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Under Lock & Key

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[Organizing]
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Build a Revolutionary Mind and Body

Brothas and Sistas, as freedom fighters we must stay ready every day to act, for we might be called to duty to support and protect our brothas and sistas in our struggle. In the revolutionary units it's mandatory we get our military on. Getting our military on is exercising because we are units with a People's Army.

We must train our body for endurance, stamina and strength. Run long distance and sprints around a track. Do pushups, pull ups, sit ups, squats, lunges and cardio like burpies, windmills, jumping jacks, etc. When getting our military on work out at least 30 min to 1 hour every day. Then during the day do little 5 to 15 minute workouts to keep heart rate up. Sometimes I do a routine every time a commercial comes on TV if I'm watching a program or when I'm ready I will do a routine after I read a page. This is how I stay war ready.

We must not only watch what we feed our mind we must watch what we feed our body and the food portion size we put in our body. We encourage people not to eat pork. People can eat beef, lamb, fish and chicken. We recommend eating fruit and vegetables. Cut back or limit pasta, white bread, white rice, candy and cake intake. Eat plenty of nuts like peanuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews.

The revolutionary must build revolutionary minds by studying history and resistance movements, study our environment as in how people act, their different characters, study or pay attention to world events and we study our ancestors' and leaders' legacies, which are instructions we use to benefit us in this day and time. We build off of them. We study our experiences on what works and don't work for certain situations, times and places. This way we know how to continue to move forward and not get stagnated. We focus on actions, building programs and kampaigning to spread the revolutionary kulture. Actions speak louder than words so let our actions speak for us whenever we see oppression being done to us by our common enemy.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This is a good follow up to Under Lock & Key 49, which focused on survival and stamina. This writer has some good suggestions for building a strong body and mind. Using activities like television and reading to provide timed exercise breaks, and maintaining a healthy diet are very good suggestions. Of course we know that many comrades in prison have little control over their diet, but when possible it is always good to eat the healthiest foods available.

We are not in agreement with the position that people should not eat pork but should eat other meats. There is no scientific evidence that pork is less healthy than beef and lamb, for instance. Perhaps this suggestion is related to a religious belief, but as materialists we focus on material benefit of foods rather than spiritual doctrines.

All revolutionary comrades should build their own routine of exercise and diet to help maintain the strongest possible mind and body behind bars. This is part of our responsibility to survive and stay active during this protracted battle against imperialism.

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[United Front] [Education]
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Guerilla Elite Family Pushes Peace and Unity

The Guerilla Elite Family, is a family of brothers who stand on your 5 principles and struggle to apply them to everyday life, being in such a chaotic environment caused not by prisoners, but the COs themselves.

The Michigan prison system is built on lies and injustice. There are no real rehabilitation programs, everything that is practiced is to punish and to create chaos. Since being in prison for the past 12 years, I had to teach myself how to read and write. I was given natural life at the age of 17. I was thrown into an environment where the blind is leading the blind. I'm not allowed to go to school, because I have natural life. Yeah, where's the rehabilitation in that?

The Guerilla Elite Family was born to unify brothers within and outside these walls. We stand on peace, but I learned that there can be no peace nor unity as a whole, until each individual that makes the whole, has a sense of peace among self to bring to the whole.

We understand that we're not each others enemy, and our aim is to expose our oppressors, while unifying and bringing peace among each other.

We believe unity and peace is found through true mentors. People that the whole can trust and believe in to do right by them. We all have been misled in our lives and used by people we thought had our best interest at heart. So this is part of what makes it difficult to bring everyone together for peace and unity.

It's easy to bring guys together to go to war with each other. But twice as hard to bring guys together to stand on peace and unity to fight against oppression and the ones thats our open oppressor.

The Guerilla Elite Family will keep teaching and mentoring comrades and passing on reading material to help educate guys in hopes to bring about peace and unity.


