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Under Lock & Key

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[Bill Clements Unit] [Texas]
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Attacking From All Angles

I have been in the Texas state prison system for 35 years. I am President of the Aryan Rebels organization. We are not based on racial ideology and we will work with any person, group or organization to establish peace and unity amongst all people. You state on the bottom of page 2 to contact you for additional materials to educate our members. I would greatly appreciate it if you could please send me such.

I do believe in the five principles you set for the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP). I have been in prison since the age of 20, and I am now 55. In the years I have been down I can truly say that the biggest problem amongst prisoners is their conflict with each other. I have tried to teach this principle to youngsters coming into the system many times. Sometimes it takes hold and sometimes it doesn't. Here in the Texas prisons mostly everything that has been taken away from us such as the canned goods in the commissary, belts, etc. we did it to ourselves. Our enemy is the government.

At the beginning of April 2015 I filed a Section 1983 Civil Rights lawsuit against the Director of TDCJ in Federal court. Two weeks later I received a letter from an attorney with the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama regarding the possibility of his organization getting involved. This letter was given to me at 8:30 a.m. and had been opened.

One hour later a male guard came to my cell and told me to "strip out for cell search." I was handcuffed and taken to the one-man shower. A female guard named Kelly J. Sooter came into the section with a red chain bag and she and the male guard went inside my cell where they stayed for over an hour. When I was escorted back to my cell I noticed my New Balance tennis shoes were gone. My Civil Rights law books, Jailhouse Lawyers Manual and Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook, my hardbacked dictionary, 11 novels, 8 typing ribbons (4 were brand new), my headphones and nail clippers were all gone. I asked the male guard (Seth G. Kelin) why they were taking my property and he replied "I have never had any problems with you. But it's plain that someone higher up is pissed at you about something or other. I'm only doing what I'm told."

I got my typewriter out to file a Step One Grievance and then noticed a few pieces had been broken on it in the search, so I had to file the grievance by hand. I also wrote a letter to Warden Barry L. Martin here at the Clements Unit and told him what went down. I requested the return of my property and Civil Rights law books but so far nothing has been done. I already have the 42 U.S.C. 1983 Civil Rights forms filled out and ready to file. I'm just waiting on my Step One and Step Two grievances to go through the process, as I know they will be denied as always is the case.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We appreciate that this comrade does what they can to defend their rights as well as build unity in Texas prisons. This report is an example of many challenges we face in doing just that. When trying to educate our fellow prisoners, they sometimes are on board and sometimes aren't. When we attempt to use the legal system to protect ourselves, the administration flexes.

We try to use the legal system to our advantage whenever possible, but ultimately we know that's not going to bring an end to our oppression. From the rubber stamping of grievance denials to the nepotism within the criminal injustice system, the cards are clearly stacked against us.

We've given up on the idea of reforms for any meaningful change (and anyone who has studied even a little Amerikan history should be able to provide examples of this failed strategy). Instead we know we need to overthrow and dismantle the entire Amerikan government and the economic system that supports it. That's a long-term goal, and in the shorter term we work to build unity amongst prisoners toward that goal.

We need to be able to name (and overcome) reasons for why sometimes our attempts to educate younger prisoners works, and sometimes it doesn't. As social scientists, and the vanguard revolutionary organization working within U.$. prisons, it's our responsibility to address these barriers to our success. Bourgeois influence in this country is strong, so we don't expect to win everyone who's locked up over to our side. But in addressing these barriers in a systematic way, rather than leaving it to chance, we are more likely to have success, and more quickly.

We are working on this exact project within the context of our forthcoming book on the lumpen class. So far for this book we have completed a class analysis of the lumpen in the United $tates, which we are distributing as a draft chapter of the book. The next concept we aim to tackle is incorrect ideologies amongst the lumpen, which are some of our main challenges to organizing the lumpen around projects that are otherwise in their interests. All prisoners have a material interest in an end to prisoner-on-prisoner violence, even if they are benefitting from this violence now. Incorrect ideologies and bourgeois influence are what we need to overcome to build he UFPP to its fullest capacity.

