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Under Lock & Key

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[Legal] [First Nations] [ULK Issue 77]
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New Chairman of TBCJ, New Lawsuit for Access to Native American Unit

Thank you for sending the extra copies of ULK 76. Please always send extras, I will distribute proudly! I noticed in ULK 76 that others were suing Dale Wainwright with the Texas Board of Criminal Justice. I am doing the same, because the Board sets policy for TDCJ but I just got a letter back from the Board which shows the Chairman to be Patrick L. O’Daniel.

For now I’m going to keep Wainwright named in my suit because I don’t know how long this other chap has been holding down that job and Wainwright is responsible for maintaining policy that violates my rights.

We Native American practitioners have to take a religious test to be able to attend our worship services and to be transferred to a “Designated” Native American unit but one of the reasons they have listed that they may deny you transfer to a Designated Unit due to your health or a “medical condition”, which “may preclude eligibility for re-assignment” (Policy #09.02(rev.2) Attachment A). I suppose it’s policy such as this, that violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, that Lumpkin and others use to justify keeping me in “cool bed housing” and mistakenly think that they don’t have to provide cool bed housing on these “Designated Units.”

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[Education] [Drugs] [Michigan] [ULK Issue 77]
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Academics Advance Amidst the Addicted

While the suboxone once reigned supreme here in Michigan prisons, since the start of the pandemic resulting in lockdown in state, K2 (Twoche, as its called here), has eclipsed suboxone. Previously you only saw non-Black prisoners doing suboxone, but this is no longer the reality as it has now cut across racial/ethnic lines. K2 is the new crack within the prison context. I’d wager at least 80% of the facility I’m caged with have a K2 addiction. It is very much reminiscent of the 1980s/early 1990s, especially for those smoking (or vaping, as they call it) K2 out of self-manufactured pipes made from the fiber glass ink pen holders. So its not at all uncommon to see a neo-slave on the prison-plantation free basing. You see guys selling all of their possessions, spending all of their money on K2 just as I saw crackheads do decades ago. You even see the choyboy, the aluminum brittle pads being used to ignite flame. It’s sad.

Even sadder, however, is that these guys don’t have a clue what they’re ingesting in their bodies. Frequently guys are having PCP and other dangerous liquid substances brought in by prison guards that is not K2. Some have gone to some extremes in manufacturing K2 within the facility from liquid chemical compounds (the synthetic weed form has long ceased being used. K2 is now in liquid form). I’ve seen guys use oven cleaner and other chemicals to make a compound that meets and interrupts the brain chemistry to produce a reaction resulting in a high. The manufacturer of this concoction, strung out himself, then partakes in his own made up substances. It is literally sickening!

The widespread nature of addiction can only be considered to be state sanctioned repression. No shakedowns occur. No instances exist where the substance is being sought after by the state to remove it from the facilities. Being that it keeps guys in stupors, states of docility, the facility is alright with it as it allows them to push their agenda in keeping the prison locked down as the voices don’t exist in numbers to push back against the de facto semi-segregation we’ve been kept under for over two years now. They only have to contend with the effects in the form of overdose and other tripping episodes as guys sometimes fallout, hallucinate, become paranoid, experience the illusion of impending death, or become stuck in a state of immobility (literally). I can’t believe this shit.

In Michigan, we’re suffering from a near total lack of political consciousness or will to resist the myriad forms of repression and overt oppression.

I’ve started a small study group among some of the younger brothers (24-28 years old). I’ve been exposing them to revolutionary concepts and manners of struggle. I’ve introduced them to Marx, Lenin, Mao, the BPP, Kwame Nkrumah, Amilcar Cabral, Fanon, Antonio Gramsci, you name it. They are loving the experience. The expansion of their consciousness is being noticed as more young guys are approaching us to be allowed into the circle. These youngsters are leaving traditional religious formations to indulge in revolutionary thought ways.

All Power to the People!


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade provides an update to the report from Michigan in ULK 75 that discussed the rise of Suboxone in Michigan prisons prior to the pandemic.

