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Under Lock & Key

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[Abuse] [Maryland]
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Life Sentences in Maryland

In Maryland there are three different types of life sentences. The law in Maryland mandates a regular life sentence, a life in lieu of the death penalty and life without parole.

Regular life means that a person sentenced for the balance of his/her life will not be eligible to make parole before serving at least 15 years less whatever "good-time" he/her have accrued. Some regular life sentences could make parole in 12 1/2 years but only during the early years.

The second form of life sentence is directly attributable to the lobbying efforts of the Stephanie Roper Committee. This applies to cases where the death sentence has been sough by the state's attorney office but rejected by the Courts/Jury. Unlike regular life the lifer is not eligible for parole for at least 25 years less "good time". The earliest possible parole date is after serving 19 1/2 years.

The third form of life is life without parole. This form of life was passed in 1987, also as a direct result of the efforts of the Roper Committee. Under this law a prosecutor can give notice of intent to seek life without parole in any case for which he could have sought the death penalty.

There are currently 2,033 prisoners in Maryland and below is a description of the number lifers who have been paroled by each recent Governor:

Governors; years; paroled

Parris Glendening; 1990-1998; 2
Robert Ehrlish; 1998-2006; 6
Martin O'Malley; 2006-present; 0

Both governors Glendening and Ehrlich has served two terms in office while O'Malley is on his first term.

Such government decisions must be decided on a communist basis where every lifer's case should receive the same fair judgement and sanction.

In Maryland the scale of justice will always remain unfair.

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[Abuse] [Pine River Correctional Facility] [Michigan]
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Toxic Water at Pine River in Michigan

I know the water here is severely polluted here from the big PBB (fire retardant) scare back in the day, when some knucklehead mixed it into feed. The state, in another brilliant knee-jerk reaction, had all the PBB-tainted cattle slaughtered and buried here in St. Louis right next to the river. So naturally all the local water is toxic. Plus, a nearby abandoned chemical plant, formerly owned by Velsicol Chemical Co, is leaking chemicals into the ground water and river from rusting barrels, vats and unmarked buried areas on the 52-acre grounds.

This plant is one of the country's largest Superfund clean up sites, known as the Pine River Superfund clean up, and the EPA has already spent $51 million removing and hauling away sediment from the river bottom and running the water through a high tech treatment plant. Estimates in 2004 were for $100 million to finish the job but the Superfund is out of money and the containment, known as non-aqueous phase liquid (NAPL) is still oozing into the river and they don't know the exact source. They say this NAPL is composed of 82% DDT, and a host of other toxic chemicals including chlorobenzene, a known carcinogen. (See Greg Nelson, "Pine River cleanup funds secure for now," and "Task force seeks origin of 'cocktail,'" The Saginaw News, c. 2004; and Brad Heath, "Delayed toxic cleanup puts public at risk," The Detroit News, 8/9/2004, p1A&7A.)

All the staff claim they drink the water and there is no longer a problem but you'll never actually see them drink the water. We, however, have no choice. I'll probably arrange to have a sample smuggled out and tested like I did in '94. Yep, that one was toxic. Horrifying yet not surprising at all.

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[Campaigns] [Abuse] [Polk Correctional Institution] [North Carolina]
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Protest Sanitary Conditions in North Carolina Polk CF

The sanitary conditions in the dining halls, bakery, freezer, dish room, stock room, serving line and other areas within Polk Correctional's kitchen are appalling. Prisoners voice their concerns to an unresponsive administration and continue to suffer from their lack of concern for the health of the inmate population.

A rat infestation is only the first and most prevalent of a long list of problems stemming from an environment where amateurism and incompetence prevail. This can be seen when a prisoner finds a rodent, or evidence of one, in the food and his overseer - in one particular case a Mr. Covington - told him "what the hell do you want me to do about it?" We merely wish for you, or apparently someone else with high qualification for the position, to do their job. Prisoners will no longer tolerate an administration which, in a bout of penny-pinching due to a cash-starved Department of Corrections, sweeps their problems under a rug. We will no longer accept this as a fact of prison life.