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[Street Gangs/Lumpen Orgs] [ULK Issue 47]
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Freedom Fighter: Latin King Leaders

As a Latin King Political Prisoner (LKPP) housed here in Mississippi I've learned over the years the true essence of my calling, as member of the lumpen class. Thanks to MIM and all who continue to submit the knowledge needed for us to read and study, I've gained a lot of understanding on how to deal with not only the staff within this prison but other prisoners as well. I recently posted on the board a memo for all prisoners to honor Sept 9th as "Prisoner Memorial Day." Also for "Black August." I know in my heart that others must feel something of what took place those few days. When I see someone read it, I bring up the subject to 'em later. It seems that being in a minimum security prison like this there are not many guys too concerned. But I continue to write to my brothers elsewhere and talk to them here on yard or class about certain topics.

As a freedom fighter I have endured many challenging obstacles and thanks to the encouragement of other freedom fighters elsewhere I've been able to overcome them successfully. Although some of the issues I've had to encounter are only a fraction of a struggle compared to what many of our brothers/sisters have had to go through in other prisons around the world. I'm half Cherokee, half white, and a member of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation since 1987. I've been an avid reader of MIM Notes since my King Brother El Rey Krazy from chi-town first introduced me to my very first step on this golden path of prosperity.

Many things have changed over the years throughout this prison system and abroad. I see that us 'freedom fighters' are still remaining strong and getting stronger. I personally want to acknowledge our comrades of the ALKQN New Jersey state who have enlightened me on the political essence of our nation's history and where we stand in today's society, as well on how to combat oppression within this prison system. Of course my salute to MIM(Prisons) as well.

Many years ago a fellow comrade and freedom fighter from New Jersey, King Arch Angel, provided me with a small publication that was put together by the LKPP called Combat Liberalism. At that time, 2001, there were a lot of things going on that we were involved in such as the protest of the military bombings on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, the U.S. bombings in the mountains of Tora Bora, in the Middle East, and some issues we as a nation were dealing with internally. I used that publication in study groups many days, although when I went in the hole the pigs threw away all of my material. I still remember the teachings those brothers provided me with. So I want to send my undying solidarity, love, honor, and respect to the true freedom fighters who have had a major impact on my life: Honorable King Arch-Angel, King Special from New Jersey, King Krazy, King Ghost from 21st Cal(Chi-town), and King Ren Rochell Ill. I wish you all well and I thank you for your truth and solidarity.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This is a good example of honoring those who have helped us gain education and knowledge along the way to our political growth, and recognizing these people as freedom fighters. All who engage in this struggle against imperialism are freedom fighters, they don't need to be famous, and we can acknowledge their contributions without revealing their legal identities. It is important to recognize that history is made by the masses, but leaders play a critical role in sharing information and raising consciousness. The freedom fighters honored by this comrade all did the important work of helping to raise consciousness of their fellow LKs. The bond between MIM and the ALKQN goes back several decades, and MIM(Prisons) has also worked with many Latin King political leaders. King Arch-Angel (RIP), did amazing work educating comrades of all LOs while in prison and continued that work amongst the youth after his release. So we would also like to honor eir legacy as a freedom fighter. We look at the work of all these comrades as an example of what we hope to see growing inside all lumpen organizations, moving people towards revolutionary analysis and actions.

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[United Front] [Organizing] [High Desert State Prison] [California]
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AFW Joins UFPP, Plans Demo for Sept. 9

As a loyal comrade who is committed to the struggle I have utmost respect for Under Lock & Key and I appreciate all that they/you contribute to the revolutionary struggle that is taking place today for those inside these concentration camps in the United Snakes. As the leading member of the Abolitionist From Within (AFW) I do support MIM and embrace as a group the five core principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons.