MIM(Prisons) responds: It's good to hear from more comrades working in prisons across the country to build on the principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons. As this writer points out, the prisons work to keep captives from education and knowledge, and so it is our task to bring education to prisoners. This is particularly challenging when so many folks behind bars can't even read and write. We can't just send them books and encourage them to study, we have to start out where they are at, and help them learn to read. MIM(Prisons) can only do so much from the outside, so we are working with our USW comrades to build a literacy program that focuses on revolutionary education. Write to us if you can contribute to this program with ideas or resources we can use.

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[Release] [Security]
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Resist Anarchist Tendencies: Stay Disciplined on the Streets

Yes, I'm a hypocrite. I castigate the anarchists for busting out Starbucks windows or torching the Governor's mansion without achieving any political gains or advantage; yet here I am doing 4 years for assaulting a pig, trying to bring a little Ferguson to Austin.

Subjective? How 'bout plain idiocy. I was not disciplined and had been losing my self-discipline for years. My present imprisonment caused my then 13-year-old granddaughter to ask how her grandpa could possibly be locked away in prison. I explained to her the contradictions between visceral and cerebral actions. In effect, I had to admit to my adoring granddaughter that grandpa was an ass at the time of my arrest.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We thank this comrade for eir self-criticism and willingness to share this mistake for others to learn from. We all face a constant struggle to navigate between right and left errors. This is a particularly tough challenge in the First World where we cannot ground ourselves in the proletarian majority to stay orientated. The above is an example of a left error; more specifically a left subjectivist error. Some ultra-leftism is based on a belief that armed struggle now is the best way to spark the revolution. While this comrade did not believe that, still ey gave in to subjective desires for action. We'd say eir action was actually worse than the real anarchists who have a line closer to the former.

Left errors are more dangerous in terms of getting put in prison or hurt. Then you can live the rest of your life in prison or on disability with your street cred for what you did that one time. Right errors are a less respectable way of giving in, in the eyes of most. But both are a form of giving up, particularly when driven by subjectivism.

Without a proletariat base we must seek out a source of grounding to avoid these tendencies. Reading and study is one great way to do this. Having comrades who you work with who can keep you in check is another way. This is one reason one-persyn cells are not ideal. If you do find yourself isolated in your location, try to stay in touch with an organization you trust through regular communications. It is also possible to find pockets of society where there is a revolutionary, or at least progressive current that can keep you motivated. Finally, music, culture, meditation and other leisure time activities can help you stay focused and orientated.

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[Organizing] [Texas] [ULK Issue 56]
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Struggling for Unity Through Study

The real task before us is to convince prisoners that struggling for pecuniary aims solely is to struggle for nothing more than a piece of the imperialist pig pie. I myself don't give a fuck as to whether prisoners get paid or not, just as I was not concerned with the whining "Occupy Wall Street" labor aristocracy complaining when their opulent pig lifestyles were compromised by the "Great Recession" of '08. Good! But I am encouraged there are some stirrings of dissent from Texas prisoners regarding conditions of confinement. It is before us now to harness and direct this dissent into revolutionary channels.

Since beginning this letter I have been approached by a prisoner housed in my wing. This prisoner, "Ivo," avowed themselves to be communist. Ivo receives ULK. Ivo was born in Honduras, but raised in the United $tates. Ivo is a Guevarista. I have initiated and opened a channel of dialog with Ivo and a Black prisoner, "Mississippi." Mississippi has preferred access to the MLM - MIM materials I have available. I have broached the subject of forming a study group with these two. The idea was received rather coolly by both. The three of us are to meet this weekend to discuss it. Ivo says they have serious reservations concerning the MIM line. When we meet I will inquire of their position regarding MIM's 3 main principles. As for me, as it is for MIM, these principles are fundamentally decisive.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We print this letter as an example of the hard work required to build unity. This comrade demonstrates how to build common ground with others, and then studying together to discover areas of disagreement and build greater unity. Of course there will be times when we find that we have disagreements too significant to continue working together. For us (and for this writer) those questions are summarized in our dividing line questions. Any other differences we consider to be non-divisive and things we can struggle through or put to the side in the interests of united action and the greater anti-imperialist movement. We also need to keep in mind that those who disagree with these dividing line questions are not enemies just because of that disagreement. At this stage in the anti-imperialist struggle these folks are still potentially valuable allies in the united front against imperialism, even if they are not communists.