Thanks for ending on a positive note after depicting the overall sad state of affairs there. It is inspiring to know you comrades are rising above the environment, and we are confident that the study and implementation of lessons of revolutionary history will be the best medicine to combat addiction among the masses in the years to come.

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[COVID-19] [Legal] [California] [ULK Issue 77]
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Suit Against CDCR for Endangering Prisoners with Covid-19 Advances

To The People

I have a COVID-19 litigation update. My 42 U.S. Code § 1983 civil case no. 21-cv-0055-LAB-Ggs, Williams v. Warden Pollard, Et Al, in the u.s. District Court - Southern district of Calif, survived the Attorney General’s (A.G.) motion to dismiss on 19 January 2022.

I alleged pre-existing health conditions placed me at higher risk of death if exposed to COVID, and that defendants were deliberately indifferent to my risk of exposure to COVID by

  1. Providing face masks of poor quality, which don’t protect from exposure (before CDCR started issuing the KN-95’s);

  2. housing infected and non-infected prisoners in the same unit and cells;

  3. forced double cell housing in conditions which violate and don’t comply with 6 ft social distancing public health orders;

  4. poor sanitation of the immediate housing unit, and

  5. C.O.’s constantly taking their masks off in the housing unit, was a failure to protect based on a totality of deprivations.

The A.G. moved to dismiss saying:

  1. My claims were speculative because 82% of the population was vaccinated so my chance of exposure was minimum;

  2. I presented no allegations defendants acted maliciously;

  3. I lack standing and the court lack jurisdiction since I have no injury and ‘did not’ contract COVID-19;

  4. Injunctive relief claims are moot because the Brown v. Plata, and Coleman v. Brown receivers were already with jurisdiction over medical and addressing the COVID-19 crisis, and

  5. My claims are foreclosed by 42 U.S. Code § 1997e, which requires an injury before a money award, but of course the district judge rejected the A.G.’s best efforts. The district judge did, however, dismiss all defendants except Warden Pollard, with leave to amend, and while awaiting this ruling I did test positive for COVID-19 in January 2022.

Many prison administrations, housing lieutenants, sergeants, and officers only care about filling empty bed spaces. They don’t expect prisoners to present a pre-written GA-22 which “request reason why I am being forced to defy current public health orders to practice and maintain 6ft social distance by forced double cell housing,” and/or “request instructions on how to practice and maintain 6ft social distance in double cell housing conditions,” when they come with the “you getting a cellie” speech. “I’m not refusing officer, but before I adhere to your orders or directives to disregard or violate any existing public health orders I need specific instructions on how to keep myself safe” and let’s hope they got a body camera on during this incriminating exchange.

The point is, just because the prison system and its officials don’t care about us don’t mean we don’t care about ourselves. Since the pandemic commenced, I’ve seen too many captives tricked out of their lives by following orders from those who operate a system of violating the law, or rules, to enforce them. The killer then notify next of kin of a captives death and say “I’m sorry for your loss.”

We have to implement our own measures to stay safe and survive, which includes filing suit, and helping others with the information to do the same.

Power To the People!

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[Rhymes/Poetry]
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A Black Man's Confession

A black man’s confession;
I could never escape oppression;
for as long as beauty is black;
ghosts, demon, and devils
breath down my back;
mad cause they can’t trick me
out my skin;
to bask in the chocolate love
that I’m in;

So my punishment is to never
escape oppression;
For this is true as my confession;
At 51 it’s still the same;
penitentiary slavery chains;
When he say “shut up”, and I
won’t comply;
I have to wonder if I’m’a die;
And if I rely on Freedom of
speech;
Then theres a different lesson, he
aim to teach;
So I could never escape
oppression;
300 years and we still guessin;
why they hate us like they do;
A voice whispers "cause they
can’t be you"
So in a way i understand;
How it hurt to be ‘that’ man;
wicked, sick and on the plot;
Slimey gooze covid snot;
Yet ‘n’ still I feel I feel his pain;
His soul is lost without a gain;
Something the devil farted out;
unleashed on me, so I can’t pout;
So before I stink like the rest;
I rather stay black, and be
oppressed!

Suffer with a smile
so how you hurtin me?

