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Excessive Force or Not?

Proverbs 14:17:

A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of wicked intentions is hated.

Part One: What Happened?

It is imperative to recount the details of an event that happened many years ago here at USP Tucson. At about 2:15pm, Thursday, July 21 st, an incident happened which begs this question: Did an officer here at USP Tucson use excessive force against a prisoner?

First, the details At about 2:15-2:30pm: a friend and I were sitting against the fence on the soccer field yard, near the corner of the yard. From where we sat, it was close to the sidewalk, which led into the hallway that was close to Education. We were the closest prisoners to the vantage point.

About that time, it was the Northside Program move, when the prisoners here can leave the dorm and go outside, or go back inside, or go to the Library, Indoor Recreation or other places, so there was movement of the prisoners, but also of staff as well, since it was also shift-change. As my friend and Isat in the shade, we saw volunteers from religious service leaving the building from the door closest to Education. They were coming from the Chapel, which was in the same building as Education. There were also two officers, one being the officer in question. Let’s call him Officer Burt, although Officer Coward could be a better name. The other officer I do not know.

At the same time, there was an elderly prisoner, Mr. Montgomery (his name I would learn later) who came down the walkway and headed towards Education - or that area. Normally prisoners don’t use the sidewalk to go to Education, they are supposed to go through the prison yard; but for whatever reason, he did not.

My friend and I saw Montgomery go in, just as the volunteers were leaving, through the same door. He went in, then we heard some exchange of words: someone was asking Montgomery why he didn’t go through the yard as he was supposed to. He was then told to leave; and as he came out, Officer “Burt” first told him to leave. Then he changed his mind, telling Montgomery to put his hands up, because Burt was going to put cuffs on him.

Montgomery… a 60+ year old man, turned to Officer Burt, and put his hands in front of him. I saw very clearly this action, and perhaps it might took like Montgomery was being aggressive; but he did EXACTLY what Officer Burt told him to do. Montgomery thrusted his two hands up in front of him, much like one would after running their hands through a bowl of water, pulling the hands upwards. But Officer Burt paused for a split second, then immediately went and grabbed Montgomery and slammed him into the fence.

Among the endless profanities Burt spoke - while the volunteers of the religious service looked on - Burt proceeded to roughly put Montgomery on the cement, breaking his glasses and drawing blood from his nose or lips. It was very clear that Montgomery wasn’t resisting, yet Burt roughly forced the prisoner face down on the cement… on a 105+ degree day, while the volunteers looked on.’

Montgomery showed no reasonable signs of resisting; an elderly man (or any man) slammed on the fence, then on a hot cement sidewalk while profanities are spewed over him, while forcing his arms to his back, will naturally resist a LITTLE: it’s a “fight or flight” reaction.

The second officer helped Burt subdue him, as help was called. It was shortly canceled, as Burt told them it was under control. The volunteers were held away by another officer, while Burt and the officer pinned Montgomery down, and put cuffs on him, as a bleeding Montgomery cried.

I then heard Officer Burt say, “He lunged at me”, to which I felt immediate contempt. He told the officers arriving on the scene that Montgomery LUNGED at him, which justified his actions. After cuffing him, they picked Montgomery up off the cement, and took him inside, Burt cursing continually.

Later, my friend and I sat there, furious at what Burt did to that old man. From the same doors to Education, a couple of staff members came out, looking at the small area of blood left by Montgomery. My friend and l were still there, in fact moved closer to see the blood spot. I overheard the two staff members talk about the incident, but tried not to be too nosy. One said, “i can’t believe he did that in front of those people”.

Who was he talking about? Montgomery… or Officer Burt?

So, I saw what happened, and was sickened by Officer Burt’s response to the situation. Naturally, when the other prisoners on the yard saw what happened, they came over to see the situation. They asked us what was going on, and I was adamant in saying that Montgomery did NOT lunge at the officer. One of the other prisoners said that the officers told Montgomery to go through the yard, and he refused. He was stubborn about it, and decided to take his own route to Education or Psychology. I heard he was trying to go to Psychology, so he could get his medication.

So—excessive force? Was Officer Burt’s actions necessary, or was this based on a man with a quick—temper? Consider the factors: USP Tucson — although a penitentiary, is almost non-violent. One case manager once said, “this is the softest penitentiary in the country.” Most prisoners are non—violent (at that time, because MUCH has changed in the last few years), or ex gang members trying to leave that life behind. So relaxed is this prison, that during rec move, the softball field, the middle yard, and the soccer field can be full of prisoners, with ZERO guards, because it is not needed. This was not an “active” yard, so aggressive confrontations with officers are minimal; hardly existent at all.

So was this exessive force? We’ll explore that in the second part.

Part Two: So Was it Exessive Force?

So, what are we looking at? A situation where an elderly man, in his 60s, is taken down by an officer when he “went the wrong way” here at USP Tucson. The officer (let’s call him Officer Burt) told the old prisoner to put his hands up because he was going to cuff him.

The prisoner, named Montgomery, did as he was told, and in the action, he put his hands up straight in the air. Officer Burt paused, then roughly pinned Montgomery to the fence, then took him down to the hot cement… all this while visitors to the prison for the religious service stood mere feet away.

Is this “Rodney King 101”, where an officer can justify rough and excessive treatment of an elderly prisoner, who happens to be on psyche medication? How will the prison justify this action? Normally this is a simple task for the prison to do; they’d just ignore the prisoner complaint and discredit anything we say. After all, nobody believes prisoners: that’s the running theory.

But there’s a problem with that this time: there were witnesses from outside the prison. Those volunteers for religious service came from ministries outside the prison, right here in Tucson. Will the prison say that those people didn’t see what they saw? Or, will those visitors believe Officer Burt’s story, and make Montgomery the villain? I might wager the latter, but it depends on what those people from religious service is willing to believe. I mean, I know what I saw; they saw the same thing.

So now the problems in society; the abuse of authority by officers, now reflects in this prison (which has always been an issue). This isn’t new: officers have been roughing up prisoners for the longest time, but the prison never took accountability, because it’s always our word (the prisoner) vs their word (the prison). But now with about 5—6 visitors from a ministry, looking on while Officer Burt virtually assaults a 60+ year old man, breaking his glasses and drawing blood, the prison has to find a way to spin this.

