Things have been pretty rough here at Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP). A prisoncrat-orchestrated racial riot has put me in administrative segregation since July. KVSP's "A" yard (the only general population, non-honor yard) has been, more or less, on a constant lock-down since the beginning of the year. This lock-down is due to racial tensions that have been exacerbated by the prison's state-sponsored security threat group, also known as the goon squad, or simply the gooners.
The best way for the prison oligarchy to remain in power and thwart any organizing or political dissent is to keep us all fighting amongst ourselves. Of course this is nothing new for many of us, but for some reason we all find ourselves locked down time and again, pointing fingers (and unfortunately, knives) at one another instead of using our minds of reason to see that clearly this whole war/mess has been instigated by the very pigs that always have the most to gain. It's extremely frustrating to sit here watching the same pattern of senseless fighting and rioting occur while the pigs laugh, crack jokes, and generally play us against each other for their sick jollies and political agenda.
This madness on "A" yard at KVSP and elsewhere in the state is definitely part of a much bigger political agenda. One of the results of the 2013 general hunger strike is that, slowly but surely, a lot of those guys have been returning to the main lines after spending ten, fifteen, or twenty years back there in the SHU. Well, CDCR can't just let those beds remain empty so we've been seeing the gooners dropping fallacious gang validation packets on people for all kinds of erroneous reasons. And the best way to "prove" gang conspiracy or activity is to run us all into these stupid racial riots. The fucked up thing about it is that it's working. Every time we all go out to the yard and fight each other is another victory for the pigs, and another bus load of "gang members" heading to the SHU torture units and thus, the very "evidence" CDCR points to as justification in keeping those control units open and full.
This white vs. Black violence needs to stop for the benefit and health of both our people. Let's stop and remember that it should always be blue vs. green! It's time for peace on these yards. Don't forget who the real enemy is.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade's call for peace on the yards underscores the importance of the United Front for Peace in Prisons. We need organizations to come together behind bars to stop the pigs and the imperialist system in general. A United Front is comprised of groups with different views and goals, that have a common enemy. It doesn't require everyone to agree on everything, and in the case of the UFPP there are just five key principles around which groups have unity: Peace, Unity, Growth, Internationalism and Independence. If your organization is interested in putting an end to the fighting amongst the oppressed and ready to take a stand against the oppressor get in touch for more information about the UFPP.
I'm writing in regard to the article in ULK 39, "Demand Justice for Prisoner Death in Texas." All officers mentioned in this article are still employed here except for Gambriel and Jackson. The other officers continue to boast about the incident that occurred.
On another note. If we grieve a staff member, say for example staff use of slurs/hostile epithets, if the staff member states the incident did not occur, then the grievance is not referred. This exact statement is in our grievance manual, Section V.9.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is updating us on a murder committed by Texas guards, for which they still go unpunished. The Texas prison administration ignores grievances against staff when the staff denies something happened, effectively eliminated prisoners' ability to lodge complaints against the staff. The guards are policing themselves and prisoners are often left helpless to challenge abuse.
This is one of the reasons we encourage Texas prisoners to join the campaign to demand our grievances be addressed. While having our grievances addressed will not fundamentally change the injustice of the Amerikan prison system, we may save a few lives and fight for better conditions. At the same time we can use the campaign to educate others about the need to organize for fundamental change to our society. Write to us for a copy of the guide to filing grievances in Texas. Share it with others, and build a broader anti-imperialist movement to shut down the criminal injustice system.
Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village William Hinton University of California Press, 1966
The word "Fanshen" was coined during the Chinese Revolution. It means, literally,
"[T]o turn the body', or "to turn over." To China's hundreds of millions of landless and land-poor peasants it meant to stand up, to throw off the landlord yoke, to gain land, stock, implements, and houses. But it meant much more than this. It meant to throw off superstition and study science ... [to] learn to read, to cease considering women as chattels and establish equality between the sexes, to do away with appointed village magistrates and replace them with elected councils.(1)
And that is precisely what Fanshen chronicles. It is written from the personal experiences and extensive notes gathered by William Hinton himself while in the Liberated Area village of Changchuang (Long Bow), Lucheng County, Shanshi Province, China, during the spring and summer of 1948. Long Bow sat on the edge of an area surrounded but never conquered by the Japanese. It was one of the few villages which the Japanese invaders occupied and fortified. This Japanese occupation (1938-1945) ended when Long Bow was liberated by the Eighth Route Army and the Peoples Militia of Lucheng County on August 14, 1945.
