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Under Lock & Key

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[Organizing] [Prison Labor] [ULK Issue 58]
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Millions for Prisoners March on DC

millions for prisoner DC march

19 August 2017 — Hundreds rallied outside the White House today for the "Millions for Prisoners' Human Rights March." The event was organized by U.$. prisoners and outside groups to focus on the issue of the 13th Amendment, which allows for the slavery of convicted felons in the United $tates. During the march to the White House, the most common signs were: "Abolish Mass Incarceration", "End Racist Prison Slavery" and Industrial Workers of the World membership cards. The latter were hard to read for the casual observer and did not reinforce the message of the march. There was one red, black and green flag, and representatives of the Republic of New Afrika in attendance.

While more than half of the participants were local, people from many states were in attendance, including New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, South Carolina, Louisiana, Alabama, California and even Alaska. The crowd was a mix of movement elders, formerly incarcerated people, self-described "socialist" organizations and many youth for whom this was their first participation in the prison movement.

Last weekend's neo-nazi march, and murder of a young womyn, in nearby Charlottesville, Virginia was a motivator for a number of people to come out today. Some were there because of prisoners who had told them about the rally and asked them to participate. On the one hand this demonstrates the ability of prisoners to provide leadership to people on the outside. But these people were reachable by prisoners because they were involved in the movement already and the misnamed "Millions" for Prisoners rally proved the goals of the organizers to be a bit loftier than what was achieved.

In contrast to the hundreds in D.C., the so-called "Free Speech" rally in Boston today brought out tens of thousands of counter-demonstrators. Of course, they had the benefit of free advertising from all of the corporate news networks. The sight of hundreds of torch-wielding white men marching, chanting Nazi slogans, last weekend was rightfully jarring to many. Yet, innocent Black and Brown men are much more likely to die at the hands of the police or prison guards at this time than at the hands of a neo-nazi (that isn't employed by the state).

"Prisoner Lives Matter!" was one chant that rang true in D.C. For if there is any group whose lives are at risk, and whose unnecessary deaths receive little attention, in this country more than New Afrikan people in general, it is prisoners.

People at the march reported that some prisons had visiting shut down or were on lockdown today to prevent any group demonstrations on the inside. This is another example of why MIM(Prisons) thinks the First Amendment is a more important battle front than the Thirteenth. Just the idea that prisoners might organize a protest is enough to trigger state repression. Organized prisoners are the lynch-pin to a meaningful prison movement, so the right to organize must be at the forefront.

When this correspondent asked participants what the most important issue in the prison movement was, many weren't sure because they were new to it. Many had a hard time picking just one issue because there are so many things wrong with the U.$. injustice system. But the one response that was more popular than ending slavery in prisons, was the disproportionate arrest, sentencing, imprisonment and mistreatment of oppressed nations. While almost always phrased as "race" or "people of color", it does seem that the national contradiction is at the heart of what people see as wrong with prisons in the United $tates. Even the focus on the 13th Amendment was regularly tied to the history of slavery of New Afrikans by speakers. One speaker called prisons the "new plantation", which is true in that they were both institutions to control the New Afrikan semi-colony. But one was an economic powerhouse fueling global imperialism, while the other is a money pit that the prison movement aims to make a liability to the imperialists.

Perhaps an even bigger distinction was in the answers given by recently imprisoned people. Their focus was on their struggles upon release and the needs of those recently released. One New Afrikan man talked about his mother dying while he was in prison and him not even knowing at first. He got the news in such a callous way he didn't even believe it at first. To this day he has not figured out where his mother's body is. Yet he has been out of prison for two years and is already working for the mayor's office providing release support and doing motivational speaking.

It is a good thing that the state is doing more to provide services to recently-released prisoners. But we still need programs for those who dedicate themselves to changing the system. The state can't provide that. And it can't serve self-determination for the oppressed. There is much work to be done to build bridges to revolutionary political organizing for comrades being released all over the country. And ultimately, as the state knows and demonstrates, the only successful release programs are those that are led and run by releasees themselves.

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[Rhymes/Poetry]
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Revolutionary Soulja

I'm revolutionary,
So in other words
I'm evolutionary.
Molded by Larry Hoover
So that makes me visionary.
To some,
This would actually seem scary.