It was also interesting to note: I saw officers running to the scene when the “deuces” were hit (a call on the hand unit for help). I could be wrong, but when some of them arrived, they were hesitant to physically get involved because they saw the visitors. Had they NOT been there, would they have been more aggressive? Even the second officer with Burt seemed hesitant to assist Burt, possibly having a moral check; was he thinking, “is this the right way to go about this?”

So, what happens now? If I know this prison, they’ll defend the shield and do the wrong thing. An officer with a quick-temper showed poor judgment and excessive force on an elderly man on medication in front of a group of volunteers from outside the prison: witnesses. There is no question that in my eyes, my friend’s eyes, the prison surveillance and the volunteers who saw the incident that all the facts were congruent. It all matches.

So, IF the prison chooses to side with Officer Burt, they are wrong, and no different than abusive police officers who beat people or kill them, then justify it to the victim. Something has to be done to restore respect to these officers, and I fear that this prison may not be capable of doing that.

Proverbs 17:15 says:

“He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord”.

I don’t expect the prison to do the “right thing”, because it would be an admission that they make mistakes. And they’d never admit that to prisoners. They’d rather cover it up, discredit or forget the valid points of view we give. Yet in doing this, prison abuse flourishes. Just two weeks prior to this incident, a man was murdered in the SHU (Specials Housing Unit) based squarely on prison ignorance and neglect. Officers have been accused of discrimination, yet the prison has been slow to act, if at all.

Bad behavior by officers is ignored, or even rewarded, since many get promotions; but half questionable behavior by prisoners have been met with full frontal condemnation.

Where does it end? Sadly, at this rate, it won’t. Prisons don’t learn from their mistakes, even if it is shown on television shows a hundred times. Prisons believe they can do what they want to prisoners because it’s some given right; and if (when) they do abuse people, it’s like Las Vegas: “What happens in [prison] stays in [prison].” Besides, who believes prisoners anyway?

But I didn’t lose my humanity when I got locked up. I still have values, so I will stand strong on this, regardless of what people say or think. Prisoner or not, people should be treated with a level of respect until something critical changes the situation. Officer Burt is known for having a temper; I had a run in with him before, and I am not a fan of his tactics at all. That doesn’t make me prejudiced against him (from one black prisoner to a black officer). I think he’s a bad officer, and persecutes prisoners because he can get away with it; and nobody working at USP Tucson has the intestinal fortitude to hold him accountable. Lots of officers here are like that: not ALL, because there are a couple of “good” officers here, but people like Officer Burt make prison so much harder than it needs to be.

The punishment is to BE in prison, not the abuse done by any officer. So, this incident which happened several years ago, as I look back at it. Montgomery got his family to sue the prison for abuse, which I helped by documenting what I saw. I hope it got Burt fired. But, years later, not much has changed. Bad officers get promoted, while the good ones leave, going elsewhere.

USP Tucson has gotten worse since then, so, I have to keep writing.

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[Abuse] [Heat] [Campaigns] [Buckingham Correctional Center] [Virginia] [ULK Issue 83]
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Incarcerated People Are Suffering And Dying In Prisons During The Current Record Heat Wave

I have written and spoken extensively over the last couple years about the impact that recent heat waves have had on incarcerated people housed in non-air-conditioned prisons in Virginia and in the Criminal Injustice System in general. I even drafted and disseminated a proposal for the creation of a state-wide, coalition-based movement to shut these prisons down. As of the date of this writing, none of the so-called prison justice and prison abolitionist organizations I sent it to in Virginia responded or expressed interest in it.

A comrade of mine then created an online petition in 2022 to raise public awareness about this issue and build momentum for shutting these prisons (i.e., death traps) down. Last checked, the petition had 560 signatures. Buckingham Correctional Center alone houses 1,091 people, so there should be more signatures on this petition.

Since I began writing/speaking about this issue, the dissemination of my proposal and the creation of the online petition, historic heat waves have increased exponentially, both in frequency and in record high temperatures. And with these increases must be increased pressure and organizing to shut these non-air-conditioned prisons down.

Since the beginning of summer, the U.$. and most of the rest of the world have been gripped by deadly and historic heat waves. Science and medical experts the world over have warned that deaths caused by extreme heat will only increase each summer without some sort of action to mitigate climate change. They say that elderly people, obese people, and those with diabetes, heart disease and other serious health related issues are the ones most at risk. Time and time again, people confined to prisons, jails and detention centers with poor ventilation, substandard medical care and partial or no air conditioning are left out of the category of those most at risk during these record heat waves.

I just read that in Texas, which incarcerates more people than any other state in the country, the temperature inside its prisons regularly exceeds 120 degrees during the summer and as result, hundreds of incarcerated people have died there from extreme heat exposure in the last few years. Predictably, Texas prison officials have denied the number of deaths and the deaths they have acknowledged they falsely claimed were not caused by extreme heat but by other causes. So, on July 8, loved ones of incarcerated people and other community members attended a rally inside the Texas state capital demanding an emergency session be held to address the issue and for funding to be allocated to install AC units inside all Texas’ prisons. We need similar rallies to take place here in Virginia every summer when it is the hottest and not later in the year or the beginning of the year when the temperature and the issue of extreme heat inside non-air-conditioned prisons both starts to cool down.

SOME ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE NOW:

  • Sign and share the following petition to close three main non-air-conditioned prisons in Virginia at: https://chng.it/T5hzhPsJXM

  • Call/email Virginia’s Governor, Secretary of Public Safety, and Director of the Department of Correction at the contact information below demanding these prisons be shut down due to the extreme heat suffered by the people incarcerated there and that housing people at the named facilities under those conditions constitutes torture and cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Glenn Youngkin, Governor of Virginia
Tel: 804-786-2211
Email: governor.virginia.gov/constituent-services/communicating-with-the-governors-office

Robert “Bob” Mosie, Secretary of Public Safety of Virginia
Tel: 804-786-5351
Email: public.safety@governor.virginia.gov

Harold Clarke, Director of Virginia Department of Corrections
Tel: 804-674-3000
Email: director.clarke@vadoc.virginia.gov
  • Help build a statewide, coalition-based movement specifically to shut these non-air-conditioned prisons down. The proposal for the creation of such a movement can be found on my blog at https://consciousprisoner.wordpress.com/2022/10/01/preliminary-proposal-for-a-statewide-campaign-to-close-shut-down-non-air-conditioned-prisons-in-virginia/.

