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Under Lock & Key

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[Control Units] [Organizing] [Florida]
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Florida Conditions Differ, Struggle Continues

I don't read much in ULK about Florida prisons. This is unfortunate because readers may believe the Florida Department of Corruption (FDOC) is like the California, Texas or Arizona systems. This is not true. There are conditional differences as well as attitudinal differences between the north and south Florida prisons.

Some notable conditional differences are in what has been referred to in ULK as SHUs and the unity among Florida prisons. The FDOC has Control Management Units (CM). One can find these on CMI, CMII, or CMIII for 3, 2, or 1 year, respectively. In the beginning, the early 1990s, these were sensory deprivation cells. During the CM heyday of the late 1990s you didn't even have to commit a disciplinary infraction, just be considered a 'management problem.' Torture was the name of the game. Suicide was frequent. With help from the outside, lawsuits were filed and settled, and the CM system changed at the close of the 90s. This did not bring a close to the shattered lives of the survivors of these imperialist torture cells. FDOC still has CM, but it is not as easy to put someone on CM status, and they are not sensory deprivation any longer. Brutality and rampant use of tear gas sill happen, but not as bad or often as before. I urge comrades in the other states to keep up the struggle and to not think any sacrifice you may make is too much. A couple of my friends lost their lives trying to get out of those torture cells and two more took their own lives after release from prison due to continuing mental instability after years in CM. It doesn't go away when the door opens!

It appears to me, after reading several issues of ULK, that there is more unity in other states. There is no organization among different prisons nor even among individuals within a single prison here in Florida. They are more like cliques operating for extortion purposes. Unity is virtually nonexistent against the administration.

Unity is not even a concern of the guards. In my present experience, I am a peer facilitator in a certain program. The institution requires everyone in the program to live in the same dormitory and to meet at least once a day, 25 at a time in a separate classroom, to complete character based programs, i.e. imperialist brainwashing, that I then conduct unsupervised - Ha! Comrades, you would think this is the perfect opportunity to organize and unify, but it doesn't work that way. There is much inner struggle. When I speak of how the imperialists define a box and then they say it is our own fault that we don't fit in it; that we are here, I am met with scorn. I have started a slogan: Power to the poor people, but it is slow to catch on - no one is poor? When I filed a grievance on an officer for not doing her job it was labeled as 'snitching on the police' as if that's even possible! When the water cooler broke and we needed it fixed, I asked who all will file a grievance. No one would: no one did. There is a fear about unifying to file grievances.

Furthermore, as I stand up and speak on oppression and revolutionary ideas; about socialism and communism, I alienate myself more and more from my fellow white nation. It is just like a comrade from MIM wrote me recently - I am committing class suicide (a small sacrifice indeed). I am labeled communist as if that were a dirty word! If any comrades know of a technique I can use to get these guys united, let me know.

North Florida prisons vary from south Florida prisons in the general attitudes of the guards and administrators. The north Florida prisons are mostly operated by the white nation. These prisons are more structured, restrictive, and command more discipline. The south Florida prisons are mostly operated by the Black and Latino nations and are not as well organized, loosely run, and more laid back. It is not so easy to get a disciplinary report or go to disciplinary confinement while in a south Florida prison.

I said that to say this; keep the struggle against the man, not yourselves. Remember who the enemy is no matter what type of prison you are in, be it a north or south Florida type. Just because some of you have better conditions than others doesn't mean be pacified, it means you can struggle more; struggle harder.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade raises a good point about analyzing the conditions where we are at. Each state, and even each prison, has different conditions with different contradictions and struggles. While this comrade is frustrated by the current lack of unity in Florida prisons, s/he gives a good example of unified struggle from the 90s and so we can see that conditions we face change over time. We do have the power to affect these conditions. It won't happen overnight, but through education we will build unity. Where there was unity around a shared struggle against Control Management Units, we might look to build unity today around another common struggle. This is a challenge for USW comrades in Florida: to determine what issue will be best to focus on at this time. Regardless of the issue, spreading Under Lock & Key and other revolutionary material, and talking to others about their situation and the system, will help build consciousness. When we are met with scorn when we talk about the imperialists, we may need to take another approach, start from something that is bothering someone. Try to tie this back to the imperialist system so they can see the connections. And remember that even if we don't gain a comrade today, we may have planted the seeds for revolutionary consciousness.

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[Control Units] [Harris County Jail Facility] [Texas]
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Fighting Long Term Isolation in Texas Jail

Under the pretense of not allowing any harm to befall me, I was placed in Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg). Texas law states inmates in Ad-Seg must be afforded at least one hour a day, every day, out of their cell for exercise and/or meaningful recreation. I stayed in Ad-Seg for approximately nine months, and at no time was I granted any time out of my cell. I suffered significantly due to this cage. Without exercise my muscles atrophied and now cause me severe pain. My mental state declined greatly, with horrible depression, thoughts of suicide, all around mental anguish.