I'm revolutionary,
So I stress it to my family.
I tell them the time is near
For me to be.
To become the living prodigy
So I must not be weak.

I'm revolutionary,
So it's the youth whom I guide.
Within closed walls
for that youth,
I cry.
Knowing that to open their eyes
I'll most likely have to die.
Die so that they
May live free.

Like the Messiah
Is how I shall approach thee.
Fist held high
And it shall stand for
PEACE.
As I march through the fire,
A Revolutionary Soulja I shall be.

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[Hunger Strike] [National Oppression] [Civil Liberties] [Martinez Detention Facility - Contra Costa County Jail] [California] [ULK Issue 58]
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Strike Against Arbitrary Group Punishment at MDF

TogetherBreakChains

Contra Costa County Martinez Detention Facility (A) module is a General Population (GP) setting that houses northern Hispanics and African American prisoners. The prejudiced treatment of hispanics who are classified on (A) is a continuous issue and the rules seem to bend for us. As a result of an incident in 2011, we were separated from all other GP races. This continues today although we can program in all other GP modules. In 2012, we were subject to lockdown style program of 3 hours free time a week, no bible study, etc. This lasted up until 2015. Note that none of us were even involved in violating Title 15 §1083, yet were treated as we if we were in fights even straight from intake.

We on (A) live amongst GP African American prisoners, as well as others, and other hispanics. Yet we are still "Administrative Separation"(Ad-Sep). We seek an integration process to all other GP units, including the other jail (Contra Costa County - West Detention (WCDF)), which is for less serious offenders and offers more opportunities, programs and privileges. We acknowledge current overcrowding issues. However, there is no reason why us GP prisoners are deprived of those same opportunities: vocational, parenting, etc. Especially those who qualify for such housing. Being deprived of such opportunities is a punishment, which is the underlying issue here. We've been battling administration through verbal and written remedies to no avail. Our valid requests and grievances go nowhere, don't reach the chain of command, are ignored, we are given inadequate responses, and denied appeal rights. Even when attempting to follow policy regarding grievances it falls on deaf ears.

Another thing we seek to battle is the biased intake process, where we are left on (2) intake/disciplinary mod for unreasonable amounts of time without write-up, hearing, or a procedural due process.

As of 4 August 2017, approximately 72 inmates are on hunger strike due to these injustices. The following are the demands turned in to the administration:

We've been seeking just treatment through verbal and written remedies to no avail. This does not get us nowhere. We will be boycotting such prejudicial treatment. Following are more than fair demands that are not out of reach to administration and just according to inmate rights:

1) Cease Ad-Sep label: Equal treatment to those who've not committed any infractions within the jail. Non-existent Ad-Sep label creates a negative aura which pursues us all the way to our cases. We're forced to leave (A) in shackles giving negative impressions in court, lobby visits, etc. Ad-Sep does not exist in Title 15 and inmate handbook. No one asked for Ad-Sep, Ad-Seg, or special housing during intake process. We are GP, should be treated and labeled as such. Just like (B) and (C) inmates who've not broken any rules. Cease punishment violating T.15 §1083(c) over 2011 incident, cease Ad-Sep label because of a bad environment created by classification affecting us in our case.

2) Start process of integration to all GP units including WCDF. If this is not immediately possible there is no reason why we can't receive access to all other programs available in those parts of the jail, such as vocational, parenting, etc. Those who qualify for WCDF should receive opportunities. To deny such opportunities is to bestow a punishment we don't have coming, which is the underlying issue here.

3) Create adequate grievance process, following policy, and chains of command when there is in fact a valid grievance. Provide appeal rights that are denied and give adequate responses.

4) Cease biased intake process where inmates destined for (A) are left on (Q) for unreasonable amounts of time deprived of GP setting and privileges without write-up, hearing, creating negligent meal service by having PCs serve food. You make room for those punished from other mods, you can make room for those without any type of infractions.

Note: We have set forth reasonable and realistic requests and grievances. In a nutshell we simply wish to cease biased treatment and be treated like all other GP inmates. We acknowledge overcrowding problems regarding housing circumstances. However, we should not be denied access to those programs and opportunities. We are separated/segregated from other races unnecessarily. As well as treated with prejudice from setting foot in intake to court.