Please reach out, get involved and help build this movement before incarcerated people in Virginia start dying on a level like they are in prisons in Texas.

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[Gender] [Censorship] [Civil Liberties] [Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex] [Kentucky] [ULK Issue 82]
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Promotion of Homosexuality within the Kentucky Department of Corrections

First allow me to say that I am in no way homophobic and hold no bias nor any prejudice toward gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender, or queer people. However, I find it inhumane that, while men can flaunt themselves around in thongs, booty shorts, leggings, mascara, eyeliner, makeup, and sports bras, I am being denied pictures of my fiance because she is wearing those exact same things. The woman who has dedicated her life to me, stands by my side through the trials and tribulations, who has weathered the storm, someone who I am going to wed.

I have been denied pictures of my fiance on vacation in a bathing suit because they were “sexually explicit” but in turn a gay man can receive pictures of another man in boxers? I am restricted from receiving pictures of my fiance in boy shorts or leggings while men walk freely past the guards and Warden wearing those and everything is fine.

The Kentucky Department of Corrections Penitentiary System encourages homosexuality while banning intimacy with your loved one. Your visitor is not permitted to wear a dress, shorts, leggings, or tight jeans on a visit, meanwhile transgender people are encouraged to receive hormone shots to grow breasts, walking hand-in-hand around the loop with another man. In the Kentucky Department of Corrections Penitentiary System homosexuality is forced upon the heterosexual inmates where men can lay in a cell with another man in their arms, but magazines such as “Idore”, “Spicy”, “Straight Stuntin”, “King”, “Phat Puffs”, or “Sultry” are not available or restricted to purchase. Magazines with women in clothes like two piece swim suits are restricted. But why? Because they are women, or because they are what, real women?

How do you combat a whole state, let alone a prison, where the Warden is promoting homosexuality? (Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex, Warden J. David Green).

I am not concerned as to what other inmates choose to indulge in, I just want to be able to receive pictures of my future wife in her boyshorts, leggings, in her intimate state, to help with my sexual release and soothe my mind, to escape, but instead I am subjected to cruel and unusual punishment and the promotion of homosexuality within the Kentucky Department of Corrections Penitentiary System.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree that the Kentucky DOC is being intentionally cruel in its biased enforcement of rules around sexually explicit materials. This is happening in a number of states, including Texas where at the same time some prisoners are being forced to watch porn. And as we know corrections officials communicate with each other, it is likely no coincidence.

It’s a tactic the police have used forever; treat certain people differently from others in an arbitrary way and watch them turn on each other. They’ve used this against political prisoners, granting one prisoner more freedoms than eir comrades to promote suspicions that the privileged comrade snitched when in reality ey had not.

Administrators know how important pictures of loved ones, including “sexy” pictures of partners, are to prisoners. Just as the comrade we addressed in a longer piece on the nature of sex and sexuality, this Kentucky prisoner says ey has no issues with LBGTQ people. Yet, we sense the resentment here in what ey wrote. We call on our readers not to let that resentment cause you to turn on others who are not your enemy.

There is a right-wing talking point these days that the woke government is trying to turn people, especially children, transgender or gay. These identity politics are being used to manipulate people, and to get votes. If comrades are serious about fighting the “enforcement” of homosexuality in prisons, we suggest allying with gay prisoners who will likely be strong allies in a campaign to allow all prisoners to have equal rights to express their sexuality. Meanwhile, the fight against censorship of photos should connect to the fight against political censorship of mail. It should be illegal for the state to stop any mail that is not a direct threat to safety. If you are organizing around these issues we want to hear from you.

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[Legal] [Theory] [ULK Issue 82]
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Law and the Courts of Late

The Supreme Court of the United $tates (SCOTU$) has been busy this past year. With the overturning of Roe v. Wade still fresh in the public consciousness, the last month has seen the demise of student loan relief and affirmative action.

None of these rulings are of grave interest to Maoists on Occupied Turtle Island. College is seldom in reach for the lumpen and proletariat of this continent, and affirmative action in universities (especially Harvard, the topic of this case) concerns the comprador classes of the oppressed nations more than it does the masses. Despite its faux celebration of diversity, the 15% “African-American” portion of Harvard’s student population is anything but representational. The interesting aspect of these rulings, insofar as they exist, is how the rulings relate to the broader Amerikan assimilation strategy of the oppressed nations. The rulings may indicate a more general wavering of assimilation as a strategy for semi-colonial management or that the strategy has been sufficiently completed such that it may begin gradual discontinuation. There is also the strong possibility that we are witnessing the legal expression of the reactionary wing of social-fascist hegemony overpowering its liberal elements.

Though the material impact of these rulings on Maoist organizing are not terribly significant (especially within prisons), the spree of rulings serve as an opportunity to reflect on the nature and purpose of law in bourgeois society. We’ll take the time here to briefly glance over the persynal ideologies and behaviors of two of the more noteworthy SCOTU$ members, use these to reflect on the liberal worldview of law more generally, then transition to a materialist explanation of law and justice. Let’s begin with some words from Chief Justice Roberts.

In a September interview with Colorado Springs 10th Circuit judges, 2022, Roberts described the “gut wrenching” experience of his daily commute to the Supreme Court. Following a draft opinion leak that revealed the Court’s intention to overturn Roe v. Wade, the building had been surrounded by a staff of guards and newly-erected barricades. This change was to the discomfort of Roberts and his colleagues, who shared stake in the tale that their careers were in justice, and not law. After lamenting the oppressive arm of the state’s failure to keep an appropriate distance from him, Roberts spent the majority of the remaining interview pearl-clutching over the public’s lack of faith in the Court’s independence from politics. He painted a troubling tale of what Amerika would look like if the courts were just a piece of political machinery like Congress of the Presidency. His persistence in the apolitical nature of SCOTU$ was unwavering.