Hinton wend to China as a tractor technician with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and was sent to the communist-led area of South Hopie to supervise a project there. When UNRRA closed down in the fall of 1947, Hinton accepted an invitation from Northern University to teach English in South Shansi. Hinton relates that Northern University was a guerrilla institution in Kao Settlement that moved according to the dictates of war and that life at the University was not much better than village life. As examples he states that the University only served boiled millet (a grass grown for its edible white seeds) and was never warmed by scarce firewood.
Fanshen is foremost about land reform in rural China. To fully appreciate the enormity of this land reform, Hinton provides plenty of background information on the revolutionary upheaval that led up to it, as well as the traditional society which brought on and was transformed by revolution. From the British-imposed First Opium War of 1840 and the Second Opium War of 1856-1860, to the 1899 imperial rescript granting Catholic bishops equal rank with provincial governors which led to the 1900 Boxer Rebellion, to the Amerikan backing of the Nationalist Government of Chiang Kai-shek, Fanshen supplies the reader with plenty of pertinent hystorical dialectic facts. No punches are pulled in the especially provcative documentation of Amerikan interloping. From General Marshall's mission in China to the lend-lease program that gave the Nationalist Government over $600 million between Victory over Japan Day and the end of July, I was left wondering who left the hystory books I had read in school incomplete. There are plenty of footnotes recalling Amerikan troop involvement in China well after the Japanese surrendered. Nuggets such as;
Of numerous attacks in Eastern Shantung the most widely known were the one by U.S. warships on Langnuankou and Hsiali Island, Mouping county, on August 28, 1947, and one by U.S. forces in conjunction with Kumintang troops on Wanglintao Village, north of Chino County, on December 25, 1947.(2)
left me scratching my head and hungry for more. I was not let down. It is interesting to note that this is the time period that Hinton joined Northern University.
Fanshen does not neglect the environmental conditions of so vast a country as China. Without knowing the violence and extremes of the seasons, the living conditions of such an agrarian society could not truly be put into context. Drought followed by famine, followed by peasant-dwelling-destroying monsoons are a way of life for the Chinese peasants, and Hinton documents these ordeals with great clarity, even experiencing a flash flood and violent localized hailstorm first-hand while in Long Bow.
Once the hystorical context is set, Hinton wastes no time in drawing you into the consciousness of Long Bow. He begins this phenomenal feat with the Japanese invasion of Long Bow in the summer of 1938. With great skill he documents what village life was like for the peasants through their own words. He continues this painstaking documentation of events, using thousands of interviews, from the period of liberation when the cadres took over until the arrival of the work teams (1945-1948).
The Draft Agrarian Law was announced to the world on December 28, 1947, three days after the joint U.$./Kuomintang military assault on Wanglintao Village. The Draft Law was to serve as a yardstick by which to measure theand movements, as well as to measure the political position and consciousness of everyone who opted for progress and a new democratic China. Many questions had to be answered, such as: Had the land been equally divided? Had the poor peasants and hired laborers taken control of village affairs? If not, why not? Politically, the main question was, on which side do you stand? I was so drawn in by Hinton's prose that I was just as shocked as the villagers to find that the majority of the cadres carrying out the reforms of the Communist Party, sometimes to extremes, were not even Party members. This was but one of many surprises to come.
So, in 1948 the Communist Party organized work teams made up of local and district cadres and students and intellectuals in all the Liberated Areas sending them to key representative villages throughout their respective regions to check on the status of the land reform movement. These work teams, made up of groups of 10 or 12 people each, then went out to survey the true conditions of the peasant population and carry the land reform through to completion.
It was during the assignment of Northern University students and intellectuals to work teams that Hinton requested of University President Fan Wen-lan to be allowed to "join one of the work teams, at least as an observer, and learn first hand what the land reform is all about." Three days later permission was granted to join the work team in Long Bow. He was assigned a young woman instructor, Ch'i Yun, to act as an interpreter. Long Bow was chosen because it was the nearest to Kao Settlement, approximately one mile to the south. This way Hinton and Ch'i Yun could return to the University each evening. On March 6, 1948, the two set off for the first of many trips into Long Bow to begin documenting the long process of getting to know its people, their hystory, their progress, their mistakes, and the complexity of their current problems. Then, in early May 1948, Northern University moved 300 miles away; however, Hinton and Ch'i Yun stayed in Long Bow to continue their work alongside the other work team cadres.