WE The People
u dig? dude!
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[Campaigns] [Gender] [Lane Murray Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 77]
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Fighting for Separate Dorm for Elders at Lane Murray

Here at Lane Murray Unit we are trying to get a dorm for the 50 and over women that reside here. There is a lot of women that are in the “silver streaks” years and have many disabling ailments and being around the younger “residents” has become somewhat dangerous at times. So keep us in your thoughts and if there are any ideas as to how to get this 50’s plus dorm on the way, please let us know.


MIM(Prisons) adds: Please write to MIM(Prisons) if you have any suggestions for this comrade. We understand gender to have a material basis in health status. Things like old age and disability contribute to one’s gender status, and under patriarchy can lead one facing more gender oppression as this comrade mentions. Just as we work to resolve the divisions between nations and lumpen orgs among the imprisoned population, we also struggle against gender divisions. While male and female prisoners are kept in separate prisons, we still have gender divisions along the lines of age, disability, sexual orientation and gender presentation that do not serve the interests of the prison masses.

As we promote these comrades’ campaign for a seperate dorm, we call on USW leaders to find real solutions in resolving the gender contradictions and oppression that leads to some feeling like they need to be separate to be safe. Some of the comrades leading the campaign to Liberate Our Elders in California serve as great examples in bringing that unity.

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[Censorship] [Grievance Process] [Street Gangs/Lumpen Orgs] [Coffield Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 77]
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Criminal Gangs Controlling Mail and Punishing Grievers in TX

Quick update on BP 03.91 – Yesterday, while at the law library, one prisoner recently received an order of photos that had been previously banned. This happened months after our legal group filed injunctions in relation to BP 03.91 and how it arbitrary enforcement wasn’t congruent with its parameters. What is even more eye opening is how staff and administration keep taking (and breaking) property. All grievances come back with “your allegations could not be substantiated.”

Some are fighting back small. Dragging the administration through many small litigation claims will weaken their resolve on bigger ones. The grievance system is a joke. While staff continue to bully prisoners around, by throwing away their property in the shakedown, confiscating their religious items, and cutting down their eating, showering, and dayroom times. Texas prisons are becoming more and more run by inmates who utilize drug connections with officers. Recently I had a sergeant who tried to intimidate me into recanting a grievance which I wrote about prisoners passing out mail (a new “hustle” some STG’s have turned up on by holding certain mail “hostage”). When I didn’t relent, he sent one of the gang members to talk to me. How do you threaten the life of a lifer? SMH These kids don’t get get it.


MIM(Prisons) adds: As staff shortages become the excuse to abuse and deny prisoners basic necessities, we are receiving reports of prisoners being used in this manner to deliver mail, do counts, even utilizing department walky-talkies to assist staff. In the short-term this is being used to further divide the prisoner population by granting some the role of the slave catcher and granting them benefits. But this also indicates a crisis in the TDCJ that will create new opportunities as the state loses control over day-to-day operations.

The police state may prove to be over-extended if they cannot get enough Amerikans to run the machine. With pigs dying from covid-19 at higher rates due to their bad hygiene, retiring faster, and refusing to go to work in the biggest prison systems in the world, we will certainly be seeing shifts in the near future in the terrain of the U.$. criminal injustice system.

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[Gender] [Censorship] [Drugs] [Texas] [ULK Issue 76]
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Gov. Abbot Pledges to Eliminate Rapists while Porn is Forced on TX Prisoners

While Governor Abbot has enacted a full on assault on women’s rights here in Texas, I heard him defend his decision to not even allow young rape victims to have an abortion. His reasoning was that he has plans to end rape in the great state of Texas (and I have plans to win the powerball lottery). This is almost as good news as was President Nixon announcing that he was, “Not a Crook”, or George H.W. Bush promising, “No new taxes.” But what would you expect from a guy who cannot manage to keep the electric on in a state that makes its fortunes in the energy business?