References:
  • Title 15 §1083(c)4019.5 "Punishment to inmate/group over others actions" (2011 incident)
  • 14th Amendment "equal protection of the law" - cannot treat inmates differently than others without reason (race is not a valid reason)
  • Title 15 §1053 Ad-Seg (not fitting criteria)
  • 8th Amendment "Due process procedural rights" (violated)

MIM(Prisons) adds: In July 2013 prisoners at MDF staged a hunger strike from Ad-Seg. Some of the demands related to clear classification and adequate rec time echo those of the comrades on strike now. Despite the report of victories, we see similar problems continuing at the same jail in 2017. This is why winning some reforms should only be seen as the first step of a struggle and not the end. The imperialist system is based on national oppression after all.

We support these comrades' just demands, which ally with ongoing campaigns to end long-term isolation as well as to provide proper avenues for having grievances heard. As the comrades point out that this treatment based on supposed affiliation with people who did things before they were even in this jail is an obvious violation of basic civil rights and just treatment. We work to build the anti-imperialist movement so that we can replace the current system with a just one.

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[Street Gangs/Lumpen Orgs]
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A Letter to a Young Gangster

Peace Black brother,

I hope this letter finds you strong and defiant in mind, body, and spirit. I really enjoyed the few times we exchanged ideas about the new Black liberation struggle. I was a little surprised when you told me that you consider yourself a Black revolutionary because most young brothers who gang bang don’t identify themselves as such, and that’s because being one requires opposing and resisting racism and oppression which is a huge burden and responsibility. Others simply don’t understand the concept of a Revolutionary.

To put it simply, a Revolutionary is someone who fights and struggles to change the conditions of oppressed people. A counter-revolutionary is someone who-consciously or unconsciously–fights and struggles against change so as to exacerbate and perpetuate the conditions of oppressed people. A Revolutionary is someone who strives to transform the criminal mentality into a Revolutionary mentality. A counter-revolutionary is someone who maintains, values, and takes delight in the criminal mentality. A Revolutionary seeks to become a part of the solution to what’s plaguing the Black and oppressed communities. A counter-revolutionary seeks to remain a part of the problem of what’s plaguing the Black and oppressed communities. A Revolutionary is someone who utilizes all of his/her strength and energy in trying to liberate Black and oppressed people. A counter-revolutionary is someone who utilizes all of his/her strength and energy in trying to oppress and exploit those already oppressed and exploited by this white supremacist, capitalistic system. A Revolutionary is someone who opposes the Gestapo police who are daily murdering and brutalizing Black and oppressed people. A counter-revolutionary is someone who murders and brutalizes Black and oppressed people who are already being murdered and brutalized by the Gestapo police.

So, young brother, upon examining yourself, and taking the above examples of a Revolutionary into consideration, which category do you truly fall into: a Revolutionary or a counter-revolutionary? Most gang bangers, unfortunately, fall into the category of a counter-revolutionary.

As with most–if not all–Black street gangs, which I prefer to call social clubs, they started out as Revolutionary because the social, political and economic conditions that Black people were subjected to in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and even today, necessitated that they come together and organize to try and resist and change those conditions. But during the ’80s when the CIA began flooding poor Black communities with crack cocaine and guns to finance its illegal counter-revolutionary war against the democratically-elected Sandinista government in Nicaragua, and to further destabilize the poor Black communities making them more susceptible to subjugation and genocide, these social clubs and the oppressed communities they existed in became fractured and divided. Consequently, these social clubs became counter-revolutionary in that they lost sight of their original purpose and began to prey on the very people and neighborhoods they originally organized to defend, protect, and liberate.

One of the best examples of a social club becoming Revolutionary as the result of a radical transformation in the mentality of its membership is the 5,000-strong Slauson gang under the leadership of Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter. During the early ’60s, Bunchy was successful in uniting all of the various social clubs in Los Angeles under his leadership. According to Elder Freeman, a close comrade of Buchy’s, this was the first and only time in history that there was only one unified social club in Los Angeles. To build off of that success and momentum, Bunchy then spearheaded the formation of the Los Angeles Black Panther Party in 1967 which recruited heavily from the ranks of the Slauson gang. Because Bunchy was such a dynamic organizer and a charismatic leader who inspired other "street" brothers and sisters to become Revolutionaries, then FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover, had Bunchy and his Black Panther comrade, John Huggins, killed in a COINTELPRO created beef between the Los Angeles Black Panther Party and Ron Karenga’s United Slaves Organization on January 17, 1968. ...