Gone are the days when a prisoner grievance form was the only effective means to make the necessary changes occur. (Which was more often than not a hit or miss process for justice in these matters, and that was if the paperwork did not eventually become "misplaced" or "fall through the cracks" as one Sargent commented on an unrelated matter involving paperwork.)

We have by passed the ineffective administration on the Polk compound and wish to raise awareness, not only to the Division of Prisons, but the Prison Ministries of the Rural People's Party and Maoist Internationalist Movement respectively and the daily newspaper, The News & Observer, that the health/sanitary conditions are only dealt with when the top officials of the state prison system converge on Polk (as was done several weeks ago) or when State Health Inspectors notify prison authorities of an upcoming visit (as was seen on May 28th when guards could be seen running scared with mops and buckets of paint).

We do not wish for cleanliness only on state visits, but as a permanent fact. Officers Covington, Miller, Evans, Gardner, Frazier and Hawkins (to name a few) have been fully aware of this inconvenient reality for quite some time (several have been employed for a decade or more) and have perfected the art of polishing off an apple which is rotten from within.

Polk Correctional, and doubtless the majority of the 73 correctional institutions in the state, need an administrative overhaul to replace officials who are all too familiar on how to cut corners and achieve only the minimum. United Lumpenproletarians from Within (ULW) demands a long-overdue shake-up of the top prison administration at Polk Correctional and other facilities in order to replace incompetent officials with competent and qualified ones. We do not want their overseers to just slap them on the hand which triggers a 2 week "cleanliness is godliness" program and the dismissal of several "trouble-making elements" within the prison kitchen service in retaliation for their higher-ups actually making state employees do their jobs.

As I have stated earlier, the rodent, insect (cockroaches, ants) and severe mold and mildew (asbestos) issues are just one of many problems that prisoners must deal with. As you read other prisoner's testimonies, several have revealed their concern not only of the multiple infestations, unjustified disrespectful conduct by our handlers, but also of a severe shortage in shoes and clothing.

Prisoners are facing sanitary concerns on two fronts. I will elaborate further upon request, but at this time I will post this out in the hopes that the most prevalent of our concerns (physical evidence enclosed) will be brought to light and properly addressed.

This letter came with 10 testimonials from other prisoners at Polk. Below are 3 of those statements

I work at a State Correctional Facility and have seen rats in the storage room, have seen fruit flies on old bananas. I've seen floors mopped with cold water only to keep from stripping the wax. I've seen spills left for days in segregation units. Ants are slowly taking over some of the building. Prisoners ask if they can clean their rooms and the Sargents or unit managers say no. The stairwells are filthy, and there are so many dust bunnies, you could make blankets out of them. Management wonders why some of the staff doesn't want to work.

I am writing this complaint because of the lack of the kitchen's effort to keep the kitchen a clean and sanitary place to prepare and serve food fro the prisoners at Polk Correctional Institution. On a number of occasions I have seen mice running free about the kitchen. I have seen them in the area where the food is stored, prepared, cooked and on the line where the prisoners were served. In one occasion I even saw mice droppings in the breakfast meat that was being stored in the cooler at the time. I have seen holes that have been bitten into loafs of bread. I hope that whoever receives this statement will take action as soon as possible. This type of neglect is unacceptable.

I've been working in the kitchen for a month and a half. The kitchen is very nasty. There are always flies everywhere in the kitchen. I've also seen bread that has been eaten by rats, it is very disturbing. There is another problem, there are rat feces in the food and the freezers. They also expect us to wear the same clothes we use for work in the kitchen even though our clothes are always filthy after work. If someone could please help us with these problems we would all be thankful for your help.