While AFW may not agree with every political issue MIM advocates, it is the issues that we both support that bring us together in this revolutionary struggle. AFW recently had our first demonstration at High Desert State Prison (HDSP), bringing together a cohesive front in reflecting, fasting and uniting to honor those nameless and faceless men of Black August and Attica(1971) by coming together in solidarity. We brought up the issues of the day affecting us and we all offered solutions from each individual's perspective. It was a beautiful and righteous energy as we synergized listening to each other and offering suggestions and the best of ourselves during this time. We will meet again on September 9th and try to agree on the best solutions in attacking and combating the issues that are inflicting us today from the first meeting.

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[Abuse] [Religious Repression] [New Jersey] [ULK Issue 48]
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Punished for Reporting Brutal Assault During Ramadan

I'm a Muslim here in the New Jersey gulag. Back during the month of Ramadan, I witnessed the pigs brutally and viciously assault a fellow Muslim. I felt so strong about the incident that I wrote to the local regional FBI. And as it would turn out, they shipped the Bro out to another of the New Jersey gulags.

Well about a month after that incident, I was snatched up, and placed on temporary close custody status. A prisoner may be placed in temporary close custody for a period not to exceed 72 hours, unless there are exceptional circumstances, or substantial evidence found to warrant an extension at this time. Well I was in temporary close custody for 12 days. But the prison Special Investigative Division came to interview me regarding some info they received, stating that I was trying to rally prisoners to attack female prison guards, regarding the incident on the Bro. Now what's funny about this whole thing is that it wasn't only female guards who attacked my Bro. Well I offered to take a polygraph test in order to confirm my truth.

I was eventually released back into general population, with no reason as to why, and no "we made a mistake." But I've come to understand over the years that the insidious prison system is used to destroy people mentally, as well as physically and spiritually. I had to report this incident, and I felt that every one of us who witnessed that brutal assault should have done the same. About 20-25 Muslim prisoners saw it, why didn't they write reports? I had to report this incident to Under Lock & Key because these kinds of conditions need to be made known to the public outside. I don't hear from the outside much, mostly because I've been forgotten about.


MIM(Prisons) responds: While we can't say whether the brutal assault of the Muslim prisoner was related to eir religion, this comrade provides an example of where religion can serve the oppressed. If Muslim prisoners are moved to fight brutality from their religious teachings, they can be an ally of the anti-imperialist movement. In fact, we call on all religious prisoners to think about the teachings of their religion around violence and brutality and use this as motivation to join your fellow prisoners in fighting the criminal injustice system. Often religion is used as a tool to keep people passive, but revolutionaries should seek to ally with all who can be rallied to our cause. Those who are targeted for repression because of their religion, as Muslims in the U.$. often are, will be most likely to see the connections with broader oppression and join the struggle.

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[Medical Care] [Abuse] [Federal Correctional Institution Aliceville] [Federal] [ULK Issue 46]
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Death Due to Medical Negligence

June 2015 brought about one of the more serious human rights violations here at Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Aliceville. The medical care is horrible. From the first day I have witnessed gross negligence, malpractice in many forms, and some of the nastiest medical personnel I've ever encountered. I worked in the intensive care unit at a hospital for 9 years, and I've seen some lacking in bedside manners, but these people are downright abusive.

I'll skip all the second-hand horror stories and tell you about Karen Massengale. She came here about a month ago. I am not sure exactly how old she was but by her gray hair and other tell-tale signs I think she was not young. From day one she was sickly. There were several times she vomited in the common area and in her cell. She was seen at medical and given a laxative. After multiple trips to medication pick-up she finally was able to get them.

Her condition continued to deteriorate rapidly. She lost weight and she couldn't leave her room. On two occasions she was wheeled to medical saying "something's wrong, I know my body and something is wrong, I think I'm dying." When she returned she was distraught, treated like she was faking and told there's nothing wrong. Then on 25 May 2015 after laying in her room for three days, unable to eat or drink, she was rushed to medical. I saw her in a wheelchair barely able to sit up. That was the last time we saw her.