MIM(Prisons) adds: The above is an excerpt from an article written by a comrade who goes on to promote an organization that we reviewed in ULK 50.(1) In that article we describe the numerous serious political errors in that organization's line. But we agree with the general strategy that we need to "unify rival social clubs and redirect their aggression and rage away from each other and towards changing and improving the conditions of Black and oppressed people." There are many examples of comrades doing this that have appeared in the pages of Under Lock & Key over the years. Yet as this issue addresses, the problem is far from resolved.

The Black Panthers of the late 1960s still offer the most successful examples of transforming gangsters into revolutionaries. What that indicates is that building a strong vanguard party, with the correct political line, in dialectical relationship to the lumpen masses is the way to repeat their success. Without that, efforts at L.O. unity will be short-lived or will be siphoned off into bourgeois reformism.

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[Aztlan/Chicano] [Rhymes/Poetry] [ULK Issue 59]
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Where I Come From

Where did I come from you ask?
I came from a great civilization
A people who knew what day it was
While the rest of the world did not.

I come from a people who knew
Where the Earth fit in relation to the universe
While the rest of the world knew not.

I come from a civilization
Of great art and rich culture.
A people advanced in mathematics and building structures
Which were symmetrical to the sun.

I come from a people that fought
For its independence
From three foreign nations
In one century alone!

I continue to survive this bloody annexation
And to this day
I maintain my identity
Against pressure to assimilate.

I come from a civilization
Which has been here since the beginning of time.
I am heir to traditions of Cuauhtemoc,
Benito Juarez, and Emiliano Zapata.

I am indigenous to this land
And now I hear these ignorant voices
Telling me to go back where "I" come from?
"I" am from here!
My civilization was founded on the very earth we stand on!
You and your people go back to where you come from!

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[Rhymes/Poetry] [ULK Issue 58]
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To Walk in Our Shoes

You have both parents. I have one.
We are both better off than those who have none.
You were given everything. I stayed on my feet.
We both had it better than those raised in the streets.
What about the one that just needed some new kicks?
I don't condone stealing, but I don't judge him one bit.

And you say you know what it's like.

Have you ever been pulled over and feared for your life?
Covered the wound of a person stabbed with a knife?
Gunshots ring past you filling you with fright?
Or decades and decades of fighting for your rights?

And you say you know what it's like.

You have four siblings. With mine I had fun.
My friend's whole family was mowed down by the gun.
You inherited love. There's nothing wrong with that.
I just want you to see that you've never been where we're at.

And you say you know what it's like.

You ever been homeless living under a bridge?
You ever been to prison with the thought of losing your kids?
What about prison in general for something you didn't do?
Oh wait, nevermind. Because you have always been you.

Well I've always been me. Is it money that I lack?
If Amerika's mostly white why are the prisons mostly Black?
You went to a great school. I went to one in the hood.
Despite the school's limitations, I think I turned out really good.
You had a good upbringing. Many envy that.
I just want you to see that you've never been where we're at.

And you say you know what it's like.

When you lock us away, it's usually for years.
You say it's justice, but you just create more tears.
Our families are victims too, of mass incarceration.
Your jury isn't our peers. They convict without hesitation.
You think you do us a favor when we're forced to take a deal.
It's still too much time for a crime that's not real.
You've been to court, too, but you sat where the public sat.
That still doesn't show you that you've been where we're at.

And you say you know what it's like.

When cops kill us, we must have did something bad.
Now we're taking back something we forgot we had.
Our love for each other will bring you to your knees.
And show you what it feels like with your hands up and you can't breathe.
Your lack of care for our lives will never be without fuss.
My people can see that it's not justice, it's just us.
Even some of your people join in our strides.
Because they see the truth of your bigotry and lies.

Times are steady changing, please remember that.
Even on your worst day you've never been where we're at.

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[Campaigns] [Organizing] [Alaska] [ULK Issue 58]
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Alaska Grievance Campaign Update

I'm writing this letter to update you on my efforts and the outcome of the grievance petition. I filed my petition with the Department of Corrections Commissioner, the Alaska Lt. Governor and to the Department of Justice (DOJ). A few days later another captive and I were transferred to administrative segregation at Anchorage Correctional Complex – East, to the same module where captives who have violated DOC rules are housed. We have been told we are not being punished, however we live under the same punitive conditions.