Since then, details have come to light concerning the life of another member of the Court, longest-serving Judge Clarence Thomas, a man who shares in Roberts’ conviction of the apolitical nature of the Courts. To describe the findings of investigators who began breaking stories in April of this year as aspects of Thomas’ persynal life is misleading. We don’t believe there’s anything persynal about them. Of particular note in the latest news splash was Thomas’ close relationship with prominent Republican financier Harlan Crow, a collector of Nazi memorabilia and real-estate mogul of $29 billion in assets. Though Thomas forgot to put them on his financial records, flight records reveal he has enjoyed over two decades of apolitical weekly summer visits to Crow’s private resort in the Adirondacks, vacations on Crow’s superyacht, and flights on Global 5000 jets. Thomas’ grandnephew also enjoyed the generous patronage of Crow, who had paid his way through private boarding school. In 2005, a case involving Trammell Crow Residential Co. found itself before the Supreme Court. The company was being sued $25 million for (allegedly) using copywritten building designs. The order by the court denying the petition to hear the case consisted of a single sentence. Thomas did not recuse himself from the ruling.

This brings us to the fable we are told of the nature of law in the liberal world order. When we think of law, we are often brought to conjure images of court debates, evidence inquiry, or statuettes of scale-holding, blindfolded wimmin dressed in Graeco-Roman garb. These images are designed to have us associate law with the long history of philosophic investigation into the matter, of which there are over two millennia of content. More specifically, we are meant to sympathize with the enlightenment-era revival of these ideas, lest we think in units of cities and societies, as Socrates or Plato would have us do, rather than individuals, like Kant and the liberal framework he filtered these discussions through. But any talk of justice or morality is incomplete without discussing how these ideas change (or, much more likely, reinforce) the way humyn beings relate to each other in society. Indeed, it should tell us something that Amerikan conventions of justice derive from the social traditions of ancient Greek Hoplite classes. That is to say, the quarter of Greek society (in the case of Athens, the most “equalitarian” example one could choose from) that sat atop a social pyramid of slaves. Though the law did not extend agency to these lower classes, it was very concerned with them.

mis-justice lynching continues

Only the wretchedly naive buy into the Court’s mythos of impartiality. In part, this is due simply to how unsubtle they are about this reality. The Supreme Court, for instance, is known for its habit of pre-planning sessions to throw a few bones to liberalism before saving the announcement of profoundly reactionary rulings for the end (this particular session was no exception: loan relief and affirmative action were taken to roost only after the entre of indigenous adoption and limitations on gerrymandering). Though intentions don’t matter in politics as they are speculative and unknowable to anyone but the subject, the behavior of the Court in these matters is apparent; they are deeply concerned with their relation to partisan politics and structure their role in the state apparatus around this reality.

But all this is to miss the main essence of the bourgeois fiction about legal justice. The ideology of Roberts, and bourgeois dictatorship in general, insists on an illusion that neither the Greeks nor Kant were ever under the spell of. We find justice and law proposed to us as a single concept, yet the two are barely related. The illusion of the synonymity of justice and law depends on the thinker approaching law from an individualist perspective. It may, for instance, feel like justice when someone who starts a petty fight on the street gets charged, but law is not manufactured on the individual level; as policy, it is a society-wide institution and serves a society-wide function. Law serves a far more critical function than social conventions of justice. When you think of Lady Justice, do you recall that she carries a sword in her right hand?

Despite their ideological pretenses, the courts admit this distinction between law and justice in their united front of “originalist” interpretation. When interrogation of the practical effects of their decisions prevent the Justices from waxing over the moralist namesake of their title, the oft heard defense for their ultra-reaction is that their job is not to make ethical decisions, but to interpret the constitution as it was written. Even the antipode of this wing who believe the constitution is a “living document” work within the same framework: the text will give us the answers and it is therein that law will be made.

To posit legal interpretation as an objective endeavor (sometimes referred to as “textualist reading”) is a difficult argument to take seriously, despite two centuries of top Amerikan legal minds insisting that we do so. Indeed, “objective law” is an oxymoron. The Maoist understanding of legality is much less fanciful: law is the codification of social relations. Under capitalism, that means the writing down of acceptable parameters for ownership and exchange in such a way as to ensure the maintenance and expansion of current (capitalist) relations. This can be seen in the early history of law, which followed, in all its independent developments, agriculture – the great first-permitter of primitive accumulation.

The primary development that brings law into being is the social invention of the concept of ownership. This concept of ownership comes about necessarily in pairing with general law. Let’s look at law in its cell form to elaborate this point. Say I am a wheat farmer who labors to produce 20lb of grain. With bourgeois consciousness, I conceptualize this process as myself putting active labor into seed and soil, and seeing (throughout a growing season) that labor be embodied into a crop. Of note here is that I am not my labor. I made my labor, but it is not me. Instead, my labor has been embodied in the crop. This embodiment Marxists call value. However, at this stage, my labor embodied in the crop is only potential value. Value, for Marxists, is a social phenomenon. See, if I were the only person on Earth, objective determinations of value would be impossible as I could subjectively declare the worth of anything around me without challenge. As a farmer in a capitalist economy, however, I do not plant crops because I find wheat persynally valuable. No, I make it so I can sell it on the market. In this process of (market) exchange, the potential value of my product becomes realized value. For the value of my product to realize its value, it must be desired by another persyn who wants to impose their will on the product to the exclusion of others, including myself. This is a fancy way of saying that the buyer wants to be able to eat the grain or bake it into a cake without having to share it between now and then. Here enters the social concept of ownership. When I bring my wheat to market, I have a social right to it and become a social subject. When someone else wants to buy it, they are also a social subject, and if we agree to exchange, the social concept of ownership for the wheat transfers to them. In short: (i) I own the wheat, (ii) I sell them the wheat, (iii) now they own the wheat. When enough members of an ownership class get together and create a society-wide, binding contract to enforce their ownership over objects, that contract becomes law, and the apparatus that enforces this ownership code becomes the state. Wheat is an apt example because agricultural goods formed the foundations of the first states, ruled by land-owning classes.