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[U.S. Imperialism] [Culture]
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Capitalism Glorifies Suffering for Profit

Afghan Girl

I have on my cell wall, "Afghan Girl," Steve McCurry's photograph that graced the cover of a 1985 National Geographic. I'm sure MIM is familiar with "Afghan Girl." It's one of my favorite selections of photo journalism/art.

2010, NG again dispatched McCurry to Afghanistan in search of "Afghan Girl" in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the famous photo. McCurry found "Afghan Girl," just as before - still living in the dirt. I would wager McCurry has made tens of thousands, nay, hundreds of thousands of dollars in proceeds from "Afghan Girl." Obviously, McCurry's subject didn't receive squat.

My question to MIM is: Should "Afghan Girl" be compensated for McCurry's photo commensurate to revenue generated, even though said revenue is derived form superprofits? After all, "Afghan Girl" was McCurry's model.

Extrapolating form the above, if prisoners are thrown nickels an dimes by the prisoncrats, are prisoners then feeding at the imperialist trough? I, myself, don't give 2 hoots if Texas prisoners are paid or not. That would just bequeath the man more authoritative leverage to be used against us. I don't give a fuck 'bout commissary, unless you're talking about boycotting or looting it. And the Texas so-called "good-time" scheme is a farcical sham.


MIM(Prisons) responds: There is some value, in a world where the government and its structures are actually serving the interests of the majority of the world's people, to superstructure systems of media and arts that also serve the people. But in the case of a photo exposing conditions of poverty and suffering, these should be used to identify problems and inspire action to change, not to generate wealth for the photographer.

The imperialists have come up with a myriad of ways to make money off the backs of Third World people. It is true that revenue for a photo is just a shifting around of superprofits; obviously there is no actual value or profit created from the taking of a photograph, or from being photographed. But instead this shows how the privileged in the First World share the wealth stolen from the Third World, to First World workers who are mostly engaged in unproductive labor. Rather than ask whether the Afghan girl in the photo should be compensated for the photo, instead we say that the entire situation is wrong and demonstrates how imperialism is more interested in profit than the welfare of human beings. This is just one small example further demonstrating that capitalism is a dead end system and must be replaced with a system that serves the interests of the majority, not the profit of the minority.

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[Rhymes/Poetry]
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Do The Damn Thang

Click on yer teevee whut's the first thang ya see
The U.$. military ova in da Middle East
Still starting shit
Wondering when will it quit
Constantly oppressing the third world
Wondering y we can't find love
I've been dere and seen it all
Watched dem stack deadbodies high as the Berlin Wall
While pouring on aggression
Without any form of repercussion
Contaminating the public peevish li'l minds
wit' lossa propoganda crap
And yu wonda y we write rap
We're tryin' ta put fools on point
To what the coprolited president
Wanna keep quiet
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[Release] [California]
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Notes from a CA Comrade Who Fell Back into Street Life

Well comrades, I must stop and apologize to all. I fell back into the street life, I had no place to live, I could not get a job, so I went back to the old habits. I have no family support. I came back with 12 years to do. These things are very important in the post release: a place to live, there's a lot of people that come back because of this. We also need to help find comrades jobs already lined up so they can touch down running. Also if there's anyone like me, x-gang members, felon, tattooed up, it's very hard.

Please put me back on the list for ULK. I'm no longer an active Crip, I'm going to college in prison. I am now on the SNY yard because of dropping out. It's hard to have a political life. It's easy in here because we have a place to stay, but when comrades touch the streets, life moves very fast and I was too slow to keep pace. So I'm starting over. I want to get right. One thing I do know is the imperialists must not win.


In Struggle.

MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade echoes the theme of most submissions to this issue of the Re-lease on Life newsletter: life on the streets is hard after prison! We agree with this writer that we need to set up serve the people programs to help our comrades hitting the streets. Jobs and housing are a priority. We don't have the resources to do this right now, but these programs are part of our longer term goals for the MIM(Prisons) Re-lease on Life program. And this is a way that people on the outside can get involved. Help us seek out existing resources that new releasees can tap into, and build the groundwork for programs we can set up independently. As a first step, if you know about resources in your area, send us information so we can share that information with others. Anything that you find useful will probably be useful to others: how to get food stamps, where to find temporary housing, places that help finding jobs, etc. Until we are able to build our own resources we can at least offer our newly released comrades some help with finding some of the existing services that might help them get along on the streets.