Fanshen thoroughly documents the individual stepwise movements, e.g., the Anti-Traitor Movement (ending 1945), the Settling Accounts Movement (January 1946 - February 1946), the Hide-the-Grain movement (fall of 1946), and the Wash-the-Face movement (spring 1947) that were necessary for the land reform in Long Bow. The mistakes made by the cadres and peasants alike during these movements are laid bare and analyzed. By doing this the reader gains a richer appreciation of the struggle for a true democracy. One of the largest myths of Maoism is that Chairman Mao, via the Chinese Communist Party, ruled China as a totalitarian. Hinton thoroughly debunks this myth as he documents his first-hand experiences of the true democratic election process in Long Bow.
The writing style of Hinton's Fanshen is transcendental. It puts the reader into the mind, i.e. the political consciousness, of the cadres and peasants themselves. My political consciousness developed right along with theirs. Hinton's documentation of the self- and mutual criticism done during village meetings had me identifying with those being criticized. I found myself connecting with them, at times thinking that I would have done the same in those circumstances. Nothing is held back from the reader during these sessions; the selling of female children, the indifference to starvation during the famine years, the beatings, and the violent oppression. At times I rooted for the peasants as they beat a landlord to death during a Settling-of-Accounts, only to be corrected in this error of thinking by Mao's own words a few chapters later.
Fanshen ends by Hinton summing up the progress as of 1949:
Land reform, by creating basic equality among rural producers, only presented the producers with a choice of roads: private enterprise on the land leading to capitalism, or collective enterprise on the land leading to socialism...
Land reform had broken the patriarchal rigidity of the family by granting property rights to women. With property of their own they [are] able to struggle effectively for equal rights...
One had only to think of such problems as illiteracy, the almost complete absence of medical care, and the primitive methods of cultivation still in use, to realize what a long road lay ahead for the village and its people before they could claim full citizenship in the twentieth century.(3)
This is a fitting ending as it is also a new beginning. Once a people organize and gain a political consciousness they can then unite in struggle to break the chains of oppression and write their own future.
Fanshen is a work of literary genius. Hinton does not just write about events as a passive observer, he vicariously brings the reader into the time and space of rural China, circa 1948, to live them. By the time you finish reading Fanshen your own hystorical views and political consciousness will be impacted. Through the various movements, some correct and some incorrect, you will pick up on the subtleties of how and why communism can work, the mistakes that doom it, and the consciousness of the people needed to support it. I have been greatly moved by Hinton's work and feel the Western world owes Hinton a debt of gratitude for his sacrifice in documenting land reform in Long Bow Village and bringing us his first-hand account.
On 9 September 2014 I was the sole participant in my facility in the day of remembrance of the Attica uprising. I attempted to get another dude to participate who I've been been chatting up lately on limited and general political issues. He agreed at first, then pulled out at the last minute. This did not offend me or make me look at him differently. He is 36 years old and even tho he's older than me, I understand that he's not as strong. So it is what it is. Maybe next time.
As I dumped my tray in the morning and again at dinner (lunches are passed out at breakfast), I informed the pigs that I was fasting "in memory of my people." I caught curious glances only, but no comments. The morning meal was hash browns, fried eggs, sausage, and cold cereal, which is one of the best breakfasts here at California State Prison - Los Angeles County.
Wen I dumped it I knew someone somewhere around me didn't appreciate that I chose to do that instead of giving it to them. I didn't receive any questions or comments about it, and I didn't make a scene about it. But as the fast ended I ate some cookies first and I guess the sugar was too much of a rush because I got all sick. But it was nothin'.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Even solo protests like this one can get the attention of potential allies and put enemies on notice. No doubt some people wanted the food this comrade dumped, and this means he got their attention.
We have to make sure we take advantage of this attention and explain the philosophy behind our actions. We can use the opportunity to make clear to everyone, friends and enemies, the reasons behind our protests so that we maximize the educational value. Anti-imperialism will not be obvious without explanation. It is this explanation and discussion that is the most time consuming, and also most important part of our work at this stage of the struggle.