In the second chapter of Volume 1 of Capital, Marx tells this very narrative (though in denser terminology),

“It is plain that commodities cannot go to market and make exchanges of their own account. We must, therefore, have recourse to their guardians, who are also their owners … In order that these objects may enter into relation with each other as commodities, their guardians must place themselves in relation to one another, as persons whose will resides in those objects, and must behave in such a way that each does not appropriate the commodity of the other, and part with his own, except by means of an act done by mutual consent. They must therefore, mutually recognize in each other the rights of private proprietors. This juridical relation, which thus expresses itself in a contract, whether such contract be part of a developed legal system or not, is a relation between two wills”.

From this humble origin, it may be seen that law is not derived from moral notions. The two are only related insofar as they are like products formed to justify the same class society. Worse, law in our time is inherently unjust, as it is no more than an appendage of the apparatus of the Amerikan state (or Amerikan imperialism when imposed on the world at large). Law is the codified will of a state, itself the guarantor of relations of production and exchange. As such, there are no prisoners who are not political prisoners. But law is not the frontline of class struggle.

Class domination, in both its organized and unorganized form, is much broader than what is officially enshrined by any wing of state power. Beyond mere law, the dominion of this regime is expressed in the dependence of the government on banks, capitalist, labor-aristocratic groupings, the persynal connections of state apparatchiks with the ruling class (a la Thomas), and the semi-colonial management of the oppressed nations. None of these relations have any official codification in law. Nevertheless, it is on legal grounds that bourgeois society protects itself in the continuation and expansion of these horrific realities. State authority, that special force separated from society we know all too well, may bridge the gaps on its own. Bourgeois law need not directly sanction bourgeois right, imperialism, and national supremacy. Indeed, it would be against ruling-class interest to be so explicit. Bourgeois law need only provide the framework to get these tasks done, the state will pick up the slack.

With this origin and purpose of law in mind, considering SCOTU$ as a non-ideological institution becomes as absurd as Justice Roberts’ faint of heart over what the outcome of his job looks like to the portions of humynity who live below the steps of the ornate buildings he spends his life sheltered within. For the masses, the juxtaposition of Hellenic architecture and barbed wire is so far from “gut wrenching” that it’s almost cliche. There is no more fitting a place for riot gear and sandbags than the courts, except perhaps Wall Street and Southern Manhattan.

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[National Liberation] [Racism] [ULK Issue 82]
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Unconsciously Racist

For the past 30 years of my life I thought that I was somewhat assimilated into the urban culture simply because I vibe to rap music and grew up around Black folks.

But reality has hit me. I’m a racist white male. I’ve unconsciously struggled thru life with a white privilege card. And honestly, I’m disgusted with not only myself but also my white racist peers.

There is NO EXCUSE that it took me 30 years to realize the reality that I’m racist. But now that I have become conscious of my racist tendencies within me. I have reached out to multiple prison support groups/organizations (i.e. ATL/ABC,blackbird publishing, MIM, etc.) to educate myself and have been very fortunate to run into a revolutionary prisoner who makes it his duty to edify the ignorant racist white prisoners.

I know that right now a lot of people are scratching their head saying “is this dude serious”? But YES I’m serious and until we can admit our faults we cannot call ourselves revolutionaries. Just because you’re not screaming racist words or in some Aryan cult doesn’t mean you’re not racist. There are different kinds of racism.

  • You have AVERSIVE racism, which means that even though you might not ‘hate’ black folks you still have tendencies to avoid black folks due to your uneasiness, fear, and disgust of them.

  • You also have MODERN racism, that means you ignore that racism is even real. You’re so comfortable with the way the ‘ruling class’ wants to segregate us that you just go with the flow and became ignorant to the fact that humans just like us are being abused and oppressed just because of their skin color. I have to admit, this is what happened to me. Taking the easy way out in life.

Admitting to being racist is a bitter pill to swallow. Everything I thought I stood for stands on a shaky foundation. It’s hard to even look myself in the eye in my mirror now. I’ll break down knowing that I’ve allowed corruption and brainwashing to make me think I’m better than other humans just because of my skin color.

I speak to my fellow racist white peers, it dwells deep within you. It’s there. And embrace that. It’s time to start over and relearn the history you thought you knew, it’s artificial to hide the truth. That you’re not superior to NO ONE. It’s time to embrace the struggle. Because it’s time to truly struggle with ourselves.

Don’t just READ but STUDY revolutionary material and other books that have been written by people of color. Try to visualize the world as they see it and even though it is not humanly possible for a white person to feel the pain and the oppression that black folks have been subjected to for over 400 years. Try to feel their pain. I do it daily now. And one day I will not be racist. But it’s a hard road to travel. Trust me, cuz I’m on it. I won’t stop. I can’t stop. Too much blood has been shed due to this way of thinking. NO MORE EASY WAY OUT!


MIM(Prisons) responds: We welcome this self-criticism from a new subscriber. It is true that we must constantly be examining ourselves and how the oppressive system impacts the way we think and believe. As materialists, we understand we are products of our material conditions. As such, we should refrain from becoming self-flagellating in our examination of self (a religious approach to one’s faults that focuses on the self). It can be a painful and shocking experience as this comrade describes. But the resolution comes through better revolutionary practice in the anti-imperialist movement. We focus inward to better focus and act outward.

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[Rhymes/Poetry] [Racism] [Minnesota] [ULK Issue 82]
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White in the Mix

I hear white privilege being spoken
of by people,
I’ve never known anyone graced by that
steeple,
Me and mine came up from the gutters
where it’s dark.
Shunned as no good white trash from the trailer park
Yet supposedly cause of my color I’m a ruler
of this earth,
Never mind the fact that I’ve been dirty and
broke since birth,
Powdered milk and government cheese that don’t melt,
Holes in all my clothes impoverished is all I’ve felt,
People miss the point when they blame race,
Last I checked me and mine are with you in
the same damn place,
It’s about class these days money and property,
The rich on top then us on bottom in poverty,
It ain’t about the color of skin anyone may hold,
It’s about that beautiful equality in communism
to uphold,
Misdirected anger can make a wise man a fool,
Don’t let the rich subtle tactics make you a tool,
I don’t care how you look on the yard my brother,
Raise that communist flag high for that ideal
don’t see no color.