So it should surprise no one to know that Gov. Abbot’s Texas Department of Criminal Justice(TDCJ) has enacted extremely stringent mail room policies (BP-3.91), which has prisoners and their family members up in arms! (see: Texas Censorship Rule (BP-3.91) Being Revised, Under Lock & Key No. 75) These restrictive policies were put in place because family members of sex offenders complained that their loved ones were not able to get the rehabilitation that they need while in prison because of all the drugs and photos of women in their underwear that all of the other prisoners possess. What does TDCJ do? They pass a rule that not only prevents sexually explicit photos from entering this prison it also does not allow any crayon, marker, colored paper, or greeting cards and many books and magazines are denied.

I myself had my Men’s Health and National Geographic magazines denied for “sexually explicit content,” and just today I was denied the opportunity to even read a letter from my aging, almost 80-year-old mother because it was written on colored paper. I was also recently denied a drawing, from a church member’s son for the same exact reason and he is only 7.

TDCJ thinks they can stop drugs and sexually explicit content from entering into prisons by trampling all over the First Amendment, but the sad fact of the matter is that outlawing and strict policing laws cannot and will not ever stop people from doing what they want to do. It hasn’t worked with the drug nor anti-sodomy laws and it darn sure won’t work inside of TDCJ while they have low-paid, over-worked, understaffed employees looking to make a buck.

Well, Governor, if you’re not too busy stalking abortion clinics or sifting through citizen’s personal mail, you might want to check out what all of those locked up sex offenders and gang bangers are doing here. Since you don’t feel it profitable to sufficiently staff your prisons so that prisoners have healthy activities like outside rec and mental health support groups to engage their minds, you leave them to lounge around in their rubber sandals all day, soaking up the wonderful air conditioning, selling their psych meds, smoking K2, tobacco and meth and snorting and overdosing on oxycontin, suboxone, percocet and alcohol while they eat cheese puffs and have guards scroll through the seemingly endless selection of partial and full nudity labeled shows on the On-demand cable TVs.

The really tough thing for Gov. Abbot and the unit Wardens is that it is against the rules for prisoners to operate or even touch the remote controls. So either their officers are not following the rules or they themselves are choosing to force this kind of programming on a captive audience. This is exactly why they don’t allow prayers to be read over school intercoms any more, because you cannot avoid hearing it even if you want to and believe me, there are some things you just cannot un-see or un-hear.

Here there is no escaping second-hand smoke, nor the scorn of porn, no matter how many mothers’ letters the mail room denies.


Wiawimawo of MIM(Prisons) adds: We’ve been pointing out the false logic in recent waves of censorship and digitizing of mail across this country, with evidence that drugs in prisons have not been reduced, which was the stated aim of these policies.(1) Now with BP-3.91 aiming to eliminate material that might prevent sex offenders from recovering we find out that the policy is used to censor educational material, holiday cards and letters from children while prisoners are watching porn on TV all day whether they want to be or not.

We like the connection this comrade makes to Abbot’s great plan to ban abortion and eliminate rapists. Below we print another story about gender and rape in prisons from a comrade who has been studying MIM’s writings on gender. This adds to the critique of Abbot by pointing out how all sex is rape under patriarchy, as well as pointing to the intimate relation between porn and profits that prevent rape from being eliminated under capitalism. The tying of pleasure and power to motivate the consumer class to keep capital circulating in the economy is so important to the bourgeoisie that rape has become an unavoidable feature of capitalism.


A California prisoner writes: After reading the MC5 paper Clarity on what gender is, I was a bit confused about MacKinnon’s line that all sex is rape. It took me a few days to comprehend what she was trying to say. First if something does not make sense, check your premise.

Her statement didn’t add up because my premise was that she was making a statement, when in reality her line is a metaphor of patriarchy (oppressive culture where men dominate). I recall feminists using a similar line in South America, “You are the rapist.” And I believe this is what MacKinnon was trying to say. This is a metaphor of the dominance of men in gender oppression.

It really became clear for me at “pill call.” I was waiting in line for my pills and on the other side of the fence some other prisoners were waiting in line for pills. One group was nuts to butts and a second the same. Both groups were standing 6 feet away from a sex offender as if he had some sort of contagious leprosy.