We are asking people to write to the NC DOC to protest these conditions
NC DOC Division of Prisons
831 W. Morgan St
Raleigh, NC 27603-1659

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[National Oppression] [Kern Valley State Prison] [California]
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Update from Killer Kern Valley State Prison

As expected brothas are still struggling against the oppressive administrators here, and when I say brothas I'm talking Black-Africans. We're now coming up from a race based lockdown where all Blacks were locked down for being Black.

K. Harrington (the Warden) said it was because members of the "Black population" had assaulted C/Os on two different occasions. As if the Black population was a gang or organization where one or two individual's actions are a reflection of the mass, and is to be responded to as such.

Almost any other prison you go to in California, individuals are held accountable for their own actions, or those in which they are affiliated. For instance, if a Crip does something out of the administrators regulation, they hold the CRIPs or the individual Crip gang at fault. Not the whole Black population.

But you know this Department of Corruption, they have tactics for everything they do. My theory on our situation here is the inciting of violence. Whether it be against them (pigs) or us (prisoners).

At this time, the California Correctional and Police Officer Agency can use a little publicity on reasons why California tax payers and makers shouldn't start firing their asses left and right, starting from the top. All they need is a few riots to crack off, they'll then call up the local news and have them come out and throw it on the news basically painting to the general public: "see, this is why you all need us." California is in a bad position again, and they can't just build new prisons to put themselves in a better one.

The pigs aren't giving us canteen, the food portions have been reduced and it's the pigs do more taunting towards the Blacks for us to make a move. And a lot of the brothas here don't even see what it is that is taking place, they fall right into the plans of these capitalist pigz.

The water is still contaminated with arsenic lead and they've said nothing about it although when I appealed it they responded to me saying that it'll be fixed by the second quarter of 2009. Well it's now the 5th, making this the third quarter. I'm going to the courts about the issue but I have plenty more so I have to move slow.

Brothers here seem to do a lot of mumbling about the problems, but they refuse to unite and address the issues for fear of being sent to the SHU or ASU for standing up for their rights. Although they (the administrators) already have us all labeled as united "Black Population".

Only the strong survive.

MIM(Prisons) responds: This letter illustrates the type of racial profiling and pitting of oppressed nations against each other that goes on in the criminal injustice system and on the streets. However we would go further than this author and argue that singling out lumpen organizations (LO) is another aspect of the same problem. The prisons decide who to validate as gang members, often putting people in groups with which they have no affiliation. And the prison administrators pit LOs against each other and selectively punish one or the other to increase the violence and repression in prisons.

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[Control Units] [Pennsylvania]
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Restricted Release in Pennsylvania

Restricted Release is exactly what it says it is: a placement on a segregated list of prisoners who are restricted from being released to any general population for an indefinite amount of time. The practice is being implemented in complete violation of due process laws.

Placement on restricted release is to begin at the institutional level within a PRC (Program Review Committee) recommendation. That recommendation is then forwarded to the superintendent where it is approved/disapproved before being sent to the Regional Deputy Secretary of Corrections for review. If he/she concurs with the recommendation it is then submitted to the Secretary of Corrections (currently Jeffrey A. Beard) and approved. NO prisoner on the restricted release list can be transferred or released to general population without the written consent of Jeffrey A. Beard.

DOC Policy states that an inmate shall be informed and given a summary of his placement on A/C restricted release. Upon the initial placement the prisoner has the opportunity to appeal verbally or in writing within two days to the superintendent. This right to appeal is the due process. However, the institutions are conducting these hearings in private without the prisoner being present, therefore denying any opportunity to refute or appeal such placement. In addition, whenever you do attempt to appeal it's being denied for unspecified reasons. I am currently on the list, and to date, I have never attended a hearing informing me, nor do I have anything in writing alluding to my placement. Everything said to me was told informally.

The Restricted Release is basically 23 hour lock down with assumed privileges at their discretion. Policy states that it should not be interpreted as punishment. Still, this institution in particular fails to adhere to that policy, and the few of us here are being denied any additional privileges. Radios and commissary, but no TVs. In addition to this- all of our stories are similar in that none of us received hearings, nor were we able to appeal our status.