MIM(Prisons) resonds: We agree with the author when ey writes, “People miss the point when they blame race,” but we disagree that therefore it is just about class. The idea of “not seeing color” is common among the conservative bourgeoisie protecting white power, but it is also common among the general population in this country, of all nationalities. That’s why the bourgeoisie uses it, it resonates with many and it sounds righteous. It sounds kind of like opposing racism, and for some it really is.

Yet we challenge the Minnesota prisoner to see beyond eir individual experience to take on a sociological understanding of the world we live in. We do not challenge the facts written in the comrade’s poem about how ey came up, and we agree that in prison, in most cases, prisoners are one class facing the same oppressor. But the poem ignores the reality that there is an historically European-descended nation of people that on the whole are living a privileged life off the backs of the world’s majority who are the exploited. One must put on blinders to the majority of the world to talk about Amerikans as the poor and exploited – and this is a type of blindness that we must combat.

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[Organizing] [Theory] [ULK Issue 82]
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Criticism & Self-Criticism

criticism and self-criticism

“Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” -Lao Tzu

The practice of criticism and self-criticism is an essential component of a revolutionary organization. It is more intensely so inside a party based upon democratic centralism and the application of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Indeed, the very life of the party depends upon it. Life is a struggle and the ideological-political life of the party depends upon active, integral, ideological-political struggle. It won’t do to let things slide for the sake of friendship or to “keep the peace”. This is how little differences grow into big ones and disagreements turn into splits.

As Mao cautioned:

“I hope that you will practice Marxism and not revisionism; that you will unite and not split; that you will be sincere and open and not resort to plotting and conspiracy. The correctness or otherwise of the ideological and political line decides everything. When the Party’s line is correct, then everything will come its way. If it has no followers, then it can have followers; if it has no guns, then it can have guns; if it has no political power, then it can have political power. If its line is not correct, even what it has it may lose. The line is a net rope. When it is pulled, the whole net opens out.” -Talks With Responsible Comrades At Various Places During Provincial Tour, 1971

We must bear in mind that there are:

“Two types of social contradictions - those between ourselves and the enemy and those among the people themselves [that] confront us. The two are totally different in their nature.” (On The Correct Handling of Contradictions Among The People, February 27, 1957)

It won’t do to confuse one for the other.

“To criticize the people’s short-comings is necessary . . . but in doing so we must truly take the stand of the people and speak out of whole-hearted eagerness to protect and educate them. To treat komrades like enemies is to go over to the stand of the enemy.” (Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art, May 1942)

Criticism and self-criticism can be “toxic” if it is not done properly. Our aim must be constructive and not to shame any komrades or ourselves. Some people chronically “beat themselves up” over their shortcomings, thinking that will correct their unwanted behavior. often times, they grew up in an abusive parenting situation and thus think this is normal, but it is not. This type of self-criticism only undermines self-esteem. Criticism can be a form of bullying, of mental and psychological abuse. What we want to nurture is constructive criticism that is an expression of Panther Love and true komradeship. We all have issues of bourgeois ideology and it could not be otherwise. We grew up in the sewer of capitalist-imperialism, how could we not need scrubbing?

We not only grew up in it but we still live in it. How could we be sparkling clean? We need to help each other to scrub the parts we cannot reach, to see the filth we cannot see. Sometimes it is hard to see where we are in error or we’ve become “nose blind” to our own smell. Our egos can get in the way. If we have an exaggerated estimation of ourselves, where is the incentive to grow and to become better revolutionaries? Likewise, if we underestimate ourselves, we may need positive feedback from our komrades to build our self-confidence and appreciate our worth to the struggle.

Every komrade should be part of a revolutionary collective, a basic unit of the party. This is imperative to have the benefits of collective wisdom. Our collective is our family, our closest komrades. You don’t want your closest komrades to “look up to you” but to see you as an equal. You want them to understand your strengths and weaknesses and to be there to check you when you need checking, and give you a push when you need pushing, and to catch you when you fall. Every komrade is a work in progress and we must be constantly building each other up and struggling to make each other the best we can be.

We are not “carbon copies” of one another, our struggles are complimentary. Collectively we are stronger than our individual strength. Teamwork makes us each more powerful and competent. It minimizes our individual shortcomings and makes us wiser and more capable. A team of horses or oxen can pull more weight for longer than each can individually. The party is stronger than many times its number of individuals acting on their own judgment and initiative. The base of this strength is the basic unit of the Party and its democratic centralism. At each level there are committees up to the central committees and at each level we must practice criticism and self-criticism and work together to achieve collective wisdom and cheeks and balances.


MIM(Prisons) adds: While we do not have a party at this time, these same principles should still be applied at the local cell level. This is why we have said a cell should have at least 3 members to function in a healthy way.

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[Security] [Gender] [ULK Issue 82]
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Sexual Offenders As Allies or Enemies?

I was reading ULK 81 when I came across a conversation on whether or not to ally with sex offenders and I feel that I have a fresh perspective to contribute to this conversation. FCI Seagoville, for those unaware, is a low-security federal prison with a majority sex-offender population. I have made friends with and enemies of pedophiles, and as such I have experience working with them. It would be almost impossible for me to organize in here without interacting with sex offenders. For example, I am the only member of my 7 man Narcotics Anonymous group who is not a sex offender.

The two main federal S.O. charges are pictures and enticement. An emblematic picture case is that of a friend of mine, who became addicted to opioids during the crisis and enjoyed the rush of getting away with all kinds of criminal behavior while high. He expropriated his neighbors’ lawn furniture and dumped it all in a business parking lot. He also surfed the internet while high and looked up child porn. He became dependent upon the feeling of getting away with things he knew were wrong, and the pursuit of that anti-social feeling led him to federal prison.