It is at this point a nurse walks by and the first group starts murmuring obscene comments amongst each other about her body. The second group started panting like a bunch of wild dogs and talking among themselves about the girl’s body. Meanwhile the isolated sex offender said nothing.

Everyone in line had something disgusting to say about the nurse except for the one man that everyone else is pretending to be better than. There is no doubt in my mind that every single one of those disgusting animals would be a rapist if it was just them and her in a room alone, thus giving merit to the feminist line “you are the rapist” and clarifying MacKinnon’s line “all sex is rape.”

Those men that so quickly became something less at the mere sight of a female are taught by an endless barrage of television commercials exploiting a woman’s beauty, that women are objects. Every time anyone wants to sell something in this capitalist culture the object is next to a beautiful woman, thus the object for sale is automatically associated with a woman as an object, similar to hypnotism.

Some of the men were probably only acting like wild animals just to fit in because they think that objectifying the woman is what is expected of them. However, that is somehow worse than the one who really is only seeing an object, because a mindless animal who can’t think for himself is always worse than a self-thinking man of reason.

From a woman’s perspective she truly must feel oppressed living in a world where all men act like disgusting animals. Truly she must feel like “all sex is rape” because all men act like rapists. As a reaction, women are past the point of tolerance and a lot of men are now doing serious time in prison for nothing more than what the capitalist system teaches them to do. For the liberation of women it becomes necessary for men to become oppressed, especially so here in Amerika where the answer to every conflict is a life sentence in prison.

Revolution from my perspective is never accomplished by half measures of compromise (small talk, legislation, reform, etc). Rights are never granted, they are won.

We all, female and male, must unite to win our right to be treated as a human being. We all must fight for our liberation. The monster that is the U.S. government cannot be reasoned with, cannot be reformed, every time we win 1 step, we lose 2. It is now all or nothing. For all of us that are oppressed the time is now. We must rise not for ourselves, but for a better future.


final comments by Wiawimawo: This comrade’s assumption that any of these men would have raped the womyn if given a chance contradicts eir assumption that some are just following along in the act. But this reinforces the point that rape is a systematic thing, that even if each of those men would not have raped that womyn if they found her alone, they participated in the culture of rape.

We’d also point out that many females do not “feel like all sex is rape”, and we argue that this is the case in the oppressor nations because of the gender privilege females have here they are gender oppressors, or men.

If Gov. Abbot’s big plan for ending rape is to lock up rapists, this will fail on two accounts. One is that Amerikan prisons do not reform or rehabilitate, which is why we are building our own independent institutions of the oppressed. But more importantly, rape is not about individual choices and behaviors, just like all crimes that are epidemic in imperialist society. Our culture creates rapists every day. It is only by transforming the relations between humyn beings that we can eliminate rape. And as mentioned above, capitalism is so dependent on selling sex, it is only through overthrowing capitalism that we can begin to make real strides in this transformation.

1. A Texas Prisoner, March 2021, TDCJ: Your Staff are Bringing in the Drugs, and it Must Stop, Under Lock & Key No. 73.

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[Rhymes/Poetry] [Revolutionary History] [ULK Issue 76]
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Pioneers

Is this how Marcus Garvey felt?
Is this how Noble Drew Ali felt?

She asked, “Why does it has to be me?”
Cause clearly I do see
Through all the pain and travesty
The road that will break us free

But I know
That it’s gonna be a lonely road
Most of the time I’ll be left in the rain and the cold
Yes I know
Many done failed on this road
Out their soul they sold
They fell for the fool’s gold
Now they bloodsuck for the light
Because their insides are filled with black mold

Is this how Elijah Muhammad felt?
Is this how Clarence 13X Smith felt?

A lot of my own will disregard me
Say I’m lost in the sauce and fell into insanity
If only they could see the road to the land of milk and honey
Just as vividly as I
No lie I rather die than to compromise for a crumb of the capitalist pie
Seen those that I was close to cower when the
Dragon flexed its false power
All I could do is shake my head and sigh
Then remember that the world is ours
Even though we’re the patch of kids that grew up hella sour

A part of the oppressed we’re nothing less than a survivalist
The pressure of the world where only diamonds can withstand the stress
Like the chosen ones out the bible; you didn’t know that we’re bless?
Ima be Brother of the struggle until the opps leave me bloody and stretch
Or until all the rads are freed and there ain’t no imperialist left.