The buzz around the facility is that she died 30 May 2015, possibly of a bowel obstruction. One of the nursing staff (Nurse Eli) who told her there wasn't anything wrong has told multiple prisoners that they are faking. She even went so far as to write one prisoner a shot for malingering. Two days later they were in surgery for a bowel obstruction. Trust me this is not the exception, it is the rule.

I currently have a grievance in process on medical and one on Nurse Eli. What I am asking from MIM(Prisons) is to simply follow up on Karen Massengale. She deserved for the last weeks of her life (if in fact she is deceased) to have been more humane. To die in a prison while begging for help and being told you're faking is the epitome of cruel and unusual punishment, wouldn't you say?


MIM(Prisons) responds: We have verified that Karen Massengale did die on 30 May 2015. Medical negligence is a serious form of abuse of prisoners. It is particularly tempting for prison administrators looking to save some money, as health care can be quite expensive, especially for a population that is fed a terrible diet, given little opportunity for exercise, and put in conditions that cause both mental and physical deterioration.

The health care system offered by capitalism generally offers better care to the wealthy and punishes the poor with sickness and death. This distinction is especially dramatic in countries like the United $tates which don't offer universal healthcare equally to all. But even those capitalist countries that provide healthcare for all of their citizens are ignoring the health of the majority of the world's people who are literally dying in service of profit. There is no excuse for the deaths from easily (and in many cases cheaply) preventable diseases that plague the Third World. Pharmaceutical companies test and manufacture expensive drugs in oppressed nations around the world while denying these test subjects and workers access to basic care. These drugs are for First World customers. The profit motive driving healthcare is a clear example of why capitalism is bad for the majority of the world's people.

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[Religious Repression] [National Oppression] [Delta Unit] [Arkansas] [ULK Issue 48]
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Muslims Fighting for Rights in Arkansas

[Recently several prisoners wrote in to describe the religious discrimination against Muslims going on in Arkansas prisons. The Supreme Court determined that the prison must allow people to grow facial hair if this is a part of their religious beliefs, but the Delta Regional Unit continues to deny this right. Below, several correspondents explain their struggle.]

Prisoner #1: I am a Muslim and through religious beliefs I should be able to grow and groom neat facial hair. It was proven in the Supreme Court (Holt vs. Hobbs 135 S. CT. 853) that the Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC) policy was not the least restrictive means of preventing prisoners from hiding contraband and disguising their identities. I went through all proper procedures and paperwork to get a script saying I was able to grow my facial hair through religious beliefs. I was approved by the unit Chaplain for my script, but when it came to the next step of the Warden signing off on it I was denied due to him determining if I was sincere enough. What gives the Warden the right to determine a person's sincerity about their religious beliefs?

Prisoner #2: I am currently incarcerated at the Delta Regional Unit in Deumott, Arkansas. I have been in my walk of faith (Islam) sincerely for almost three years now. In the beginning I didn't think that I would suffer from so much ridicule for choosing this way of life, but still, I hold my head high and continue on my walk of faith.

Sometime and somehow, this ridicule and discrimination has to cease. I am ready to come together with a group of fellow prisoner to stand up for our rights as well as the things we believe in.

The current problem that I am having involves the ADC programming policy. A law was recently passed that allows prisoners to grow their hair and/or facial hair for religious purposes only, and Muslims seem to be the majority of those who are being denied their rights, along with me as well. I am currently in the middle of a grievance process because I was denied my script. I think the problem is religious discrimination.

Prisoner #3: Warden James Gibson and the Chaplain Chuck Gladdon are violating the constitutional rights of the Muslims and other prisoners under their care. The supreme court ruled in Holt v. Hobbs that the grooming policy was a substantial burden on prisoners' religion, by not allowing them to grow facial hair/beards. As to security concerns, the Supreme Court also said it was not the least restrictive means of stopping prisoners from hiding contraband, or disguising their identity.