The vast majority of enticement cases are sting operations. A non-S.O. comrade of mine, J, contends that sting enticement cases should be judged not by the fact that they were stings, but rather by the ill intentions of the one being entrapped. The sting usually goes like this: an agent poses as a young person on a dating site. They are matched with someone, engage them in conversation for a few days, and then reveal that they are under-aged. If the person messages back saying that they want to continue the relationship, an investigation is opened into them. This gets at the wider issue of us prisoners using the oppression of the state as a justification for and personal forgiveness of our immoral actions. When I talk about immoral actions, I mean actions that would require self-reflection and self-criticism under a proletarian system of justice. Many of the enticement cases claim that their actions hurt no one, that the government set them up, and that the government is the largest distributor of child pornography. None of these claims are untrue, yet all of them serve to minimize the S.O.’s role in their own offense.

These minimizations on the part of the S.O.’s belie a genuine understanding of the severity of their actions. S.O.’s were exposed to just as much fear mongering propaganda about pedophiles as the rest of us. To associate that propaganda with yourself often leads to a searing self-hatred. To my understanding, the prison system seeks to imprison each of us with shame and guilt over our crimes, in our own heads. The fear mongering media propaganda apparatus plays an active role in priming us for a mental imprisonment alongside our physical imprisonment. Nowhere is this method of mental domination more apparent than in the case of sex offenders.

Comrade J states: “S.O.’s are no different than ‘normal’ people when it comes to reliability or revolutionary potential. It is rather that their status as sex offenders, if known, may be weaponized against the movement.” As to the question of whether to ally with sex offenders, I have this to add: my closest, most reliable comrade is a sex offender. He gave me the copy of ULK 81 that inspired this response. I can offer no better proof of the reliability of S.O.’s as allies and comrades than this, the existence of my contribution.

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[Censorship] [National Oppression] [Street Gangs/Lumpen Orgs] [Gender] [ULK Issue 82]
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Thugs Are Sex Offenders Too

from gangster to revolutionary

The first topic I’ll like to respond to in Issue 81, is the article that reads “Colorado Prison Censors New Afrikan Literature”. The brother pointed Colorado’s contradictions with allowing certain white reactionary novels as opposed to the Black revolutionary ones. The Wisconsin DOC for a long while was banning books like Know Thy Self by Na’im Akban, Revolutionary Suicide, Soledad Brother, Blood In My Eye, Assata, Seize the Time, A Taste of Power, This Side of Glory, We Want Freedom, Isis Papers, Destruction of Black Civilization, and all of Amos Wilson’s books until the courts got involved and the WDOC reasoning was that the books were inciteful and accusatory towards Amerika and people of European descent. Yet they allowed in all of Donald Goines, ICE Berg Slim and often “hoodbooks” that promote Pimping, drug dealing, Black on Black homicide and anything that glorifies the “Black Criminal Mindset” because it keeps us in Lumpen-criminal-colonial state of mind. This state of mind justifies the mass incarceration of anyone of Alkebulan (indigenous word for the continent commonly named Africa today) diasporan descent, while the Revolutionary mindset poses significant threat to Uncle Sam’s “Economic Station.” The brother who wrote MIM needs to know ICEBerg Slim, Donald Goines and anyone of Alkebulan (Black & Brown) Diasporas descent promoting and glorifying the exploitation of our people and all oppressed nationals are unhealthy and they are just as much enemies to our own people as Adolf Hitler, J.B Stone, David Duke, Richard Spencer, Donald Trump and the like, you dig? I would advise the brother to read books by Black authors who believes and write about the advancement of Black people oppose to the destruction of us. It’s impossible to discuss pimping, drug dealing, gang-banging without mentioning white supremacy, OK.

The next topic from Issue 81 is “ULK 80 Responses on Sex Offenders, Pedophiles, Gunnas and Gangstas”. In it you write that sex offenders don’t practice reactionary thug life politics (drugs, shootings, etc) and that’s completely false. Most sex offenders claim to be part of lumpen organizations (CRIPS, Bloods, Vice Lords, GD’s, BD’s LK’s, etc). I believe sex offenders are irredeemable and permanent enemies of and to the “people”. By sex offender, I don’t mean a 17 year old dude having sex (consensual sex) with a 16 year old girl because I do not consider that rape. Some of these Gunnas who rape other Kaptives are sex offenders, homosexuals and the list could go on, OK. I would argue that both groups are enemies to the people. Those who refuse to abandon the thug mentality for a revolutionary one are enemies of and to the people. I do concur with your assessment regarding how the fascist system use both lifestyles as political points to further the dehumanization of these groups. I’m not against homosexuals, transgenders and what have you, I’m against those who hunt and oppress women and children. Those I do not condone their lifestyles.

I’m not bothered by referring to a transgender man who see’s himself as a woman and a transgender woman who see’s herself as a man as She and He. The problem is that most transgender men-women in prison are sex offenders, they are in for preying on children. I’m a former Black Gangster Disciple (from 1983 to 1998) and I’ll be the first to say that Growth & Development literature reflects Elijah Mohammad’s “Message To The Black Man” and that it was not founded to destroy our communities, yet that’s what it’s doing and I am against it and any gang (its not an organization) that terrorizes its own people or people period. Members of these groups are “Redeemable” and we must not turn our backs on them unless they refuse to open their eyes and do the work of the civilized.

As you know, I am the Founder and Chief Advisor of Freedom Fighters, Inc and we do not condone the distribution nor usage of alcohol and drugs nor any lifestyle that poses a threat to the moral fabric of humanity/the human race. In closing, though I understand the nexus you made with brother Comrade Slaughter regarding drug dealers and sex offenders, I still feel that it’s out of context. The drug dealer and gangbanger is “redeemable”. The sex offender isn’t. I was molested, violently, from the age of 7 to 11 by a female relative who is still alive and to this day, in her 60’s (I’m 47 and have been enslaved since the age of 17 - 1993). She’s still sick.