Is this how Fred Hampton felt?
Is this how Bunchy Carter felt?
Is this how Stanley “Tookie” Williams felt?
Is this how Larry Hoover Sr. felt?
Can somebody tell me?
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[Control Units] [Gang Validation] [Campaigns] [Peace in Prisons] [Texas T.E.A.M. O.N.E.] [Ferguson Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 76]
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Path to Redemption Needed in Texas

I have to praise my fellow prisoners at the Allred Unit for challenging the injustices that have been happening to all alleged/suspected STG’s. I have been unjustly confirmed as a member of the “Mexican Mafia of Texas” since 1986. But, was suspected prior to that year. And all, because I was one of the few prisoners that got tired of correctional administrators in the 1980’s using some prisoners to conduct their dirty work for them. This is where, I believe, that I became suspected as an STG member. Which is why I have a lot of respect for my fellow prisoners that stood their grounds along with me at the Ferguson Unit in 1983, until I was shipped in 1985.

Back then I was a young person. So fighting was my type of show, my true colors. But now as an older adult I have a different mindset. Don’t get me wrong I can still get my boxing game on, only if I have to defend myself. But now I believe that a pen and paper is mightier than a sword.

This is why I believe that the only way that we’ll end all types of violence or hostile activities is for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Correctional Institutions Division(TDCJ-CID) to be open to “STG” prisoners being released to the general population with unit level agreements between all “STG” members of different groups.

At this moment there are two types of renouncement programs. The first is known as Reg. GRAD for ex-members that enrolled not considering that the form they signed is unconstitutional because those individuals incriminate themselves and probably others. The second renouncement program is called “Population Release - GRAD.” And they have to allegedly incriminate themselves and others, and renounce all gang activities. But, I believe, that if the two types of GRAD groups are combined together that would open up the other STEP DOWN the prison violence by releasing “STG”s with a different kind of mindset. Because the majority of these two GRAD programs at present time are full of young set-minded street gang individuals.

I believe I am being set up by someone in the Unit’s “Security Threat Group Management Office”, with ex-members of different groups that have enjoyed “general population” for decades. They target those who don’t believe in the constitutionality of the now existing renouncement programs due to 2 reasons:

  1. the incrimination of each enrollee and the incrimination of others; and
  2. the “waiver of liability” for the TDCJ-CID

These are two serious violations of the 1st, 5th, 6th, 8th and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 19 of the Texas Constitution.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This is a familiar story for those of us who were part of the struggles against SHU and validation in California over the last decade. We encourage the comrades in Texas to study the lessons from that struggle and develop proper leadership so that the masses are not led into the same dead ends as they were in California where SHU still exists and the list of STGs was greatly expanded.

Ultimately, making organizations of the oppressed illegal is reflective of the class nature of the state. It is only by replacing the current bourgeois state with a proletarian one that we will see the oppressed allowed a true path to redemption. It is only in a proletarian state that the oppressors and exploiters will be seen as the criminals rather than the poor and struggling. We must keep this goal in mind as we organize for the state to recognize basic bourgeois rights to free speech and association.

There are no rights, only power struggles. The second the oppressed let up as they did in California, the oppressor is there ready to tighten the screws back down. That is why we must build strong, independent organizations and not put all our energy into short-term battles.

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[Censorship] [Security] [Civil Liberties] [Economics] [Virginia] [ULK Issue 76]
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A Strategic Objective to Disrupt and Surveil the Communication Between Prisoners and Our Loved Ones

When I first came to prison in 1995, there were hardly any for-profit corporations doing business inside Virginia prisons. Almost all services including medical care, dental care and the commissary were provided by the state. This began to change in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with the introduction of corporations like Prison Health Services to provide substandard prison health care and keep the commissary filled with high priced commissary items. Prisoners’ communication would also be outsourced to JPay, another for-profit company.