We hope this comrade's actions help trigger conversations with others in h facility, which will lead to organizing for peace within prisons. In a broad sense, we recommend starting organizing in your facility now for the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity 2015.
“La misión de la División Institucional es proporcionar seguridad y apropiada reclusión, supervisión, rehabilitación, y reintegración de criminales adultos, y para efectivamente dirigir o administrar instalaciones correccionales basados en estatuos estandares constitucionales.” Gobierno de Texas, código 494.001.
Para los que estamos alojados dentro de las prisiones operadas por El Departamento de In-Justicia Criminal de Texas (TDCJ), sabemos que esta declaración no es más que mentiras bien-redactadas!
Recientemente La Clínica de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad de Texas saco este reporte; “Mortal calor en prisiones de Texas.” Basicamente el reporte prueba lo que muchos de los grupos ya saben: Que las condiciones dentro de las prisiones de Texas en el verano violan la prohibición de la octava enmienda contra el castigo cruel e inusual. TDCJ sigue diciendo al público que ellos tienen tácticas en el área para combatir el calor. Sin embargo, Brian McGiverin, un abogado del Proyecto de Derechos Civiles de Texas, dijo durante una conferencia de noticias sobre el tema; “catorce muertes de prisioneros son fuerte evidencia que las medidas de la delegación de la prisión no hacen mucho para vencer los riesgos de salud ante el calor. El continúo, “la respuesta de que sus tácticas son adecuadas hoy, es ridícula.”
El senador John Whitmire, presidente del Comité de Justicia Criminal del Senado de Texas, dijo esto sobre el tema; “Pero yo puedo decirte que la gente de Texas no quiere prisiones con aire acondicionado, y hay muchas otras cosas en mi lista muy por encima del calor.” Las “otras cosas” eran educación, cuidado de salud, y programas de rehabilitación, pero este racista pontificador jamás dijo que el estaba comprometido aponer fin a las muertes sin sentido de prisioneros de Texas por empleados de TDCJ! Whitmire, quien ha estado en el senado de Texas cerca de 30 años, continúa poniendo ojos ciegos al abuso y discriminación sistemática de prisioneros alojados en las instalaciones de TDCJ. Sufrimos de discriminación racial, discriminación religiosa, asaltos sexuales, azotes y abusos violentos, y Whitmire continúa jugando a la política de los buenos viejos amigos.
Para demandas en asuntos específicos de la prisión, yo encontre una estrategia que ha estado trabajando. He estado promoviendo que miembros de familia de los lumpen presenten demandas al ombudsman por internet. Ellos mismos pueden presentar demandas públicas formales sobre una amplia variedad de asuntos y ahora estas demandas tienen que ser puestas en la internet para que el público las vea. ¡Hemos estado teniendo mucho éxito! Toda esa mierda de P.O. Box 99 a Huntsville es un desperdicio de tiempo y papel. Háganlo en internet y pongan a esos culeros en la calle frontal.
MIM(Prisons) agrega: Esto es solo un ejemplo del incontrolado abuso de prisioneros en Texas y a través del país, eso esta bien expuesto y documentado en ULK y en nuestro sitio web prisoncensorship.org. Pero tenemos la intención de hacer más que solo exponer la brutalidad del sistema de injusticia criminal Amerikana. Nuestra meta es organizar y educar para hacer un cambio significativo. A corto plazo peleamos batallas como la campaña para poner demandas de prisioneros dirigidas a que puedan crear mejores condiciones para nuestros camaradas detrás de las rejas. Pero a largo plazo sabemos que ningún político Amerikano jamas estará fundamentalmente yendo a cambiar el sistema de injusticia. Esto tomará a los oprimidos a unirse juntos para demandar un cambio para poner un fin al imperialismo antes de que podamos terminar el sistema de injusticia criminal.
I have initiated a lawsuit alleging that Officer Mary Brockett at California State Prison-Sacramento (CSP-Sac) subjected me to sexual harassment. This occurred in the Enhanced Outpatient Program (EOP) which is part of the mental "health" services in the California Deparment of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). When I reported Brockett's predatory acts to other top ranking prison officials, they did not believe me because I'm Black, and Brockett is a white amerikan. They also did not understand why a prisoner would file a staff sexual misconduct complaint against an officer. As a direct result of Brockett's sexual misconduct against me she was terminated, but CDCR top ranking officials refused to have her arrested and identified as a sexual offender.