A few days after our transfer I received a notice from the warden (she calls herself a "superintendent" but she is a warden) telling me that the petition I sent to the Lt. Gov. was forwarded to her to address. She denies all of my claims and tells me that if I still have issues that "the grievance procedure has a specific process to follow, including an appeal process, and the right to seek redress in superior court if the department does not rule in your favor." She then states that the Standards Sgt. is backlogged with grievances and asks for my patience. This letter was coincidentally dated the day before our transfer.

During our transfer our property was seized, was deemed excess and was denied issuance of even the most essential hygiene items. I have filed multiple grievances about this, but the tactic now seems to be to ignore all of my grievances. I have unacknowledged grievances that are over 3 months since filed. The DOC policy states it has 15 working days to investigate and respond.

Now they are retaliating even more by seizing my legal mail, reading and mutilating it. They use excessive force when outside cell by over-ratcheting handcuffs and ensuring we are cuffed whenever outside our cells. If our cell is not shaken down daily, it is every other day. We have been strip searched (unwarranted) at least 3 times. When we are given new clothing to change out, a gay guard glowers at our nakedness. Books that have been sent to me by books to prisoners orgs have been denied for absurd reasons like "contains book" or "unknown substance on book." More retaliatory measures than these have been imposed on me, however it has not stopped me. I still write letters to the Commissioner (who forwards them to the warden I am complaining about), the Lt. Governor, the Governor and any other state official that may listen. Including the ACLU. The ACLU has never responded to any of my letters.

Since being transferred to segregation it is difficult to disperse the grievance petition which I am sure was the reason for my transfer. I did however get it out to close to 60 or 70 people and I believe they will pass it on as well. I have also mailed a few copies to people I know in other institutions. These at first were censored. The reason given: "typed." I eventually had an officer mail them out (after several attempts).

I am not sure what else they can to do me at this point but I am not going to stop fighting.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade's story is a good example of why the grievance campaign was initiated. Prisoners across the country face this same problem with the grievance system of getting no response, or bullshit responses, and never getting grievances seriously addressed. The petition, which now exists for many states, is a simple demand that our grievances be addressed.

Of course we don't actually expect this petition will lead to victory over a grievance system that is purposefully set up to deny prisoners' attempts to demand their rights. But people like this writer are using the petition as an organizing tool; getting others involved in the fight and waking them up to their oppression and the importance of their role in fighting back. We have to combine this work with education about the criminal injustice system as a tool of social control under imperialism so that we don't mislead people into thinking petitioning will fix the entire system. In this way we can take on these smaller battles in the context of the larger struggle to build unity against imperialism.

Send us a self-addressed stamped envelope for a copy of the grievance petition for your state, or a generic petition you can customize if one doesn't already exist.

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[Control Units] [Legal]
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Tier II Challenges in Court

I am on the Tier II Program in Georgia. I am confined to an isolation cell 24 hours of every day. I'm not allowed outside my cell for any reason, other than to shower three times a week. I'm not allowed ANY phone calls, visits, photos (of either friends or family), nor am i — unlike other prisoners — allowed to posess the recently distributed electronic communication device.

My entire waking moment is expended ONLY on either legal or political endeavors (this includes assisting others in such endeavors), even if it simply entails me devouring some relevant item of legal or political literature. In light of the intensity of my torture and the urgency of my struggle — our struggle — nothing else is relevant enough to warrant my attention or time.

The enemy succeeded in depersonalizing me — in dehumanizing me — in emotionally and psychologically MURDERING me! — a long time ago, before i even became aware of the fact of my systematic, gradual death. But as a result of my "death" i've grown to be as militant (and stoical) as they come. My creed is simple: "If it doesn't concern the political, it doesn't concern me." Frantz Fanon in his Wretched of the Earth stated that "any torture deeply dislocates, as might be expected, the personality of the tortured." I cannot state, with certainty, that i would have — or that i even could have — grasped the gist of Fanon's statement were it not for my own continual involuntary subjection to torture.