The Virginia Department of Corrections administration implemented a series of policies to manipulate us and our loved ones into accepting JPay as our only method of communication. On 6 August 2013, A. David Robertson, the Chief of Corrections and Operations, issued memorandum #073-2013, advising the prisoner class that effective 1 October 2013, our loved ones can no longer send us money orders through the postal mail and that they can only send us money through JPay, which requires our family to pay exorbitant transaction fees. If money orders were received in the mail after that day they were returned to sender.

On 7 May 2014, Robertson issued another memorandum, #033-214, advising the prisoner class that effective 1 July 2014, we can no longer receive more than 5 photographs through the mail. If a letter arrived at the prison containing more than 5 photographs, the entire letter including the 5 photos were returned to sender. This may seem small, but again this was subtle manipulation for acceptance of what was to come.

Perhaps the Virginia Department of Corrections most draconian policy implementation was detailed in a 13 March 2017 memorandum issued by the then warden of Sussex State Prison. In this memo we were advised that effective 17 April 2017,

“all incoming general correspondence, that is U.S. postal mail, will be photocopied at a maximum of three black and white photocopied pages front and back will be provided to the offender. The original envelope, letter and all enclosed documents will be shredded in the institutional mailroom. The entire correspondence and all enclosed items, including photographs, greeting cards, newspaper articles, etc. that exceed the established photocopy or size limit will be returned to sender.”

What this memo did not mention is that during the process of copying and scanning incoming postal letters from our loved ones, a digital copy of the letter along with the name and address of the person who sent it is uploaded and cataloged in a massive database. This policy was implemented under the guise of preventing the flow of drugs into these prisons, however the real motivation for this policy is reflected in the following one-sentence reminder listed in this memo:

“Individuals will still be permitted to send an offender secure messages, photographs and other attachments through the JPay system as it is currently authorized.”

Many prisoners and our loved ones view the amenity of exchanging emails with our loved ones as incredibly convenient. As a conscious prisoner I recognize that it also makes it easier for prison officials to censor and disrupt our communications and conduct surveillance and intelligence gathering on prisoners and those we communicate with. According to the Virginia Department of Corrections operating procedures 803.1, which governs offender correspondence and JPay emails inside all Virginia prisons, our incoming and outgoing correspondence is not supposed to be withheld for longer than 48 hours. However, our incoming and outgoing JPay emails are routinely withheld for several days or weeks at a time. Sometimes they are held for months at a time.

Operating procedure 803.1 prohibits prison officials from opening and reading our outgoing correspondence absent an approved mail cover from the warden, and reasonable suspicion that the correspondence violates state or federal law, or threatens the safety of the facility. However all incoming and outgoing JPay emails pass through a screening mechanism, whereby the prison’s mailroom staff and intelligence officers sit behind a computer monitor and read the personal and intimate words of prisoners and our loved ones, which, like our photocopied letters, are then cataloged and stored in a massive database.

Operating procedure 803.1 also prohibits the censorship of offender correspondence unless the censorship is based on legitimate facility interests of safety and security. However, JPay makes it easier for mailroom staff and intelligence officers to sit behind a computer monitor and with the click of a mouse block or censor the outgoing emails of prisoners complaining of prison conditions as well as incoming emails of loved ones containing information about the Black Panther Party and other progressive and revolutionary movements from the 1960s and 1970s.

The U.S. Supreme Court in Procunier v. Martinez (1974) ruled that:

“Communications by letter is not accomplished by the act of writing words on paper. Rather it is effected only when the letter is read by the addressee. Both parties to the correspondence have an interest in securing that result. As such, censorship of the communication between them necessarily impinges on the interests of each.”

This U.S. Supreme Court ruling and prison policies of surveillance and censorship listed above reveals that the fascist and repressive nature of prisons extend beyond these prison walls and adversely impacts those of you in the community. This should give human and civil rights activists, including our loved ones, additional motivation to work in solidarity with incarcerated freedom fighters to challenge these Constitutional violations via civil litigation.

Ultimately, what we need to do is develop a collective inside/outside analysis and strategy to dismantle the U.S. imperialist prison system.

All Power to the People!

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