Even though a sex offender is capable of coming to terms with his or her own sickness, they remain sick in the head and sick in the heart, maybe. Tookie was a byproduct of his environment and when he woke up he didn’t fall back asleep. The sex offender falls back asleep because he or she is innately. The vast majority of sex offenders was never molested or raped, it was in them. I know a lot of bothers/men who were molested and never became molesters themselves. I have never raped nor molested anyone, never even had the thought to do so. I have never sold drugs either, but its different. I’m mentally ill, I was raised in mental institutions (and it could be said that prisons are also Mental Institutions) and I was exploited by the older members of BGD to rob and kill white people and once I came to terms with this, I renounced black racism and I will never rob or kill someone based on race. I was sentenced to life for killing a woman who robbed my guy and charged at me with a machete, and though my actions could be justified, I still partook in the genocide of our people and I’ll never engage in such idiocy ever again. And though I see the nexus you made, I just don’t agree with it. I do, however, respect your position. Disagreement is healthy and we should never tear each other down due to it unless the disagreement becomes detrimental to the organism, you dig?


Wiawimawo of MIM(Prisons) responds: We welcome critiques of certain “hood” writings as the comrade offers above. Yet we still recognize their biased censorship as part of national oppression, and the struggle against censorship in prisons can make strange bed fellows as we’ve discussed with the struggles around nude and non-nude pictures.

As for the sex offenders issue, this comrade has been debating us on this since back in ULK 64. I welcome the correction regarding sex offenders practicing thuggish anti-people activity as well. There is certainly an overlap between the two behaviors that i was ignoring in my sloppy language in ULK 81.

Next point, no one is arguing that “those who hunt and oppress women and children” are communists or allies. So that’s a moot point. Nor are those who are hunting, killing, poisoning, and oppressing men for that matter! And we seem to have agreement on that, as far as various forms of anti-people activity go. Yet, this comrade echoes the point made by Slaughter that it is only the sex offender that is unredeemable. The argument being that the sex offender is innately oppressive towards other humyns. Yet no evidence is offered to support this. In fact, we can point to statistics that sex offenders have the lowest recidivism rates.(1)

It is also odd that you seem to favorably cite Elijah Muhammad who is a known child predator who never atoned for the abuses he committed against at least 9 young girls and wimmin, and exploited eir cult of persynality to cover up those crimes while using metaphysical interpretations of the Quran/Bible to justify the acts. This was exposed by el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (Malcolm X) shortly before he was brutally murdered for promoting a revolutionary nationalist interpretation of Islam separate from the NOI.

If we look at socialist China we see the virtual elimination of all sorts of crime, drug abuse, prostitution, etc, in a very short period of time. We addressed this in more detail in ULK 59 on drugs.

We are the last ones to say that everyone is a comrade. Usually we are being criticized for being too pessimistic about the revolutionary potential in this country. But we are engaged in the project of uniting all who can be united in the prison movement.

We aren’t saying we can reform all anti-people criminals today. But we are saying that we can under the dictatorship of the proletariat, which is what we are fighting for. And to get there, we need to break down these phony barriers between the oppressed based on idealism.

Note: 1. Wendy Sawyer, 6 June 2019, BJS fuels myths about sex offense recidivism, contradicting its own new data, Prison Policy Initiative. In numbers from a 9-year follow-up on people released from state prisons (2005-2014), rape/sexual assault recidivism rates for any crime were less than 67%. This is 20% lower than all other categories. Only about 7.7% were re-arrested for another sex offense.

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[Prison Labor] [California]
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Making $10 a Month Not Enough with Commissary Inflation

Thanks for sending the Power to New Afrika booklet. I am still studying and understanding the knowledge within it. Before I pass it along, I would like to speak about some stuff I read today in ULK 81. It’s about inflation and commissary prices.

I have been incarcerated for 15 years for seeing people get killed and refusing to give information to detectives. Anyhow, prices for the basic things a human being needs I have seen skyrocket over these 15 years. #1 I am in solitary confinement, which means I do not have a job and I can only spend $60 at the prison’s canteen [in California]. This 60 bucks can’t go too far when generic brand or no name toothpaste is 5 bucks, one top ramen noodle is 50 cents, a deodorant is 4 bucks and some change, purchasing bags of chips for 3 bucks and half the bags are empty. The items that the prison sell we can purchase at the 99 cent store for a $1.07. It is simply robbery. Prior to me being sent to solitary confinement, back in 2019, Top Ramen soups were 20 cents and a Dial roll of deodorant was a dollar.

I have been a cook in the kitchen, yard crew, building and education porter. I worked for free in each job I had except as a cook in the kitchen I was paid 11 cents an hour. I work from 12 noon until 8pm five days a week. I had to prepare food for over 600 inmates in four buildings. We were getting payed once a month and my checks after 55 % was deducted for restitution was only between 10 to 13 bucks each month. If I still had this job, all I will be able to get from the prison canteen is a deodorant, toothpaste, and maybe a bag of chips. Ridiculous. Most jobs in California prison are not paying jobs. I shoveled snow at 5AM at High Desert State Prison. I cleaned building at North Kern and cleaned bathroom and police offices at Salinas Valley, I cleaned showers and Corcoran State Prison and couldn’t even receive an extra dinner tray. I was payed 0 dollars.

When we refuse to work for free, cops, they take our privileges; no phone, no yard, no packages we receive a write up which also messes up our board hearings. What some in society do not understand is just because I am in prison doesn’t mean I should be degraded, humiliated, and worked to death for free labor. These are all extra punishments. When the punishment is being incarcerated away from our family. This is the actual punishment.

Due to inflation and being in solitary for 4 years, even though I spend my $60 at commissary once a month, that $60 truly doesn’t amount to anything due to the high prices for items that are not truly worth it. Being in here we still are forced to spend because the prisons do not give hygiene products and we are not allowed packages as if we were on the yard. In the SHU you get 1 bar of soap a week, 5 sheets of paper, 1 toilet paper roll, and some tooth powder. So as you see we truly need to purchase items from the prison and I know that they are truly aware of what they are doing. And in order to even spend 60 bucks my family has to send me $120 and I still owe restitution. I’ve been in prison on different plantations for 15 years and still have not paid off all this restitution. I am not rich.

This is why they need to pay more for every prison job. This prison industry can afford to pay us minimum wage. Before my incarceration, I was receiving $6.25 an hour working retail. And a prison can never run without prisoners who are incarcerated. But this is how we are treated. Prisoners cook, clean, do construction, pain, tutor, clerks, grounds keepers, and so much more.

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