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[United Front] [Idealism/Religion] [Michigan]
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Response to ULK 48 on Islam and United Front Organizing

I received ULK 48, thank you. From 1998 to right after the towers fell in New York, I received MIM Notes, which were instrumental in my politicalization and capacity to be critical with information. Hopefully re-connecting with MIM will aid me in similar if not greater ways.

As far as the ULK 48, dedicated to the discussion of religious organizations in prison, I would like to add a few observations, critiques and opinions that may aid in better understanding what I consider, the functional limits of prison religious organizations.

I preface the following by stating that like many young, impressionable Black males who entered the Michigan penal system in the mid-1990s, I was heavily recruited by a non-orthodox Islamic sect. It was part religious, part Black nationalist, part civic, radical in the sense that it gave it to the grey and black as well as it took it, but the religious organization was mostly philosophically and ideologically backwards. No clearly defined political lines, no effort toward developing social change theory, and no revolutionary practices or principles cognizable to a revolutionary novice, let alone a seasoned agent for change.

However, the group did introduce me to books, which I fell in love with after spending four years in solitary confinement where there was little else to do besides read to escape the attendant activities characteristic of that environment. In the beginning, narrow nationalism and Islamic related literature is all I read. Far more lasting than any specific set of facts or pieces of knowledge obtained, reading provided me with the understanding of how to acquire knowledge on my own. I learned how to read an essay closely, search for new sources, find data to prove or disprove a hypothesis, and detect an author's prejudice, among other skills, that were not promoted during my K-12 educational experience.

Considering the inescapable oppression of long term solitary confinement, it was inevitable that my attention would be turned to ideas and actions I could take to prevent future experiences of isolation, for myself as well as others. Trying to pray or wish my problems away proved extremely ineffective. I abandoned closing my eyes and hoping for a different reality when I opened them, rather quickly. But I do feel indebted to the group for leading me to books - prior to prison I had never read a book from cover to cover, or for more than entertainment.

After reading ULK 48, the first question that comes to mind is, do religious groups in Michigan prisons possess any power - real or latent - to stimulate and direct constructive social change? Or are they, too, victims of the overall U.S. capitalist structure?

While I'm aware that many people would answer these questions in many different ways, I observe that religion plays chiefly a cathartic role for the imprisoned. It provides an opportunity for followers to "let off steam," to seek release for emotions which cannot be expressed to administrators and guards without consequences. Prison religious organizations are social and recreational and a haven for comfort, no matter how illusory or temporary. Within these groups imprisoned people can assume responsibilities and authority not available elsewhere in the prison. For example, s/he can be the head of security, treasurer or public relations director. Only within the religious organization can imprisoned people engage in political intrigue and participate in decisions open to non-imprisoned people.

The potential power of religious organizations in prison is the ability to attract large numbers of imprisoned people. Although their ability to recruit is severely being challenged here in Michigan by the rise of street organizations i.e., gangs, whose numbers have skyrocketed in the last ten years. Among their more flagrant weaknesses is the fact that their potential strengths can all too easily be dissipated by preoccupation with trivial matters (e.g., did Moses part the Red Sea; did Jesus walk on water; what did Muhammad say about facial hair, eating pork, or what activities should be performed with the left hand?), and the desperate struggle for the empty status, bombast, and show of the prison world.

It is not inevitable, and virtually impossible to politicalize and transform members of these groups into social change agents when religious doctrines emphasize the idea of someone other than you/me/us possessing the power to change present reality: the instruments of escape, weapons of protest, the protective fortress behind which adherents seek to withstand the assaults of a hostile environment and within which s/he plans strategies of defiance, is prayer.