I requested an Office of Internal Affairs (OIA) investigation against Brockett for her predatory behavior towards me. In December 2003, I was interviewed by Special Agent Jill Chapman of OIA, and I agreed to assist her with an investigation against Brockett in order to prove my sexual harassment allegations. During said investigation, the OIA dropped the ball, and OIA agents allowed Brockett to sexually assault me four times after the start of the investigation.
On 15 January 2014, Judge Hunley of the United States District Court, ruled that officer Brockett's conduct violated clearly established law of which Brockett should have been aware. The court found that Brockett is not entitled to qualified immunity on my Eighth Amendment sexual misconduct claim.
My investigation has revealed that many other prisoners who reported rape and other forms of sexual assaults by CDCR personnel are sent to SHU as a form of retaliation and/or intimidation. My defense team and I have been able to identify many other cases of corrections, medical and mental health staff sexually abusing the mentally ill prisoners, plus many coverups by supervisors, at several California state prisons.
I had to hire a private investigator to assist me in light of the fact that going to ranking officials kept getting me put in lock-up units. Instead of charging Brockett with sexual assaults, the CDCR prison officials in Sacramento allowed me to be subjected to a series of retaliatory transfers attempting to intimidate me. On 8 September 2009, prison officials were informed about my lawsuit and that same day I was placed in administrative segregation (ASU) on false allegations of fighting. In December 2009 I was ordered placed in ASU pending a false prison gang validation. Retaliatory transfers are a violation of CDCR policy.
The evidence will show that correctional and medical and mental health staff sexual harassment and sexual assaults were not isolated incidents within CDCR's EOP. I would ask you to help me and my defense team to spread the word. Other victims are out there. My purpose of the lawsuit is to shed light on sexual abuse against the mentally ill in California, including torturing tactics through criminal activities and criminal organized crime within CDCR.
MIM(Prisons) responds: People usually conceptualize patriarchy as those biologically categorized as male oppressing those biologically categorized as female. But sexual assault of bio-male prisoners by bio-female guards is an example of how gender oppression is not necessarily linked to one's biological sex category. In the first issue of Under Lock & Key we wrote about prison rape, and using the best statistics available, we suggested that Black bio-men might be gendered female in the United $tates, largely due to imprisonment rates and the sexual abuse that comes with imprisonment. The abusing bio-female guards are certainly gendered male, and are part of what we call the gender aristocracy.(1) Amerikan (and especially white) bio-wimmin enjoy benefits in leisure time based on their national ties to white bio-men, based on a long history of lynchings, suffrage, and Third World oppression.(2)
Fighting sexual abuse through the courts can be difficult for anyone, and especially for prisoners. As this correspondent writes, white Brockett was not even charged for the sexual assault. When sexual assault cases do go to court, the judge/jury, like much of U.$. society, get hung up on the debate of whether the sex was "really rape," a subjective measure of whether the victim gave consent to the sexual activity or not. Prisoners are assumed by the courts and society to have a low moral standing, and this subjectivity bleeds into the judgement of whether they were "really raped," and whether they should be protected even if they are considered to have been raped. People have debated for decades about where to draw the line with consent, and this debate has recently resurfaced in First World Maoist circles.(3)
When deciding whether a sexual encounter was a rape, a tendency is to focus on whether the victim of sexual assault verbally said they did or did not want to have the sexual encounter, what words they used, in what tone, how many times they said it, if they were intoxicated, how intoxicated, their sexual history, what they were wearing, etc. Others even draw the line where "Most victims themselves intuitively recognize the difference between consensual sex and rape."(3) But all these criteria are based on subjective social standards at the time. Many people don't start calling a sexual incident a rape until months or even years afterward, because they have since learned more about sexuality and social norms, or the social norms have changed. The courts change their definition of rape depending on public opinion as well. When mini skirts were racy, it was considered by many an invitation for sex. Now that mini skirts are normalized as pants in our society, almost no one would make this argument. Social norms and subjective feelings are untrustworthy as measures of gender oppression. They focus too much on individuals' actions and feelings, ignoring the relationship between the group and the individual.