But to return from my digression, my lawsuit concerning the Tier II Program raises a number of colossal implications. For one, my case is the leading case attacking the inadequate due process procedures attendent upon both a prisoner's initial and continued assignment to the Tier II Program, as well as contesting, in the so-called civil and human rights context, the totality of the Tier II program confinement conditions. What this means is that my case is inevitably going to set the precedent (the criterion) by which all other subsequent Tier II cases are to be handled in the judiciary.

Moreover, with regard to my motion requesting to be released from the Tier II Program, that issue is currently pending in the court of appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. If i am successful at the appellate level — and it looks as though i will be — the favorable ruling would provide prisoners with a vehicle through which to remedy "unlawful" or otherwise erroneous assignments to the Tier II Program (and ALL assignments of prisoners to the Tier II Program are arbitrary and intentionally carried out by prisoncrats in derogation of formal Departmental policy).

But most importantly, my case — because it is the test case — is going to settle (for better or worse) important questions with respect to both the civil and human "rights" of prisoners nationwide. Such is the significance of my case. But even a string of "bad" decisions would still be "good" for the anti-imperialist movement, because it would only further "expose the fallacies of the reactionaries"(Mao), here, the futility of the Amerikkkan court system.

In any event, i will be forwarding the Prisoners' Legal Clinic some relevant court documents from my case within the next week or so, if only to keep you abreast of developments. Actually, the trial court, to its credit, has already condemned the confinement conditions of Tier II as "so egregious that a constitutional right was clearly violated."(Nolley v. Nelson, No. 5:15-cv-75-CAR(M.D.Ga.), Doc. 50, p. 29.

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[Legal] [Medical Care] [ULK Issue 57]
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Americans with Disabilities Act Overview

Title II The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), codified as Title 42 of the United States Code, Section 12131 (42 USC §12131, herein after §12131), applies to "any State or local government, any department, agency, special purpose district, or other instrumentality of a State or States or local government..." (§12131[1][A][B]). The ADA defines a "qualified individual with a disability [as] an individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable modifications to rules, policies, or practices, the removal or architectural, communication, or transportation barriers, or the provision of auxiliary aids and services, meets the essential eligibility requirements for the receipt of services or the participation in program or activities provided by a public entity."(§12131[2]).

Disabled prisoners in state facilities come under the auspices of ADA provisions.

"[S]tate prisons fall squarely within definition in 42 USCS §12131(1)(B), of 'public entity' subject to Title II, (2) text of ADA provides no basis for distinguishing recreational activities, medical services, and educational and vocational programs provided to prison inmates from 'services, programs, or activities' provided by other public entities ...[.] [T]itle II's definition of 'qualified individual with disability' [...] which refers to 'disability' requirements and 'participation' in programs, does not exclude prisoners."(Pennsylvania Department of Corrections v. Yeskey, 118 S.Ct. 1952)

In the landmark case Ball v. LeBlanc, 792 F.3d 584, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit held: Under the ADA, Louisiana state prisoners on Angola's death row were to be considered disabled if:

"[They have] 'a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.' (42 U.S.C. § 12102[1][A]). The statute defines a major life activity in two ways. First, major life activities include, but are not limited to: caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, thinking, communicating, and working.

"Second, a major life activity includes 'the operation of a major bodily function.' Such functions include, but are not limited to: the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, endocrine, and reproductive functions. The prisoners can prove themselves disabled if their ailments substantially limit either a major life activity or the operation of a major bodily function."(42 U.S.C. § 12102 [2][A][B])

The ADA requires prison officials to reasonably accommodate disabled prisoners in regard to all activities afforded able-bodied prisoners. "[D]eliberate refusal of prison officials to accommodate inmate's disability-related needs ([in] virtually all [ ] prison programs) constituted exclusion from participation in or denial of benefits of prison services, programs, or activities. '[P]ublic entity' under 42 USCS §12131(1) includes prisons."(United States v. Georgia, 126 S.Ct. 877; Loye v. County of Dakota, 625 F.3d 494)

Though the ADA bestows on disabled state prisoners the right to reasonably participate in all prison activities, probably of paramount importance to disabled prisoners is participation in requisite programs that must be attended per consideration for early release from prison to limited liberty on parole. The ADA ensures disabled prisoners access to these activities as well.(United States v. Georgia, supra.; Yeskey, supra.; Jaros v. Illinois Department of Corrections, 684 F.3d 667; Gorman v. Bartch, 152 F.3d 907; Paulone v. City of Frederick, 787 F.2d 360; Raines v. Florida, 983 F. Supp. 1362)