It's similar to the Gitmo concentration facility in Cuba, where individuals are taken hostage because of their dress attire, religion, ethnicity and beliefs. No criminal charges or solid evidence to justify the displacement. Prisoners sit on the Restricted Release list for an average of 8 years. It is not a program that involves any therapy or counseling - it's just confinement until either your age or strength diminishes your will.

To my understanding there are 4 of us housed at this institution and we are all contacting family and comrades for additional support in our litigation.

Despite all of this my spirit remains strong as ever, and I only pray that I become a stronger individual when, and if it's all over. I truly appreciate your literature and commitment to our cause.

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[Prison Labor] [Arkansas]
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Prison Labor in Arkansas

I received the ULK issues 7 and [https://www.prisoncensorship.info/ulk/8]8. There are many issues that come to mind reading them. We here in the Arkansas department of Corrections receive good time for work as follows: for every day Class IV=0, Class III=10 days, Class II=20 days, Class I=30 days. When you arrive at a unit you begin "hoe squad" at Class II for an initial 60 days. Each 30 days you receive 20 days good time, then if you get put up for classification you get Class I and a job change. Hoe Squad is working cotton fields, corn fields, etc. with a Texas Aggie Hoe. Once you get Class I and a job change you get 30 days for every 30 days you work.

If you get into any trouble during your stay you are automatically taken back to class IV, and each time 365 days good time is taken whether you have it or not. Somehow you have to try to get that good time back or you don't ever see a parole date. Imagine losing 3 years good time your first 6 months incarcerated and then trying to get back what you don't have.

No prisoner is paid any funds for their jobs, whether it be in the fields or in the buildings, maintenance, clerks, fire and safety, cooks, laundry, etc. We are held in sub-standard conditions, charge us for medical treatment, and our entire funds are $6 per year per prisoner for Christmas and 1 razor, 1 soap per prisoner per week.

We need OGs of all sets to come to the realization that once incarcerated we are the enemy. Unification is a must. Peace needs to be condoned and even guarded by one another. Shot callers need to unite. Get your boyz together, choose decisions and then roll on together - all of us.

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[Spanish] [Kern Valley State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 11]
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El Agua Contaminada es Buena por CDCR

Hoy recibí la respuesta a mi Apelación de la Administración (602) del Director de las Correcionales de California en relación al agua contaminada de aquí, y ellos sin duda alguna la negaron, diciendo que los niveles de arsénico en el agua no son lo suficientemente altos como para poner en peligro y en riesgo nuestra (los prisioneros) salud y como para proveernos (prisioneros) de agua limpia para consumo humano. Yo digo que eso es una tontería!

La primera vez que me di cuenta de los altos niveles de arsénico en el agua de la prisión de Kern Valley fué a travِés de la Red Institucional de Televisión. Ellos habían publicado un memorándum de CDC diciendo que el agua de las prisiones estaba contaminada con arsénico por sobre los niveles límites y legales del EPA's, y que las personas que beben agua de este tipo podrían ponerse en riesgo de contraer cáncer. [Los prisioneros en Kern Valley han estado peleando ésta batalla más de un año.]

[En otras noticias]...Al principio de ésta semana los cerdos se enojaron conmigo porque estoy ayudando a un amigo para que pueda recibir su pago. Los cerdos se equivocaron y pusieron a un prisionero de nivel cuatro dentro de una celda de nivel tres, el prisionero de nivel cuatro terminó atacando al del nivel tres, entonces yo decidí ponerlo al tanto de como obtener dinero de estos cerdos.

Ellos intentaron jugar conmigo y con mi compañero de celda tratando de ponernos en contra de nosotros mismos. Dañaron sus artículos personales, dejando mis cosas intactas tal como estaban. Pero nosotros sólo gozamos de esa mierda. Nosotros sólo miramos lo que ellos hacen desde lejos, y la lucha continúa. Ellos no pueden detener nuestra moción de avance ni nuestro desarrollo.