Rather than falling into this subjectivist trap, MIM(Prisons) upholds the line that all sex under patriarchy is rape. Among the general public, living in a highly sexualized culture with a long history of material consequences for granting and withholding access to one's sexuality, no "yes" can be granted independent of group relationships. This is especially true for a captive population; saying "yes" to sex as a trade for privileges, or to a guard who quite literally has your life in their hands, cannot be consensual, even if everyone involved "liked" it or "wanted" it. Power play is very tied up in leisure time to the point that a coercive sex act can feel pleasurable to all involved. Granting consent in a society with gender oppression is a moot point. People always behave in a way that is determined by group relationships, and this is no different for the gender oppressed under patriarchy.
While Liberals are concerned with how we define rapists so that we can lock them up and ostracize them, we look at the systematic problem rather than essentializing individuals. We don't adhere to the bourgeois standard of criminality for theft, so why would we follow their standard for rape? Instead we want to build a socialist society that allows jobs for everyone, separate from the sex industry. We would then ban all sex for profit, all pornography for profit, and all sex trafficking. We wouldn't criminalize sex slaves or people choosing to have sex for their own subjective pleasure, but we would criminalize anyone making a profit off of sex work, especially the multi-billion dollar porn and abduction rackets. Low-level pimps and "self-employed" sex workers would at least need to go through self-criticism and reeducation and take a cold, hard look at how their activities are impacting others. Anyone who wanted to leave these anti-people industries would have other viable options, something we can't say for the vast majority of sex workers in the world today who were either kidnapped, or subject to manifestations of national oppression such as homelessness and drug addiction.
As with any form of oppression under imperialism, we encourage people to use the courts when we think we can win material advantages, set a useful precendent for other cases, or make a political point to mobilize the masses. But kicking Brockett out of the facility will just replace her with another gender oppressing officer. Ultimately we need to change the economic conditions that underly the coercive gender relations in our society and attack the system of patriarchy itself.
For the past 19 months I have been locked down in solitary confinement, all because of a gang validation. In February 2013, I was taken from my cell and locked down in the hole, for nothing. I haven't broken any rules of the prison or given them any reason to punish me. Without a hearing or a proper investigation I was thrown in the hole and labeled "Goodfellas" (G.F.). They put a label on me and several others, and we are "guilty by association." No matter if you are G.F. or not, Smith State Prison will label you G.F. if you are from Atlanta. And the Goodfellas are the only group of people in this prison on lockdown.
Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) started this new program called the "tier program." From my understanding it was designed to treat us as individuals instead of as a group. It's supposedly a 9-month program, and when you complete the program you are supposed to get out of the hole. But that only applies to those who are not validated Goodfellas. If you are validated G.F. then you are stuck in the hole even after you complete the 9 months.
I have the Standard Operating Procedures of the administrative segregation Tier 2, and it states that Tier 2 program is not a punishment measure. Why do I feel that I'm being punished for no reason? All my privileges have been taken away. I can't go to the store for the same things as general population. I can't order a CD player, radio, books, magazines, etc. By being in the hole I have no access to a TV so I'm lost on what's going on in da outside world.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This system of labeling people as members of an organization based on where they are from is well documented in California as well, and we're sure it's going on in other states. While this practice purports to address regional disputes that may turn dangerous behind bars, this practice actually forces people who may not have identified with a lumpen organization to become affiliated for self-defense. It does help promote one goal of the prisons: to fuel disputes between prisoners and expand gang validations to justify locking up more people in long-term isolation, just like this writer explains is happening in Georgia where people labeled Goodfellas aren't let out of the hole in violation of the prison's own rules. We have reports that some G.F.s have been held in isolation for many years.
The United Front for Peace in Prison is taking this validation and turning it against the prisons by calling on all organizations and individuals to come together and fight together against the criminal injustice system. Whether or not you are actually a part of a lumpen organization, if you are put in a unit with others you can use this opportunity to promote peace and unity. And together we can fight to shut down control units, and build a movement that can defeat the imperialist system that needs prisons and long-term isolation units for social control.
I am a POW in the state of Tennessee and in these narratives I am providing exposure about this wicked prison system and Derrick Shofield, who came from Georgia. This dude is constantly applying new rules, with the latest being called tier management – something straight outta Georgia prison system. Of late all of Tennessee prisons are run like Georgia. This is the same Shofield who was instrumental in causing the largest sit down in the state of Georgia. On an I-team investigation on channel 4, Nashville, TN, it was reported that Shofield ordered two former wardens in West Tennessee to alter incident reports on assaults on staff.
