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[Release] [California] [ULK Issue 7]
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The Real Politics of Prisoners in California

Did you know that there are still thousands of non-violent men and women serving 25-years-to-life sentences in California's prison system? It's the only State that warehouses criminals for crimes like joyriding, petty theft, attempted burglary, receiving stolen property, making criminal threats, and petty drug possession.

These prisoners receive no type of work time or good time credits. But someone who commits murder does receive these credits and is eligible for parole in 17 years. A non-violent three-strike prisoner does not receive good time, work time behavior credits, and must serve the full 25 years before he or she is considered eligible for parole.

California continues to have enormous budget deficits, and a prison system that is extremely overcrowded, and draining State funds that would normally be used for education. However, the legislators continue to portray non-violent three strike prisoners as dangerous criminals who deserve to serve a life sentence for crimes that would have ordinarily carried 6 months to one year county jail sentences.

Most of these prisoners have already served over half their 25-to-life sentences, and are up in age. They will surely need the medical services that the Federal Receiver is asking for in order to bring the California Prison System into compliance with Constitutional requirements.

The majority of these offenders have never killed, molested, raped or committed violent acts against anyone. Most are drug abusers who have committed petty drug-related offenses, that with proper drug and alcohol treatment, could become productive tax paying citizens, instead of tax burdens.

California is being fleeced by politicians who want to build more prisons and continue warehousing non-violent three strike prisoners, all the while knowing that the expense of such a policy grows exponentially each and every year.

The California Prison System should not be allowed to continue draining the state's assets for political gain, while breaking the back of the state's education and other human resource organization and institutions.

Education and treatment, not prisons are the best investments for California's tax dollars.

MIM(Prisons) adds: At a time when California is facing a serious budget crisis and mandates to cut back the prison population it continues to deny prisoners access to even the basic educational material that MIM(Prisons) provides. It is not only the three-strikers who face significant injustice, it is the entire injustice system that needs to be overthrown.

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[Control Units] [Wisconsin] [ULK Issue 7]
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The Trick of the Beast: Control Units in Wisconsin

I am writing about this unfair Wisconsin DOC racist system and how they are confining prisoners to "Super Max" solitary but dressing it up, saying it's a maximum security prison. See, the oppressor has found a way to use this maximum security prison, which was really supermax, by changed the name when people started protesting about the conditions of the people who they were holding.

Supermax was supposed to be for the worst of the worst, but by this system not having enough so-called "worst of the worst" prisoners to fill 600 and something beds, they had to do something to keep this prison running and generating revenue for their community. So they started sending any prisoner who receives 180 days in segregation or more to Supermax. They did that for a little while until the outside got wind of it, then the head people tried to change it up, by changing the name and making half of it a maximum prison and the other half a program prison, but all of it is still run like a supermax prison.

When supermax was running, a person had to be screened by the psychologist to see if they are stable enough to be placed there, and now they are using the same methods for the people they are sending to that same prison which is supposed to be a maximum prison now.

My question is, why are people being screened to see if they are fit to be placed in another maximum prison? Whereas, when a prisoner is being transferred to any other max prison they are not being screened, it's just when one is being transferred to this prison that they are screened.

This institution does not have all of the same privileges as the other maximum prisons in Wisconsin, which shows this institution is not run like other max's. Therefore, prisoners are being held there illegally because there are stipulations that a prisoner being confined in administrative confinement should only be held up to 7 years. No, by this not really being a max, but being run like a supermax, prisoners are not really in general population, but are in administrative confinement with a few more privileges.

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[Spanish] [Texas]
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Organizando una huelga en Ohio

Yo soy un compañero encarcelado en una prisión de máxima seguridad del estado de Ohio. Actualmente estoy en la unidad de celdas especiales de 23 horas de enceramiento llamada 4B. En este momento nuestro patio esta en una huelga de hambre y de actividades; por lo cual hemos juntado nuestras ideas e iniciativas para expresar nuestra insatisfacción con el trato administrado por el oficial del segundo turno (2pm a 10pm).

Ahora, esta huelga no fue organizada por mi, y ni fui participe en el planeamiento u organización de esta. Pero unidos por el encarcelamiento, yo como todos mis otros compañeros de patio nos sentimos en la obligación de organizarnos y oponernos en contra de las acciones opresivas administradas por este reacción, y el sistema policial en todas sus formas.

La razón por la cual estamos en huelga es por que el oficial del segundo turno en repetidas ocasiones no ha cumplido con su obligación de recoger el correo que nosotros vamos a enviar; así mismo en mucha ocasiones el le ha entregado el correo al preso equivocado, y a menudo el se ha negado a pasar papeles o notas informales y otras institucionales formas de comunicación (estando nosotros en las celdas de aislamiento, estos son nuestras únicas formas de comunicación). Este mismo oficial no ha hecho la lista de comida en muchos días; como musulmán no como carne y tengo otras preferencias en mi dieta, por esta razón hemos perdido comidas sin ninguna opción lo que esta generando mas indignación.

