Peace, "We organize to end the needless conflicts and violence within the U.$. prison environment. The oppressors use divide and conquer strategies so that we fight each other instead of them. We will stand together and defend ourselves from oppression."

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[National Oppression] [Pennsylvania]
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Pennsylvania DOC Oppression by the Numbers

Two Republican judges were convicted in a cash for kids jail time scheme in Pennsylvannia. In PA this practice goes on each and every work day. Republicans in the state of Colorado send kids as young as twelve to adult penitentiaries, keeping them locked up until they're dead or grow old. This is a savage system.

Black people receive two and sometimes three times as much time as white people for committing the same offenses. A Black woman will receive life or a 20 to 40 year sentence for killing her child. A white woman will receive probation or 30 months for the same offense. This in itself is a crime. Black men are automatically charged with rape for any type of sexual offense. White men are rarely charged with rape for any type of sexual offense. Wealthy white individuals aren't charged at all. It matters not how much money a Black person has, should a Black man get accused of a sex crime no matter how preposterous, that ass is going to jail.

Pennsylvania recently sent 1000 prisoners to Michigan in March 2009 and they came back in May 2011. Pennsylvania also sent 1000 prisoners to Virginia who have yet to return. They were sent away, not to reduce over crowding, but for financial reasons. Michigan is hurting for jobs since most of their business moved out of town. Pennsylvania had 7k prisoners who had already served their minimum sentences; however, the Parole Board refused to release them for what they said was non-compliance or lack of programming. Why didn't they just release the seven thousand prisoners who were eligible? Because it's a business. Pennsylvania earned $7 million dollars from the phone system in 2010. This institution earns $5k each day the commissary is open. The Correctional Industry (laundry) here at SCI-Somerset earns $1 million dollars annually from outside contracts.

Pennsylvania does not permit prisoners to purchase photographs with or without nudity. Prisoners are allowed to buy magazines but 6 out of 10 issues will be censored (denied) in order to discourage prisoners from ordering magazine subscriptions. I have had four publications denied in a single day. Under Lock and Key was denied October 7, 2011 along with my People Against Racist Terrorism publication, my Human Rights Coalition magazine and my Black Enterprise magazine on the very same day. Five or more of my publications are denied each month.

In the course of a single decade Pennsylvania prison numbers have doubled, not as a result of the crime rate, but due to investors who receive prime rate of their stock. A score ago, forty-six states harshly rewrote their criminal sentencing guidelines, doubling and tripling prison terms for a broad array of crimes. For this reason, our legislators can now afford to reduce the 100 to 1 powder to crack cocaine ratio to 18 to 1 because the other charges which are the result of one initial crime will make up for the loss.

First time offenders are receiving lengthy prison sentences, sometimes for the skin they're in. Prosecutors decide who will be charged with what crime. Insensitive judges determine how much time any given defendant will receive. One prosecutor told an all white jury "what makes the defendant dangerous is his race." Prosecutors mention high profile cases which have nothing to do with the individual being tried in order to prejudice the jury against the defendant. Prosecutors intentionally introduce false testimony, flawed forensic science and allow police officers to get away with perjury, yet they are not held accountable for their actions. Just as police officers who cut down unarmed Black men get off with justifiable homicides. No homicide is ever justifiable.

How is it that Black americans who only make up 12% of the U.$. population make up 60% of the prison population? Our prison population has quadrupled since 1980. In 1980 Pennsylvania spent $100K on prisons, now the state spends $1.8 billion annually. It's no wonder Pennsylvania is facing a $2.3 billion deficit. In 1980 only 6% of the nation's prisoners were convicted of drug offenses, now that number has grown to 25% and offenders are receiving twice as much time.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This prisoner does a good job summarizing the national oppression that is inherent in the criminal injustice system, not just in Pennsylvania but across the United $tates. We have reviewed the book The New Jim Crow which gives more background and details on this system. While we agree that Pennsylvania (and other states) have an economic interest in expanding their prison systems, we are careful not to mislead people into thinking prisons are about business. Prisons are a tool of social control which also provide good paying jobs for large numbers of labor aristocracy workers. But they are fundamentally a money losing business: As we explained in an article on the economics of prisons, prisons do not make enough money to cover their costs so they will always be subsidized by the government.

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[Organizing] [Lea County Detention Center] [New Mexico]
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New Mexico Pre-Trial Facility Food Strike Against Cruel Conditions

I am writing regarding our circumstances here in Lea County Detention Facility. As a group we have decided to go on a food strike to protest inhuman conditions of isolation. This facility and administration automatically has placed the majority of individuals in some type of Ad-Seg. We are currently locked down 23 hours a day with one hour out to get rec, shower, visit and telephone use. During our one hour out we have to do all that needs to be taken care of, which is impossible. This is cruel and unusual punishment.

We have found ourselves getting treated as if we have already been found guilty for our charges and the majority of us have not even been to court. Their excuse is that a couple years ago some prisoners caused some trouble and now we are being punished for something that we had absolutely no personal participation in. None of those prisoners are in this facility any longer.

At the moment we are on a group food strike. We are being treated like animals. I personally have been to prison and in their Ad-Seg lockdown system we are treated better than here. We would like to be heard, and ask that this facility be investigated. There have been suicidal deaths in this facility due to our situation.

On November 21 I was put in full restraints. I was placed in ankle locks and belly chains with my hands cuffed to my belly chains. And I was forced to take a shower in full restraints! I was also in full restraints during my 1 hour out.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We have been getting letters from prisoners across the country who were inspired by the food strike in California prisons and want to use this tactic to bring attention and change to conditions in their own state's prisons. We support our comrades organizing and fighting for better conditions. And we point to an article in Under Lock & Key 23 which provided an analysis of the California food strike and focused on the importance of ensuring comrades are fully prepared for these actions before they begin. How a campaign is led will determine whether it is inspiring or discouraging to the larger prison population.

As we noted in that article: "One of the major lessons of this hunger strike is the need for a unifying organizational structure through which action can be coordinated and goals and information can be formulated and shared. The United Front for Peace in Prisons provides this opportunity by bringing together LOs and individuals who understand the importance of unity against the common enemy."

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[Organizing] [Foothills Correctional Institution] [North Carolina]
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Food Strike in North Carolina

I would like to notify you all that the comrades and myself (about 10 or 15 of us) are going on an indefinite food strike until our demands are met. It will begin on December 1 and the demands are based on conditions at the institution that are unequal to others, inhumane and macabre. Some of the major demands are:

  1. Being able to recreate (on exercise hour) without full restraints
  2. Removal of the metal covering from all segregation windows
  3. Placement of desk, chair and hygiene shelf back in the rooms
  4. Adequate food and full portions on food trays
  5. End of censorship, bans and/or dis-approvals of reading/study material which do not violate prison rules

Most of our demand are for segregated prisoners who suffer greatly in the facility. We have also organized a call-in and letter writing campaign on December 1 and after in response to these conditions we're fighting. Our parents, friends and comrades will be participating. We are learning from our Pelican Bay and Georgia comrades, even though our strike is on a smaller scale. We still need to learn from the experiences of our comrades to eliminate mistakes.

The information for calling in and letter writing is below.


Superintendent Lance Corponing
Assistant Superintendent Larry Williams
Phone: 828-438-5585
Address: Foothills CI - 3720
5150 Western Ave.
Morganton, NC 28655

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