As I write they are building security threat group management units at Riverbend Maximum security plantation in Nashville, Tennessee. This is the big sister of tier management. Both are part of the larger policy agenda regarding U.$. prisons. One of the standards that the federal government sets in order for the state to receive construction subsidies is to mandate the building of supermax units, security threat group units, such as the ones at Riverbend: steel and stone sensory deprivation cells.
In Georgia they have this tier 2 program of gang control for long-term lockdown. This same situation is being played out in Tennessee. The prisoners in Tennessee should take a page from Georgia, sit down and do nothing in a silent protest. It's some wicked shit going on in Tennessee, it has to be said that for all the men and women trapped in the wretched crime and punishment morass, especially in the Tennessee system, we have to determine our fate. We got the power.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade gets at the truth of prison control units, and in fact the broader prison system in general: it is a system built for social control. Prisons in general house the oppressed nation lumpen in disproportionate numbers, and for those who speak out, organize or otherwise challenge the system from behind bars, there are long-term isolation cells for even further control. These control units are torture and we must demand they be shut down. Part of this battle is documenting their existence, a project that we need help with from anyone who can complete our control unit survey about prisons in their state.
We offer the example of prisons in China while it was still Communist-led and Mao was alive, in stark contrast to the Amerikan criminal injustice system. In China prisoners participated in education classes with others where they studied politics and discussed the nature of their crimes and why their actions were harmful to the people. Prisoners were allowed to participate in productive activities of work and learned cooperative practices. Many who went into prison for actions like theft or even spying, came out dedicated to serving the people and grateful for a second chance. The example of Adelle and Allyn Rickett, two Amerikans who worked as spies for the United $tates until their imprisonment, wrote an inspiring book Prisoners of Liberation detailing these progressive practices and what they learned from years in prison in China.
The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) was signed into law in 2003.(1) National prison and jail standards were enacted in 2012, nearly a decade after passage of PREA, and inexplicably late for the U.S. prison system which is long plagued by a sexual violence crisis.(2) PREA national standards carve a benchmark for prison administrators to prevent, detect and respond to prison sexual violence (PSV). Most significant are sweeping changes affecting documentation, accountability, confidentiality, post-sexual-assault medical care, testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and mental health counseling for PSV survivors.(3)
The PREA audits began in August 2013, and are supposed to occur at every youth and adult, state and private prison, jail, and holding facility every three years, with punitive forfeiture of federal funding at stake for lack of compliance. With 50% of documented PSV perpetrated by staff, prison administrators face greater liability through the transparency now mandated by PREA.(4)
One in ten prisoners are sexually abused, which is more than 200,000 youth and adults in prisons, jails and juvenile detention each year.(5, 6) Many are left to march the road to recovery, while coping with HIV, other STIs, mental trauma — the morbid souvenirs of rape.(7)
With PREA, the New York Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) started promoting "zero tolerance" propaganda. I felt (foolishly) that we were on the same side for once. I formed and launched a non-profit project with the goal to support, educate and advocate for PSV survivors, and those at risk. I especially focused on LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/sexual, Queer, Intersex) prisoners who are at 10-13 times higher risk to be victim of PSV, according to Department of Justice statistics. Not thinking I was doing anything "disallowed," I conducted this openly with no attempts to hide my activities.
However, DOCS took a radically different view, and launched an Inspector General Office investigation, forcing me (under duress) to cease and desist further activity with the project. But unable or unwilling to issue writeups on this issue, they instead launched a salvo of "unrelated" administrative charges, resulting in 18 months of keeplock (isolation). They also transferred me multiple times. I'm now serving 5 months keeplock time, which I'd already served at the last jail.
All this has only served to strengthen my commitment and resolve. Our efforts, in concert with NY ACLU, have yielded a settlement with DOCS to reduce the use of SHU/long-term isolation, with caps on sentences and exempting non-violent/safety-related offenses. It's a start but I'd have preferred a court ruling to this "voluntary" settlement, which the state can renege on.