An organizational tactic that disabled prisoners might employ in combating discriminatory exclusion from prison programs, activities, and/or services, could be to pursue litigation as a class, or group, of plaintiffs pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (FRCP) Rule #23. To identify as a class, disabled prisoners must establish "numerosity, commonality, and typicality."(Kerrigan v. Philadelphia Board of Elections, 248 FRD 470; Marcus v. Department of Revenue, 206 FRD 509)

In short, a contingent of disabled prisoners must convince the Federal court there is a significant number of "similarly situated" prisoners being denied their rights and entitlements guaranteed by the ADA, thereby identifying a class the court can certify as such.(Armstrong v. Schwarzenegger, 261 FRD 173) Once a class has been certified, any injunctive relief enforcing the ADA encompasses all prisoners identified as the class of prisoner plaintiffs.(Schwarzenegger, supra; Benjamin v. Department of Public Welfare, 807 F.Supp.2d 201)

Monetary damage awards can be obtained if the state actors are deliberately indifferent to prisoners' disability or if violations of the ADA are intentional.(United States v. Georgia, supra; Tennessee v. Lane, 124 S.Ct. 1978; Panzardi-Santiago v. University of Puerto Rico, 200 F.Supp.2d 1).

The ADA enjoins prison systems to provide disabled prisoners auxiliary or adaptive aid devices ensuring disabled prisoners are reasonably able to participate in prison programs, activities, and/or services. (Robertson v. Las Animas County Sheriff's Department, 500 F.3d 1185). This means if you are disabled or impaired as recognized per the provisions of the ADA, the state must provide you with implements and apparatus so as to assist you in participating in common daily and required programmatic activities.

In sum, to prevail on an ADA violation claim, a disabled state prisoner would submit to a Federal district court with jurisdiction a civil rights violation complaint pursuant to 42 USC §1983 (United States v. Georgia, supra) (a §1983 form can be obtained from the clerk in the district in which the civil suit is to be filed) citing §12131 as statutory provision authorizing the claim. In the complaint a prospective plaintiff must show they are a qualified person with a disability, they were excluded from participation in or denied benefits of a prison system's programs, activities, and/or services, and the exclusion and/or denial of benefits was due to the prisoner's disabilities.(United States v. Georgia, supra; Panzardi-Santiago, supra; Constantino v. Madden, 16 FLW Fed D 321)

Prison administrators are to be trained, and to train or to have trained prison officials and personnel that are to supervise and have contact with disabled prisoners.(Gorman, supra) Moreover, it is important disabled prisoners be aware non-medical prison officials can in no way supersede any medical directive affecting a prisoner's disability or accommodation thereof. (Chisolm v. McManimon, 275 F.3d 328; Beckford v. Irvin, 49 F. Supp. 2d 170; Saunders v. Horn, 959 F. Supp. 689; Arnold on Behalf of H.B. v. Lewis, 803 F. Supp. 246)

The above is a very brief and truncated overview of the ADA as it applies to state prisoners and should not be construed as a comprehensive examination of disability law as it pertains to prisoners. This article is no more than a primer meant to initiate disabled prisoners with their legal rights and remedies. If a disabled prisoner is experiencing abuse and discrimination at the hands of prison officials, the disabled prisoner should take it upon themselves to research pertinent precedents and authorities necessary in remedying the situation and pursue those via the various avenues of relief.

The U.S. Department of Justice provides a free 211 page booklet entitled "ADA Title II Regulations: Non-discrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services." The booklet can be had in large print, audiotape, Braille, and DVD. The booklet can also be provided in Cambodian, Chinese, Hmong, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese. Or it could be, that is until the Jingoist xenophobe Trump took the imperialist helm. The DOJ can be contacted at:

U.S. DOJ
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Sec.
950 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20530

There are a number of non-governmental organizations that assist disabled prisoners on a pro bono basis. The DOJ can provide contact information for disability rights advocates in your area.

Finally, the law library at your facility may have available for review the annotated version of §12131. This annotated edition of Title II of the ADA provides synoptic court rulings of the rights afforded disabled prisoners.

Very important is to document and keep records of all acts of disability discrimination and violations of the ADA — incidents, names, dates, witnesses, etc. This can best be accomplished via the administrative grievance procedure at your prison, while at the same time executing the required exhaustion of administrative remedies prior to filing suit.