Este mismo oficial a tratado de encender un conflicto racial entre las personas de color y las personas de piel blanca, haciendo comentarios y chistes raciales tratando de dividir (esta prisión esta alejada de la zona rural en donde muchos de los guardias de la prisión no están acostumbrados a la diversidad de culturas y a los diferentes colores de piel. Aquí los oficiales de la prisión respaldan los grupos de la supremacía blanca y la hermandad árida). En los días pasados los prisioneros de este patio lo han puesto trabajo; pero estas actividades no son nuevas en esta prisión o en las demás en general.

Hemos tratando de hablar con los oficiales superiores para destapar nuestro descontento con las acciones administradas por este oficial (quien en realidad es una representación de la naturaleza del sistema penitenciario, o es mas del sistema americano). Nuestra lucha no cesara, los presos de piel oscura y clara seguiremos defendiendo la lucha en la cara del cerdo baboso. Así nadie se ha hecho para atrás, aun en el medio de la oposición la cual ha venido en mucha formas. Por ejemplo el oficial rocío mace por la rejas del techo las cuales están todas interconectadas en este patio; y su escusa fue el maze venia de otra celda.

Por todo esto, mi intención al escribir esto es la de señalar el hecho de que el sistema de opresión no entiende mas que la lucha unida revolucionaria. Ellos lo único que entienden son a la agresión y las acciones (el poder del pobre organizado). Siempre y cuando no nos demos cuenta de nuestro poder a través de un esfuerzo concentrado los opresores seguirán ganado. Nosotros debemos jugar su mismo juego. Piensa!

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[Education] [Hobby Unit] [Texas]
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Education Program but No Classes Available in Texas

I'm writing this letter because I'm upset with the Texas Prison education system. Here in the Hobby unit they lack the space in classrooms and the counselors seem to not care because the seats that could be put to good use by someone who really wants to better themselves are being given to and occupied by people who don't want to be in school.

I completed one of the three vocations that I am allowed to take through TDCJ in July of 2008. I have been waiting since then to take another vocation, one of which is offered here, but they are steadily putting people in the class who don't want it.

I'm due to see parole anytime from now until April so I qualify to take the vocation but still have not been put in the class.

I'm outraged because we are supposedly sent to prison to rehabilitate ourselves, however we are denied the fundamental materials necessary to do so.

I received my GED October 2005 and that was the last time I took what Texas prisons call an EA test to see what educational level you are at. I'm a 9.5 on a D level and I've been trying for almost a year to be scheduled to re-take my EA so that I can bring my score up to an A level so that I can attend a college vocational. I've been told that I'm on the list for almost a year now.

Although the Texas prison system has an educational program, they do not want us to better ourselves. This is unacceptable for society.

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[Police Brutality] [Missouri] [ULK Issue 7]
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More Police Not the Answer

In July 2008, the St. Louis City Police Department, under the leadership of Joe Mowka, Chief of Police, initiated a program to reduce the city's homicide rate. The city at this time had 89 homicides, on pace to reach the highest total in 13 years. As of November 23, 2008, there have been a total of 161 homicides.

The police department says that since its program of "saturation" patrols (as they began to call the increased police presence), 123 arrests were made in one week with the help of U.S. Marshals. Yet the crime rate hasn't gone down and murders are still happening at an alarming rate.

It is my contention that more police in the neighborhood isn't going to change a damn thing. More police, more brutality. more police, more poor Blacks on their way to jail, penitentiary, probation and parole.

Of course, everyone has a right to be safe in their home, on the street and in their neighborhood. But if no social, educational and employment opportunities are being made available, it doesn't matter how many mobile command units sit on the street corners, crime is gonna continue unabated. If you change the social conditions that caused the social ills, then there would be no need for more police. People will not behave according to truly human standards until they live under truly human conditions.

The people need power to determine the destiny of their own communities. The masses needs access to more educational and employment opportunities, not the penitentiary and graveyard!

Power to the people who don't fear real freedom!

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[Abuse] [Racism] [Clinton Correctional Facility] [New York] [ULK Issue 7]
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Victim in Clinton Brutality Needs Legal Help

Dear MIM,

I was the person in your article in ULK # 5 page 9. I was beaten for no other reason than the color of my skin! The pigs tried to pay me off with a television, in order to keep quiet. I've filed a grievance with the facility, but they all work with each other. I wrote to the Inspector General of New York, no help. I need a civil rights attorney to represent me, most attorneys in this area are friends of the officers responsible for my injuries: black eye, lost tooth, fractured rib cage, back cuts and welts.