PREA mandates the first round of audits as of August 2014, with statistics to be published online. This increased transparency is progress. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights are little more than an ideal or paper unless we facilitate their power through litigation, demanding compliance with these standards. PREA can be just a stack of papers and "feel good" hot wind, signifying nothing. Or it can be a keen sword to excise the cancers of prison sexual violence and prison staff corruption and negligence. The burden falls to us to proactively safeguard our interests, and our futures. Fight to Win!
MIM(Prisons) adds: We regularly receive reports of sexual assault from prisoners across the country. In September 2013, one year after the PREA standards were finalized, Prison Legal News published an article detailing incidents of PSV all across the country. This article underscores the futility of federal laws to actually protect people in custody of an oppressive state.
The 2013-2014 PREA Resource Center (PRC) report was just released this week. It contains no statistics on the efficacy of the project, but does contain a lot of fluff about the trainings and webinars that the PRC has been hosting.
It is a step in the right direction that this comrade, with the help of NY ACLU, was able to place some restriction on the use of isolation to protect prisoners from rape. The use of isolation has been reported by the American Friends Service Committee to have an even worse affect on the victims of prison rape, causing negative psychological effects due to isolation, and making the prisoner even more vulnerable to abuse by prison staff.(8)
While we can and should make use of laws to stop prison staff sexual violence when possible, we call on prisoners to step up and put an end to sexual violence among themselves using their own inherent power as humyn beings. The issue of prison rape is one that activists must tackle head on, as it impacts our ability to build unity behind prison walls, and is indicative of a wrongheaded line on gender oppression overall. Take an example from Men Against Sexism (MAS), an organization in Washington State Prison in the 1970s. MAS pushed men to treat each other with respect, opposed all prison rape even of very unpopular prisoners, and defended weaker prisoners against attacks by stronger ones.(9)
Gender oppression is a product of our patriarchal society, and neither federal laws nor prison organizations will put an end to all gender oppression in prison on their own. This gender oppression is another tool used to control oppressed nationalities, and won't be done away with until we overthrow the systems that require the oppression of entire groups of people — imperialism and capitalism. Only through revolution can we start to build a society where gender oppression, like class and national oppression, are torn down in our culture, economics, and all levels of social relations. For a basic study of gender under imperialism, we recommend the magazine MIM Theory 2/3, which we distribute for $5 or equivalent work trade. And see the 1998 MIM Congress resolution "Clarity on what gender is" for a more theoretical discussion on the origins of patriarchy and its structure today.
I'm enclosing a pamphlet recently circulated here titled "Help for Victims of Sexual Abuse in Prison." The official policies in New York are actually pretty good and some staff are supportive. Sing Sing has openly gay and lesbian corrections officers (COs), a high percentage of young and/or female officers, and at least one transgender officer. Far from ideal, but good enough to suggest there's hope for the rest of the country and struggles in this area will be successful!
Please note the #77 speed dial feature described in the pamphlet [a speed dial to the Rape Crisis Program that does not need to be on the approved telephone list and calls are not monitored.] This is an innovative idea that could well be advocated elsewhere. I've heard one positive comment from a user, and the speed dial does work well on a technical level. But why not a #66 to report beat downs, or #55 for corruption, or #1 to report injustice or ask for legal help?
MIM(Prisons) responds: We echo this prisoner's call for a hotline to report other abuses within prisons. Any opportunity for prisoners to report abuse outside of the prison structure is a welcome addition to the criminal injustice system that denies prisoners a voice to speak out against abuse. But we do not yet have any evidence that prisoners speed dialing a rape crisis program will result in any help or attention to the problem beyond supportive counseling after the attack happens. If this is just offering the prisoner an anonymous opportunity to talk after a rape, the problem will continue. In a system that has demonstrated its ability to dismiss or sweep under the rug any complaints or accusations by prisoners, we doubt this new hotline will be any different.
As for the existence of gay, lesbian and transgender COs, we see this the same as having New Afrikan COs. Those who have joined the criminal injustice system will be forced to conform to the rules or they will be out of a job. And so we can now expect to see these new COs abusing prisoners just like their straight counterparts. There are many male COs who do not identify as gay, but who are part of the rape of male prisoners. In all situations, the COs are in a position of power in a system that is set up to denigrate and abuse the men and women it holds. Rather than fight for COs of a different sexual orientation, gender identity, or nationality we need to fight for an end to a system of brutality that condones rape.