Well, I wrote several grievances about these deplorable conditions, all of which were denied (of course). Then, I filed a formal complaint against Harris County Jail with Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS). TCJS then responded that the "24 hour" lockdown was appropriate and they will not pursue the issue any further. I took the next step and filed a lawsuit (form 1983) against the jail, the Sheriff of Harris County, the Mayor and Captain over the detention bureau. I stated that they violated my 8th Amendment right (to be free from cruel and unusual punishment) as well as my 14th Amendment right (the right to due process). This civil action was filed 4 April 2012. There have been multiple motions filed both on the plaintiff's side and the defendant's. One mistake got me close to the case being thrown out. It seems inmates in county jails on "detention centers" are not protected under the 8th Amendment. They get to decide who is worthy or not of receiving rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

My case is still in the works, but when I get my day in court in front of a jury I'm confident I will win this lawsuit. I am suing not only for monetary compensation, but I'm trying to help my fellow comrades by asking the judge to declare this 24-hour lockdown illegal and immoral, and order the jail to cease and desist this barbaric practice.


MIM(Prisons) adds: In our ongoing struggle against control units we have seen the dramatic and detrimental health effects of this system of torture for social control. Even the United Nations has condemned long-term solitary confinement in Amerikan prisons. But still prisons and even jails continue to use this practice. This is not surprising since we see these units used as a tool of social control. Prisoners who fight the system in any way, or are perceived as educators or organizers of other prisoners, are isolated to try to limit their work. We have been collecting statistics on control units because there are no public numbers on the scope of this torture. To help with this project write to us for a survey about control units in your state.

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[Campaigns] [State Correctional Institution Frackville] [Pennsylvania]
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Fighting "Lost" Grievances in Pennsylvania

I am having a terrible time with the grievance system at SCI-Frackville along with the misconduct appeal system both in population and in the hole where I'm presently confined.

In general population I have the option of putting my grievance in the grievance box on the housing block or in the grievance box in the chow hall. I always use the chow hall. Only the grievance coordinator has a key to the grievance boxes so all grievances get processed. The problem begins when the grievance is responded to. All responses are sent to the housing units and "stolen" by the guards on the units. Then when we complain about not getting a response, we are told we have to write to the record office and "pay" for another copy. By the time that is done, the time for appealing the response has expired, precluding you from appealing the response. Our final appeals must be sent to the "Chief Grievance Coordinator." On four occasions, she claimed she never received my final appeal that I placed in the mailbox with a postage paid envelop. Misconduct appeals are placed in the inmate-request-slip box. A guard has a key to that box, and on six occasions I was told I never appealed my misconduct sanction.

I definitely need a copy of the grievance petition to have prisoners copy and send out.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This is a good example of the grievance system in prisons across the country, where prison workers conspire to "lose" grievances so that prisoners have no recourse to challenge misconduct. The grievance petition is one tool to help with this fight. We now have petitions for 10 states, and we are looking for prisoners who can customize the petition to their own states as needed. This petition can also be a tool to educate other prisoners. You can share it with those who see the effects of the unjust grievance system, and talk to them about how this relates to the overall criminal injustice system and the need for prisoners to step up and do something. This petition is a small action they can take right now, but they can also get more involved in studying and struggling over issues of bigger change to fundamental injustice. This is one way we can share the anti-imperialist movement with people through practical struggle that impacts their lives right now.

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[Hunger Strike] [Abuse] [Control Units] [Harris County Jail Facility] [Texas] [ULK Issue 34]
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Texas Comrades to Remember Attica September 9

I was confined to Ad-Seg in Harris County Jail while my case was under trial. Texas law requires the jail to give prisoners at least one hour a day for exercise and meaningful recreation. I stayed in segregation for nine months. Not once was I allowed out of cell exercise. I filed grievances, which were denied. I then filed a Section 1983 lawsuit for violation of my 14th amendment right to due process. The litigation is ongoing, however the jail refuses to stop this barbaric and inhumane treatment of 24 hour lockdown. The "justice" system is failing to protect the incarcerated individual. Again.

I traded several of my meals to other prisoners for a few stamps. I was only able to gather 5 stamps. I know it's not much, but I hope it helps some. I have been spreading the MIM(Prisons) campaigns, and have put together a small group of other prisoners to remember the Attica uprising. We have planned a fast for September 9, 2013.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade is organizing others to participate in the country-wide demonstration September 9. Calling attention to the treatment of prisoners, this demonstration coincides with the anniversary of the Attica uprising.

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[Hunger Strike] [California State Prison, San Quentin] [California]
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San Quentin Hunger Strike Suspended

22 August 2013 — I write to inform you that our hunger strike (in this unit for death row) has officially been suspended. In good faith we'll allow the warden to fulfill his promises of productive and positive change. It is these changes that will eventually improve death row for the best. It is a start and the right steps towards changing this whole system for the best.

Although we may have suspended ours, many more continue to struggle to bring about change in their torture dungeons. And we shall not stop exposing this place for what it is. We shall not stop sharing our stories, our truths and helping others end their plight. The battle has just begun and this exposure, this movement has united us even more. It has unmasked our captors and brought many individuals to our aid who have helped change things already. And with each passing day many more join the movement.