MIM(Prisiónes) añade: Una vez más, empleados estatales están tratando de promover la violencia en las prisiones del estado y los camaradas de MIM(Prisiones) están evitando conflictos, mientras luchan por justicia. La CDCR dice que censurará a MIM(Prisiones) porque somos una amenaza a la seguridad. Si los prisioneros ya no pueden ser manipulados por el Cuerpo de la Administración para que peleen en contra de ellos mismos la seguridad de la Institución está en peligro según la lógica de la CDCR.

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[Abuse] [Polk Correctional Institution] [North Carolina]
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Mice, Ants and Mold in Polk Kitchen

Two prisoners wrote to MIM(Prisons) with concern about the conditions of Polk Correctional Institution's kitchen. This disregard for the health and safety of prisoners is typical of Amerikan prisons.

The first prisoner writes:

I am a prisoner working in the kitchen at Polk Correctional Institution and I'm a little worried about the rat infestation, ants and mildew problem. The rat infestation is so bad that they food they pass out sometimes has rats or mice in the food. And the ants are all over the place, unless staff hears of an inspection and then they have the prisoners clean the coolers out where most of the mice and rats get food. The mildew is so bad that it has upset my asthma.

The second prisoner goes into more detail:

This letter is to inform you of the conditions of Polk's kitchen. I am a first shift kitchen worker. I have worked in numerous kitchens in North Carolina such as Bob Evans, Red Lobster and others. So I accepted the job here at Polk figuring everything should be rudimentary. What I learned on the job about the preparation of the food has led me to barely eat due to sanitation issues.

As soon as you enter the kitchen you smell an odor of mildew and once you reach the pots and pans and segregation line stations the smell is so unbearable that you get cold chills, goosebumps, etc. They tell us to use dish soap on it or scrub it, but the problem never gets solved.

I remember a time when the potatoes were dropped on the floor and we were told to pick it up and put the lids back on and proceed to delivering them to prisoners. The most dangerous thing in the kitchen besides the mold is the mice. There is a serious infestation in the kitchen that needs to be taken care of.

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[Medical Care] [Abuse] [Texas]
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Abuse and Neglect in Texas Prisons

I have been imprisoned for 12 years. Believe me when I tell you that Texas prisons are not paying prisoners for the hard labor, and this is just one of the many problems they have. Two of the biggest problems are poor medical care and lack of control over the correctional officers.

Let's start with medical. Most of the staff are poorly trained, only here for the pay and benefits. I have personally witnessed RNs and doctors do things that would start a malpractice law suit in the free world. I have seen prisoners have heart attacks, and it took medical 10 minutes to get to them. All the while staff stood over them doing nothing. A co-workers in the kitchen had a hernia, medical department scheduled him for surgery 9 months down the road when he was discharging his sentence in 6 months. He walked around constantly in pain and couldn't sleep. One of my cellies was a seizure patient. Because the medical department could not get his medicine balanced he had more seizures than normal. Doctors prescribe the wrong medicine and prisoners get really sick. I could go on and on.

Because there's no outside oversight these types of things keep happening. Now to the correctional officers. They have the mentality that the uniform gives them the right to talk, treat and do as they will to prisoners. they do just that on a daily basis at all the units in the system. Some will cuss at you, even when you give them respect, because they know nothing is going to happen to them. On two different units I've seen prisoners get gassed, handcuffed, beat until they are bleeding and can't walk, all over a piece of contraband, or because the CO didn't like how the prisoner responded to a question.

Female COs tell supervisors a prisoner said or threw something at them, just so they could see the prisoner eat up, and then stand there laughing. I saw a prisoner in handcuffs, when he initially went to seg he was fine, when they brought him back out 10 minutes later he was bleeding from the nose, eyes were bruised, and limping. Found out later that night that he was beat with a walkie-talkie and pushed down the stairs. Medical was told he fell. This came from a CO. Two weeks later that supervisor was fired.