It is no wonder then why imprisoned people who have been politicalized tend to reject religious organizations as a multiple symbol of fantasy; and tend to regard prison religious organizations as basically irrelevant to challenging the hard and difficult realities of capitalism, white supremacy, police powers that can reach all the way into one's bedroom or a woman's womb, and so on.

That this is not more widely recognized by members of these groups may be in part because religious organizations are not an effective model of critical thinking. The fact that religious organizations are the most pervasive groups in Michigan prisons, and the fact that they do not play any measurable role dissenting or resisting the frustrating, oppressive, degrading experience of incarceration, are cruelly related.

If religious organizations are a powerful social force, either the facility, Central Office, or the State would severely restrict/eliminate them. The facade of power which these groups now present would be removed. Think about it, most religious meetings in prison go unsupervised.

Members of these groups hold on to the idea that an all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present being will save them at some appointed time and date, while this being had neglected their other needs as human beings. The punishment of "crime" is a political act. It represents the use of force by the State to control the lives of people the State has defined as criminal. No concerted political efforts have been made by these groups to deal with the politics, i.e., the underlying causes of incarceration.

My objective is not to argue that religious belief and political consciousness are incompatible. Speculation on that level is pointless and irrelevant for the purpose of this discussion. However, the simple truth is that the trouble imprisoned people find themselves in, the sham and corruption, the class and race biases of criminal law enforcement, cannot be solved unless imprisoned people feel obligated to learn about systems of power, privilege and oppression, and also feel obligated to do something about them.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is correct to point out that there are significant limitations to religious organizations, whether behind bars or on the streets. And ultimately only by targeting the underlying systems of oppression will we put an end to criminal injustice and imperialism. However, what this letter does not address is the distinction of some of the more anti-imperialist religious movements like Islam. As we argued in ULK 48 "Just as religion is today an outlet for many radical youth in the Third World, religion has been influenced by revolutionary politics in the context of New Afrika. In the 20th century we see a turn towards Islam by a number of New Afrikans who are searching for identity and liberation from oppression by Amerika." We do not push people towards religion, but at the same time we look to unite with those whose religion is compatible with or promoting national liberation. We have a good historical example of this united front in the Christian liberation theologists in Latin America who were a part of revolutionary national liberation struggles in that part of the world starting in the 1950s.

Uniting with organizations that do not share our political line entirely is part of united front organizing. We focus on the principal contradiction, and unite with others who agree with this goal, while retaining independence to make clear where we disagree politically. In a united front led by communists religious groups can be important allies. But we should always be clear that true equality for all people will not be achieved through belief in a higher power or any other unscientific mysticism.

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[Organizing]
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Emotion vs. Strategy

As a California prisoner, constantly under attack by this oppressive regime, I'm glad to have found a forum to voice our collective pain and discuss attempts at real liberation. Over the years, discussing aspects of this struggle with various people, I come to notice a consistent pattern. Since I myself was victim to this philosophical perspective, I find it necessary to enlighten the new, young, freedom-fighter in order to equip them with the proper tools to effect real change.

As a young revolutionist, there was a time that when faced with oppression, my initial reaction was to grab the closet weapon, rush my oppressor, swing away and let the chips fall where they may. In retrospect, however, I came to realize that this reaction was, unusually, emotionally, charged and lacked any strategic depth. (Make no mistake, the Young convict in me still, occasionally, smiles at those actions, having delivered the oppressor a "fierce" blow). Usually, it wasn't until I was in Ad-Seg, afforded the benefit of hindsight, would I realize that, while I did enjoy the temporary high from my actions, (a) I hadn't effected any real change; and (b) if anything, my actions had caused the oppressors to double down on their tactics.

With the passage of time, the acquiring of more experience and a diligent study of various successful social movements, I've realized that a cool head, and a strategic plan is the most effective prerequisite to a successful revolution. Vanguards like Martin Luther King, Jr. and the SCLC, Thurgood Marshal and the legal wing of the NAACP or Gandhi and those leaders all preceded every move with a thorough round table discussion, during which effective formulas were instituted to meet a specific end result; and while subsequent generations have criticized Dr. King for what they considered his pacifist ways, they could only wish to accomplish a fraction of what he did. From the Montgomery bus-boycott, the Voting Rights Act, to the abolishment of Jim Crow laws, each success was preceded with a cool, calm and collective strategic aim.