In closing, it is my sincere desire that this overview proves to be of effective utility to those disabled prisoners facing the barbarous conditions of existence imposed on them by the enforcers of the carceral state.

To any able-bodied prisoners that may read this brief overview, I would remind you, an injury to one is an injury to all!

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[Campaigns] [Arizona State Prison Complex Eyman SMUII] [Arizona] [ULK Issue 57]
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Medical Care in Arizona's Solitary

I'm writing from Arizona solitary confinement, aka SMU2, to let others know what is going on with the corrupt medical grievance process. Recently a memo was passed out that all medical grievances are now to be treated differently and go through Corizon staff, which is the contracted company that provides health treatment to Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC). This process consists of only 2 steps, which are an "informal resolution complaint" and then the "grievance." Both are to go through the Facility Health Administrator (FHA), which allows for no transparency nor checks and balances. Since this change in the grievance procedure, not one "informal resolution complaint" form has been replied to in accordance to ADC's Department Order #802 "Inmate Grievance System", that is set up to oversee this process.

So after the FHA does not respond, one has to move on to the grievance per this policy. The grievances are not delivered back for 1 to 2 months, and this only due to me writing to a CCO3 (counselor) to inquire about replies. The replies are pretty generic and consist of responses like "your complaint has been forwarded to..." "your complaint is substantiated..." etc. and that the grievance is resolved. Yet nothing is done and there is no type of appeal to this, so no other remedy can be sought as the process is exhausted here.

Before, the process wasn't much better but it would go through 4 steps as a way to oversee this process. I have sought remedy through this process on many occasions, so many as a matter of fact that I have actually had 2 meetings with the FHA. At the latest one, she personally resolved a grievance by renewing one of my prescriptions. Yet these prescriptions were not renewed and instead were allowed to expire without any type of tapering or alternative treatment in place. So I am at a loss as to what my next step is, as even when a grievance is granted it is not followed through on.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a couple of other law firms actually have a lawsuit on behalf of ADC prisoners named Parsons v. Ryan which is not even being adhered to, as the ACLU recently filed a motion showing that ADC was not in compliance with this lawsuit. Being that the suit is not for monetary compensation to the actual plaintiffs, being us, the ACLU gets their so-called expenses paid as well as the fine, which in this last case was a cool $2 million.

ADC would rather pay the fine than provide adequate health care as it is much cheaper to do so, and they will continue to do so because it will save them a ton of money! I have written the ACLU in Washington and the Arizona ACLU, as well as the Prison Law Office out of San Quentin who are the attorneys in charge of the lawsuit and all that they do is forward my informal grievances and HNRs to each other as well as shoot me one another's addresses for me to contact them. The replies are to grieve it, which I have, and the grievances were substantiated and granted yet I am here in my little cell without treatment as I write these very words.

Any ideas of what to do next would be greatly appreciated! I let the FHA know that this type of deliberate indifference and derelict of duty would not be allowed in any other type of medical treatment setting. Therefore why is it allowed here in SMU2? If anyone has suggestions on how to proceed please contact MIM(Prisons) for me, thank you.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer provides yet another good example of the failure of prison grievance systems as well as the courts. In this case Arizona has set up a system that just wastes prisoners' time while offering no accountability, even when grievances and Court Orders are granted.

It is for situations like this that the campaign to demand our grievances be addressed was initiated. We have a petition pertaining to Arizona State Prison that could be modified for this battle in solitary confinement. While these petitions don't often win the battles for us immediately, they help us build support by spreading the campaign to others and giving them specific actions they can take. At the same time we're all too well aware that prisons don't have an interest in addressing grievances. Anything that costs more money or requires more services, or that forces COs to treat prisoners with respect and dignity, is going to be a hard battle. The criminal injustice system is set up to do the opposite, and so we will have to fight for each right. Write to us to get a copy of the Arizona petition to modify for this battle.

While grievances and courts fail, we learn the same lesson over and over again — that legal battles will not get us where we need to be, to a world without oppression. Court cases and grievance campaigns sometimes win some victories, that is true. But for long-lasting change we really need to organize with each other, build unity, educate and struggle together to force change. We hope this correspondent will take this failure of the courts as inspiration to try a different method of resolution.

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