The procedures are still burdensome because all the Muslims who apply for the right to wear a beard are denied automatically while the white inmates are receiving the right to grow hair or receiving a religious accommodation script from Warden Gibson and Chaplain Gladdon. Even after the Supreme Court made its ruling, this has not changed.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This denial of rights to Muslim prisoners is more than just religious discrimination. Because the majority of Muslims in Amerikkkan prisons are New Afrikan or Arab, targeting Muslims fits in with the overall system of national oppression that is especially acute within the criminal injustice system in the United $tates. Further, Amerikans like to equate Islam with terrorism in a racist attempt to denigrate entire nations. While the cultural practice of growing facial hair is not a particularly revolutionary battle relevant to the Maoist movement, this attack on oppressed nations under the guise of religious expression is important to expose.

Communists are working towards a world where all people are free to express themselves, without restrictions that come from the oppression of groups of people by others. However, we are also working towards a society where all people are provided education and scientific analysis around the false prophets and gods that religion proffers. We do not need faith in higher mystical powers, instead we need humynity to take responsibility for its own destiny and build a society where we can have faith in the ability of people to solve the problems created by people, as well as the problems we face in our material world.

Under socialism, all people will have the freedom to practice whatever religion they choose, but they will not be given the platform to proselytize for their religion and build a broader movement of mysticism. Science and scientific thinking will be the basis of education. Only this scientific method will ensure an end to oppression of all groups of people. For more on how religion was handled in communist China under Mao, ask for our religion study pack.

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[Censorship] [River North Correctional Center] [Virginia] [ULK Issue 47]
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Virginia Censorship Battle Seeking Way Forward

Censored
Enclosed is a Facility Notification of Disapproval of Under Lock & Key No. 45. The effort your group puts forth, and your commitment to your ideology are examples of dedication. But the continual rejection of your materials by the prison is costly to your limited resources. And my returning them to you without getting to read them is costly to me. You should receive a package from me containing materials the prison withheld from me.

I propose you cease mailing your materials to me. I am still going to contribute articles for you to publish. I have an issue of ULK that I've saved in order to show others who you are, what you represent, and so forth. I will use this to encourage them to work with you.

I have considered filing a lawsuit. But upon reviewing decisions in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, it is plain that the court sides with the prison system except in cases involving religious books. (The one non-religious victory: the court did rule in favor of a prisoner denied Ulysses by James Joyce because the prison permitted Playboy and the prison's claim that Ulysses was disapproved for sexual content is ludicrous and hypocritical.)

When it comes to political materials – especially radical views – the court is extremely conservative. The Fourth Circuit (which hears appeals from the nine federal district courts in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina) also has the dubious distinction of being the harshest toward prisoner complaints.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We are working with this comrade and a few others in Virginia to determine how best to proceed with the censorship against MIM(Prisons) in that state. We agree that the legal track record in the Fourth Circuit suggests that it's not worth the effort for a prisoner to file a lawsuit fighting the censorship. There is some precedent for organizations and individuals outside of prison having better luck and we do have some strong comrades like this one who can help with legal work. But we need an outside lawyer, knowledgable individual, or organization who can help spearhead the fight in Virginia. If anyone reading this has people on the outside who would be willing to work with us on this important battle, please let us know. And if you are in Virginia, be sure to tell us whether or not you are receiving your copies of ULK, and if you'd like to help with this battle.

In the end this comrade is right that it is only in the long battle that we can really win, when we take power for the oppressed out of the hands of the oppressors. But in the short term, making it possible for comrades to get study and organizing materials behind bars is of critical importance because this is how we can build the movement. Education is our principal task, and this education is hard to accomplish without the ability to communicate and study.

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[Organizing] [Street Gangs/Lumpen Orgs]
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Call to End the Violence Against Prisoners

Salute fellow comrades, the fascist pigs have been in control for far too long, the fascist pigs have used prisoner against prisoner for far too long. It's time for us to hear the words of a great fallen comrade by the name of George Jackson who stated: settle your quarrels, come together. Understand the reality of our situation. Understand that fascism is already here, that people are already dying who could be saved. That generations more will die or live poor butchered half-lives as we do now if you fail to act.