MIM(Prisons) adds: Unfortunately there are not enough lawyers out there willing to take on cases like this. We are adding this to the campaigns page of our website because we are getting a lot of interest in this incident. But this is not unusual. Anyone who can offer assistance can contact this comrade through MIM(Prisons) by mail or email.

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[Abuse] [Alvin S Glenn Detention Center] [South Carolina]
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Rights violations in South Carolina

Too many constitutional rights are being violated against detainees of Alvin S Glenn Detention Center in Columbia South Carolina. On September 4, 2008 there was a snake found in one of the prisoner's breakfast trays. Being fully aware of the snake, the officers decided to serve the remaining food. Their poor excuse of a grievance response said there's no evidence that it was cooked in the food.

Another issue is that this facility is entirely infested with mice. On occasions I've killed a few in my cell. We're also having problems with the soap that's entitled to every prisoner. On December 15 the morning officer informed us that the soap would not be provided to those who ordered it.

Last but not least is abuse of authority. On one occasion I was placed on restriction for something I did not do. There was no proper investigation and they didn't give me a hearing until 3 days later. The hearing just involves one Lt showing up asking what happened - they didn't even give me a chance to defend myself. During the 3 day wait I kept asking to speak with the Lt, but he kept saying I should wait until he feels like coming to talk to me. I miss out on my visits, phone communication with my family and canteen.

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[Control Units] [Limon Correctional Facility] [Colorado] [ULK Issue 7]
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Thrown in segregation for writing complaint about conditions

I am living in segregation on a plantation in Limon, Colorado. A month ago I wrote a comprehensive and detailed letter to the American "Corruptional" Association asking how they could give a score of a hundred percent to a prison that denies a third of its population (self included) pillows, trash cans, trash bags, mattresses that are thicker than a piece of cardboard, jobs, and other items.

With Colorado DOC it is all about greed. Prisons do not exist in this state to provide rehabilitation to "offenders," but instead exist to provide a lucrative and easy lifestyle for employees of the system at all levels. We as prisoners are merely an inconvenience and are treated as such. And at a time when corporate Amerika is cutting back and doing away with pensions and insurance, Colorado DOC just received an additional $64 million for the new fiscal budget, and additionally is getting 1,630 new employees. The prison budget is fast approaching $1 billion annually for a state of roughly 5 million inhabitants. Meanwhile, we are having things like real beef, fresh vegetables, and other essential items taken from the menu, which they hardly follow anyway, and we get laundry back that has not been washed with any amount of detergent. In addition there are no trash cans, trash bags, pillows, new mattresses, or even chairs or stools for the wall mounted desks. I am currently writing sideways on a TV shelf.

Shortly after sending the letter to the ACA I got a horrific shakedown that the guard says was "ordered by admin" in which they found a broken razor in the trash that had arrived broken in the package. Then based upon finding this "dangerous weapon" four thugs came and arrested me while I was in the middle of typing a letter to my attorney in the law library. Now I have been in here 15 days and have not seen any paperwork or charges, but I have been told repeatedly that they exist. Now what do I do? I have never once been to seg here at this hell hole and I have successfully completed two terms of probation for minor offenses during my two years here.

I have never once had a charge for assaulting a staff member or inmate, nor have I ever been charged or even accused of having dangerous contraband, drugs, or weapons. But now due to a broken razor I am too dangerous to be in general population.

It is not uncommon to have wardens making six figures and lower levels of admin making $85 to $95k per year plus all the goodies. If I were a taxpayer in this state I would be outraged.

Our mail is illegally searched, copied and/or read all the time without probable cause or justification (legal mail included). Currently, the two items that you sent me have been sent to the alleged "reading committee" due to what is more often than not, the uneducated, unsophisticated mailroom staff's inability to figure out what they are looking at. However, I do expect to receive these copies that I was really looking forward to, in about a month.

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[Gender] [Missouri] [ULK Issue 6]
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Sexual harassment at women's prison in Missouri

I am writing you to report a misuse of power within the walls of the DOC. A tragedy between a woman of power and a woman without power.

I'm being held captive for 20 years at 85% in an institution where our biggest fear of sexual harassment not only lies at the feet of the male officers but also at the feet of a female officer. I'll admit we've had a few male officers disappear in my time due to sexual harassment, but nothing has ever been done to right the wrongs of this particular officer I'm speaking of, for fear of being locked in the hole for a long period of time for a formal investigation. Therefore no one has ever filed suit against her for her actions.

I recall my friend being searched one night after leaving the chow hall. No big deal except this officer ran her hands across my friend's very petite breasts. My friend told the officer what she had done and the officer laughed and said "you don't have any to touch."