You constantly see bogus disciplinary cases because an officer doesn't like a prisoner, and wants to see them receive some type of punishment. Most of the time it's recreation, cell or commissary restriction, loss of good time, and loss of class depending on the case. These bogus cases create a lot of problems especially when it's time for a parole review.

There has got to be something that can be done to bring some type of constant oversight from the outside to make sure the state is held responsible for what the staff does. Until this happens the prisoners are basically sitting ducks for abuse. We were sentenced by a judge to do time, and to rehabilitate ourselves, so we can return to society as a free and productive citizen. That can't be done when you have out-of-control correctional officers constantly causing you trouble.

MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this writer that the prisons only pay lip service to rehabilitation while actually making it very difficult for people to return to society as productive members. The criminal injustice system is not about rehabilitation or even punishment, it is a system of social control.

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[Culture] [ULK Issue 10]
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Save Hip Hop

I just finished reading the latest Under Lock & Key issue 8 and, comparatively speaking, the articles and overall issues seem much more focused than the days when ULK was only a sub-section of MIM Notes. As to the topic of ULK 8 [prison labor and economics], I find myself agreeing with the line drawn by the ministry. In addition, though I can never stress enough that the progress to be made among the prison population, especially among the prison population (whether in regards to labor, health services, or any other abuse of inalienable rights) lies in the political unity and education of the existent Lumpen-Proletariat Organizations within the prison system itself.

As a 32 year old, young Hispanic male, having been raised in the inner city and having spent nearly half my life in the system, hip hop has been a reflection of my (and mines) existence for as long as I can remember. It has been blasted by everyone, from the working moms and pops to the bourgeois conglomerates; from the so-called community leaders to the bona fide revolutionaries of old. It was an expression of struggle and strength, and a message of perseverance and preparation. It was a passing fad that was eventually manacled, manipulated, and monopolized by the evil designs of capitalists who not only see the promise of a dollar, but the perpetuation of our demise.

There is too much to be said of hip hop (its history, present state, and future) than can justly be compiled into one issue of ULK alone. For far too long it has, in my opinion, been neglected by the revolutionary community as a whole. As Frantz Fanon said in regard to the lumpen, the same applies to the culture of hip hop and rap - the revolution neglected, the reactionaries didn't, and so where hip hop should (and could!) be serving as a spearhead of revolutionary spirit, it has been fashioned into one of the greatest bulwarks against revolutionary progress.

Hip hop is an art, it is music, and just as any art it is most relevant to the mind. It is a culture, and as such it is even more directly relevant to the minds of those who embrace it, not just as a form of entertainment, but as a painting of their own reality - the reality of the ghettos and slums the world over. Hip hop is international, and in most Third World countries it can still be experienced in its most free and pure form. And hip hop is a weapon, a weapon of the people, that has been turned against us.

From the days of "get free or die trying" to today's mantra of "get rich or die trying," it is apparent how deep the federal government has affected the core of our production. The government's counter intelligence program (COINTELPRO), under any other name, is still very much involved in countering the produce of intelligence harvested by the oppressed. The east coast - west coast drama that brought the murders of Biggie and Pac (not to mention the nameless bodies laid down in-between) did not occur by chance. The rise of the South and overall materialism and sexploitation permeated throughout today's industry did not occur because it was the "natural" course of hip hop. These things manifested because before hip hop was ever projected to the masses through the mainstream, it was mass inflected through its very own blood stream.

Nas - hip hop's Street Disciple - said hip hop is dead. The ALKN says that the rising of the dead is the spiritual awakening of those who have been sleeping in the graveyard of ignorance. Therefore hip hop can be resurrected and it must be. As the fans continue to bob their heads in a trance and the artists continue to be used, as the record labels continue to sell out the vibe, the revolution and hip hop must re-unite, or die trying!

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