My fellow comrades, I humbly ask each and every one of you to please understand that if we want to successfully run a study group inside modern slavery, then we need to stand together in solidarity, because we out-number the fascist pigs. They just out-think us, because we are too busy fighting, raping, and killing one another, just to name a few things that we prisoners lend our hands to the pigs which stagnates us and keeps the pigs in control.

I am issuing a call to revolutionary change. Fellow comrades I know what I am asking of you won't be easy, but lets take baby step together and slowly put an end to all gang-related activities, so the fascist pigs cannot use it against us to justify putting us in control housing units or to censor our mail, etc.

Fellow comrades change first start with us, cause if we don't respect one another how can we demand respect from the fascist pigs.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We echo this comrade's call for lumpen organizations to end the violence and come together in unity. In fact, when this writer calls for an end to "all gang-related activities" we would instead say let's turn these lumpen organizations into vehicles for activities that educate and liberate the oppressed.

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[Abuse] [Campaigns] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 47]
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"New" Torture Tactics at Pelican Bay

SolitaryIsTorture
I want to inform you about a new torture tactic being used here in the Security Housing Units (SHU). Since August 3 [2 weeks ago] the staff have been doing what has been termed "security/welfare checks" which entails staff walking by every prisoner's cell every 30 minutes 24/7 and pressing a button that has been installed next to our cells. Due to the design of the SHU the sound everyone and everything makes is louder than it should be and at night we are woken up every thirty minutes due to staff opening/closing the pod door, which is extremely loud, stomping up the stairs to the top tier and back down, and making a loud bang sound when hitting the button next to our cells as they are hitting metal on metal.

During the day it's the same thing except the wand makes a high-pitch beeping sound when hitting the button. So 24/7 it's non-stop excessive noise that doesn't allow us to sleep longer than 30 minutes without being woken up. I feel like I'm living in a dream 24/7 as I'm always stirred and feeling the effects of being denied sleep and not being able to go through my normal sleep cycles. Anyone with common sense can see this is cruel and unusual punishment. The ironic thing is staff say it's to prevent suicides. Yeah let's make a bunch of excessive noise all day and night and not let anyone sleep longer than 30 minutes at any given time, that should prevent suicides. If it's driving relatively stable prisoners crazy I'm sure it's pushing those with mental health issues over the edge.

Also by doing this, even though it's misguided and unnecessary, the CDCR is admitting that the SHU makes people more likely to commit suicide if they need to check on everyone every 30 minutes. I have filed an administrative appeal on this to have it stopped or modified and plan to file a lawsuit if we are not allowed to sleep normally again. In the mean time I'm writing friends/family to call the prison/CDCR head quarters and complain about this, and I'm writing all prison organizations and public servants to make them aware of this new form of torture being conducted.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This sleep deprivation torture tactic has been reported on from San Quentin for some time, and we recently received word from a comrade on pending litigation on this issue:

"I am challenging a blatantly obvious psychological torture program put in play by Jeffrey Beard, Secretary of the gulag system in California, as a payback to the SHU guys for the hunger strikes. The CDCR had to throw us, death row, under the bus too, to make it less obvious who the target really is.

"There is a program whereby they come and shine lights in eyes, bang and yell, using a 'beeper' stick to hit the cell tray slots, every 20 to 30 minutes, all day and night.

"In my moving papers I proved it is utterly pointless as stated, as a suicide prevention program. Anyone knows you can commit suicide during the half hour between walks, and also in our unit it takes them over 20 added minutes to get the keys, get shields, and race in and pounce on a guy hanging by the neck. It is specious.

"So I filed saying this is far too onerous to be a mere act of stupidity, it is a malicious torture of the SHU units only (including PSU, psych wards, all lock-up units). If this does not cause suicide, what would? Ha!"