So, in conclusion, what I'm saying is that while an emotional reaction is natural and shouldn't be suppressed, perhaps between the offense and the reaction we should insert some time during which we harness that energy and direct it in the most effective way towards the real aim we're after. Thank you brothers, keep fighting!

MIM(Prisons) responds: For a deeper look at line, strategy and tactics, check out our Organizational Structure study pack. This comrade gets at the first step towards a strategic approach, but we must go further to assess our conditions to determine a strategic orientation for our time and place. While there is no doubt that Dr. King's success reflected his ability to do just that, there is also a question of line that precludes determining our strategy. Towards the end of his life King commented that he feared they were attempting to integrate into a burning house. In contrast, MIM(Prisons) promotes the goal of self-determination and national liberation, which leads us to strategize differently than King did.

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[Organizing] [Snake River Correctional Institution] [Oregon] [ULK Issue 50]
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Oregon, Punished for Requesting Copy of Grievance Petition

I received a letter from you with a petition addressing complaints with these police retaliating and conspiring to violate prisoner First Amendment rights when exhausting administrative remedies. Well, as soon as I got it I filled it out and sent it in to get copies so I can send it to the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC), Director, Department of Justice, and Inspector General. But today I received a confiscation form for the petition and a write up for unauthorized organization for attempting to file a petition without ODOC function unit manager approval. I had no idea that if I file a petition addressing a complaint that I could be written up for it without warning but I ain't sweating it.

In fact, in order to prevent other comrades from being a victim to this corrupt process I have a couple suggestions. First, the back page of the petition at the bottom the last word says “petition.” I believe that not only should that word be replaced with “complaint” but that within this petition it should have a section which states that it is a complaint. Even though a complaint/petition are similar and requests the same conclusions, ODOC and maybe other DOC facilities are playing the word game. Until this is addressed in Federal court, Oregon prisoners, if not prisoners in other states, will be subjected to unnecessary obstacles in addressing their concerns through the current petition format you have. So please re-word it to be a “complaint” and disassociate it as a petition and then resend it to me.

The misconduct report this comrade received reads:

"4.46 Unauthorized Organization II: An inmate commits Unauthorized Organization II if, except as specified by Department of Corrections rule on Group Activities (inmate) (OAR 291 145) (B) 4.46.02 Engages in a petition drive without specific authorization from the Functional Unit Manager

Form was generated from https://www.prisoncensorship.info/, on 4/5/16 I was working in SHU Library, received a kyte from above AIC requesting copies of the petition, I approved one copy due to not being able to identify this form and it was addressed to the Director of the Oregon Dept. of Corrections, due to the question at hand I elected to error on AIC's behalf and allowed one copy. On 4/15/16 AIC is again requesting copies of the petition. This petition or authorization for envelopes has not been approved for circulation or approved envelopes through out SRCI and other Institutions in accordance with:

291-107-0015 Procedures

(1) Those inmates and/or community persons who have not been able to resolve problems through other available channels (i.e., the Ombudsman, Department of Corrections staff, or grievance procedure), may request approval to circulate a petition. Petitions may be circulated with the approval of the functional unit manager as directed in this rule. Circulation of a petition is a process through which inmates can show support for community endeavors. Any inmate or other person desiring to circulate a petition will present the petition to the functional unit manager adding any supporting information that would justify its approval. Permission to circulate petitions within a Department of Corrections facility will be approved if..."


MIM(Prisons) adds: The Oregon Department of Corrections has a policy denying prisoners the right to peacefully appeal denial of their rights. It is ridiculous to expect that the prison administrators would approve prisoners circulating a petition that is criticizing the DOC. What is interesting is that this comrade didn't even try to circulate the petition, ey merely tried to get copies made for eir peryonal use. Yet another example of the injustice system at work and why we can't expect any serious progress on questions of humyn rights within the criminal injustice system that serves imperialism.

Let us know if you need a copy of this petition rewritten as a complaint.

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