Later that same evening, the officer caught my friend in the bathroom and used the fact that my friend was on room restriction for an excuse to make my friend strip out. The officer didn't follow the normal procedure and make my friend cough and squat. She just wanted to see her breasts. The officer has my friend grab her own nipples while the officer placed her hands over my friends hands to lift her breasts up, supposedly searching her for a cigarette or lighter. The whole ordeal was demeaning.

We brought the situation to the attention of the Sgt who was on duty and we were told that if we wanted to file charges against the officer she was going to file charges against my friend for assault because when my friend reenacted what had happened for the Sgt, my friend touched the Sgt's hand in the process, therefore end of story.

Both officers still work here and misuse their power. Someone has to do something or I fear it will never stop. I myself am risking hole time just by writing this letter to you but my outrage concerning this matter outweighs my fear of the hole so let my story be known.

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[Organizing] [National Oppression] [Texas] [ULK Issue 7]
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GRAD program in Texas

In your November issues of ULK5 I read the article written by a Texas prisoner "Segregation in Texas" and am appalled by his ignorance as far as the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) aka "Texas Department of Criminals" is concerned.

I myself am an ex-gang member, and I got into the GRAD program (without snitching), and do you know why? After 23 years of being a gang member in the prison system, I saw how the oppressors were using me to oppress others. By using me and other gang members, the oppressors in uniform do not get dirty while we get our time jacked-up or may even receive death for doing what the man in uniform wanted me to do. Not only that, but it gives the imperialists an excuse to build more control units for the idiots that are doing their dirty work.

Now I'll tell you about the Texas Department of Criminals. We prisoners in GRAD chose to call our gang affiliation history. Since then we have been labeled snitches (by TDCJ employees), by the same people who advertise how the prison system wants to help us rehabilitate. TDCJ employees know what goes on between prisoners because gang members have a habit of bragging, so when we denounce our gang affiliation the Gang Investigator (GI) tells you everything he knows about ranks and members all around the prison. At times the GI knows more than gang members. After being placed in the GRAD program, the same TDCJ staff go and instigate trouble between gang members and ex-gang members. That keeps the fuel on the fire and keeps prisoners at each others throats. Then TDCJ goes to the tax payer and asks for millions in tax dollars to build more control units.

December 4, 2008 and December 6, 2008, the thieves in the Governor's administration and TDCJ asked for a total of $506 million for the renovation of the prison hospital, for the medical contractors, and for walk-in metal detectors, wand detectors, surveillance cameras and x-ray machines. For the latter, the Texas department of criminals executive director is seeking an immediate $33 million. It is their own employees who bring in the contraband, but in the newspaper prisoners are the criminals.

Those of us who step back away from our gang membership are punished by the prisons. We face denial of meals (since I've been in GRAD I have been denied food 7 times). If we don't bark or beg for our meals we don't get fed. By law we should be allowed to recreate 1 hour daily, five days a week, but we are lucky if we get 1 hour a week. We get our water turned off by TDCJ employees just to try to get us to go off, and if we go off we have to go through the process all over again. We get verbal threats by staff. We get one or maybe two clean towels a week. We get old sheets that are cut in half. We don't get soap, tooth powder, grievance forms, or medical attention. We get strip searched by female guards, and if you are like me fighting the system, your mail is given to other prisoners or is denied.

The wing where I am housed is the only wing in the whole unit that is constantly freezing so that staff refuse to work this wing. We have to wear a t-shirt, jumpsuit and jacket in our cells during the winter. The air vents are so loud that you think you are standing next to a train (this is psychological torture). In the summer time the heat is turned on which makes you feel as if you are standing in the middle of the desert.

For 23 years I worked to please the oppressors by abusing the weak, oppressing others, and that is why I decided not to allow these people to tell me to do their dirty work while they sit back and earn money while I rot in these human warehouses.

Right now I am in a struggle with the medical department because they refuse to treat my illness. I am hypoglycemic and my blood sugar drops. Without the proper medication or diet I will lose my vision, which is happening slowly but surely. The way the grievance committee (kangaroo committee) puts it, I have to go into a coma so they can treat me. If more prisoners stood together as we used to in the 70s and early 80s, others would not have to go through these kinds of treatments. While we continue to fight each other they are building more control units. While we continue to fight each other we are forgetting the real purpose.

MIM(Prisons) adds: This issue of Under Lock and Key carries strong messages about the need for prisoners to stop fighting one another. We know that programs like the Texas GRAD system are used in many states to turn prisoners against each other by forcing them to snitch or be punished. But we also know that prisoners are turned against each other even before they enter these types of programs, fomenting conflicts between rival groups, and using prisoners to carry out violence against other prisoners in exchange for small favors. It is up to each prisoner to figure out how to best use the system to break away from the senseless violence and coming together with other prisoners to put their energy into the anti-imperialist struggle for peace.

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