This latest tactic of inhumane sleep deprivation reinforces our point that the settlement of the Ashker v. Brown lawsuit will do nothing to end torture in California prisons. As the comrade above points out, this is not rogue COs, this is facility policy. We received reports over a year prior about the new Guard One torture program. As one comrade pointed out at the time, most deaths in cells are due to medical neglect.

Calling this a "new tactic" is a bit of a misnomer. This same exact system of "security checks" every 30 minutes has been used in recent history in Texas and North Carolina. Though in these cases they seemed more targeted, and the comrade in North Carolina grieved the abuse and won. In fact, this type of sleep deprivation dates back more than 50 years when prisoners suffered similar conditions in Walpole, Massachusetts. All these examples go to show that the system is inherently oppressive, and only by overthrowing imperialism will we ever begin to see humane treatment of prisoners.

We view the latest behavior by guards at Pelican Bay as a form of retaliation against the prisoners held in SHU, to show them who is in charge and that torture is alive and well in spite of the "successful" settlement. Exposing this consistent mistreatment of prisoners in California is a must to counter the narrative that the modern prison movement has succeeded in transforming the CDCR, or the conditions they submit their prisoners to, in any way.

The acute threat of this form of torture requires an immediate response.

A concerted effort has been taken up by a number of groups supporting the California prison movement to contact the warden to demand an end to this torture.

Write to:
Warden Clark E. Ducart
Pelican Bay State Prison
P.O. Box 7000
Crescent City, CA 95531-7000
email: CDucart@cdcr.ca.gov
call: (707) 465–1000 ext. 9040

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[Censorship] [State Correctional Institution Huntingdon] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 46]
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Pennsylvania Censors Textbooks

Oppose Censorship
Prison administrators here in State Correctional Institution (SCI) Huntingdon have recently begun to deny all of the programming textbooks that have come in the mail for me, stating that the books contain writings which advocate, assist or are evidence of criminal activity, or facility misconduct. I am unable to properly appeal the publication denials to the facility's superintendent, who told me in person "You're not getting your fucking books." He told me that the decision by the Inmate Publication Review Committee (IPRC) is final, and his responses to my attempts to appeal publication denials reflect this statement. I am unable to use the facility grievance system to file complaints about my mail and incoming publications, which are meant to be handled some other way. I am unable to ask exactly what misconducts or crimes the books advocate, assist in, or are evidence of, and facility staff have been unable to specify.

I am writing to your organization to respectfully request any assistance, or information you may be able to provide which could help to right this wrong. These books are purely educational, and as such are entirely neutral. Disallowing them could not serve any legitimate penological interest.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This letter shows that education can never be "entirely neutral" under imperialism. Educational textbooks, while generally devoid of any progressive political content, still present a threat to prisons because of the opportunity they provide for educational advancement. Through this education prisoners may become more aware of the basis of the criminal injustice system and their own oppression, and it could lead them to seek out more revolutionary education. Keeping prisoners uneducated is a good way for the oppressor nation to maintain its privileged position.

Denial of books can also be used as punishment for a prisoner who is seen as a trouble maker. The fact that this comrade knows how to file grievances and is working to gain education may be the cause of these denials. Part of the system of social control in prisons is the use of arbitrary rules to contain prisoners who might be a threat because of their understanding of legal rights and their ability to fight for these rights.

For both of these reasons, instead of arguing about what constitutes "legitimate penological interests" we point out that the penological interest really being served by the Amerikan criminal injustice system is social control. Censorship is a key tool the prisons use for this end. And for this reason we focus some of our limited time and resources fighting against censorship. For this comrade we have provided a copy of our guide to fighting censorship. But what we really need, in many states across the country, are lawyers who can help us bring censorship cases to court to establish legal precedent. Of particular priority to us are those cases where the censorship is of explicit political material. Textbook denials like the one described above do happen, but they are far less common than the denial of Under Lock & Key and other revolutionary literature.

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