I want to thank you for getting us this far. For making it possible to put enough pressure on the warden and his administration to come to terms with our demands. Without your help, we wouldn't have made it to this point. Thank you for all you've done and continue doing in helping to end these injustice and torture dungeons. We are only half the movement, while you're the other half. Together we will change this world for the best.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We commend our comrades at San Quentin for their perseverance in this hunger strike. We know, however, that the prisoncrats have a long history of false promises. This comrade is right that this battle has helped to build unity, education and gained more activists for the movement. These are real victories, regardless of the outcome of the warden's promises.

While we don't have the details on the promises made, another report claims that the only written agreement at the time was that searches would not be done outside if it is raining. This came from a report from a striker who passed out from liver failure, who reported others in San Quentin were also facing difficult health conditions due to lack of food.(1) We posted the full list of demands developed at San Quentin back in June.

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[Organizing] [Bristol County Sheriff's Office] [Massachusetts] [ULK Issue 34]
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Slow Progress as an Anti-Imperialist in Massachusetts

I've been through quite a lot in the six months or so since I've become involved in the anti-imperialist movement. Starting out in a state prison here in Massachusetts, I began by trying to devour as much literature as I could on our collective struggle. In order to digest the principles upon which our rebellion is based, I have tried to discuss the ideas with other prisoners. However, I found it incredibly perverse that so many other prisoners would posture and pay lip service to the principles yet when it comes down to forming any kind of movement they were cowed by the mere thought of the oppressor.

For example, I attempted to initiate a grievance campaign. There were actually people willing to get involved but I had to write up each individual grievance myself. Although this took up much of my personal time I gladly did it, and actually saw some results. The prison was serving rotten potatoes for about four years. Changed. Open shower drain in one shower with the possibility of serious injury. Fixed. Broken law library computer in the cell block. Fixed. Broken law library computer in segregation. Fixed. I suppose the grievances weren't all for nothing.

A couple of months ago I was transferred from state prison to a county jail to serve a separate sentence. Now I'm getting ready to file my first civil suits against this jail regarding the disciplinary process. Hopefully the changes that I seek will stop the current disciplinary staff from smoking everyone on their misconduct reports. Indeed, there is a lot of shady stuff going on in the disciplinary board office, especially the use of duplicate offenses to rack up extra segregation time as a tool of oppression and complete non-compliance with the jail's own policy and procedures regarding disciplinary hearings.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We get many letters from activists behind bars who are frustrated with the lack of interest and support from their fellow prisoners. There are several important things to keep in mind when thinking about why we can't quickly and easily unite all (or most) prisoners behind the anti-imperialist cause. First, prisoners come from the same wealthy society that, on the streets, keeps the vast majority of Amerikans supporting imperialism. While the class status of lumpen prisoners makes them more likely to take up anti-imperialism, they are not immune to the wealth and culture of Amerika.

Second, even where class and nation interests might put someone on the side of the anti-imperialist movement, we have some serious educational work to do to counter all the reactionary education they got for most of their life. While some will instinctively join the revolution, drawing correct conclusions from their own life and education, others will need patient education and observation of our practice. This is true in all revolutionary movements, and it is the job of our leaders, people who already see the importance of the anti-imperialist struggle, to approach people where they are at, and patiently provide them information and examples as we work to win them over. If we look at socialism in China in the 1960s, we see that even after seizing state power and all of their great achievements, they still had to wage a vigorous Cultural Revolution to combat bourgeois ideas all the way up to the Party's central committee. So we should not be surprised, nor get frustrated, by the resistance we face in the United $tates today.

It is victories like those grievance battles won, combined with education to give people the broader context for our struggle, that will help us to win supporters and turn them into new activists. Always keep in mind that you were not born an anti-imperialist. Someone had to provide you with education, information and/or examples. Now it is your turn to do the same for others.

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[Organizing] [Control Units] [Campaigns] [Ely State Prison] [Nevada] [ULK Issue 34]
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Food Deprivation Battle in Nevada Draws Broad Support from Prisoners and Retaliation from Staff

Regarding the dietary petition you sent to my friend, we had those 10 filled out immediately, well 9. I sent one to the law library to get 10 copies made. From these 10, I had 9 more signed within a day. I tried to send it to the law library to have copies made again. I was informed that I would not receive copies because the law library would not copy blank forms. The form was returned ripped, with my cell # written on it in permanent marker. Of course this was a lie. Ely State Prison does copy blank forms, they just don't want me copying the petition and/or distributing it.

However I erased my name etc. from the form, sent it out to a comrade of mine in San Diego, and I asked for 30 copies so I could distribute them. This comrade sent me 100 copies. I did receive these copies, and have been passing them around, and have received many more signed copies. I and another are also attempting to send copies to individuals in other institutions. However, my mail is now being read and I have been informed that if I continue to distribute and push the petition I will be written up and my transfer request denied.

I have been housed at Ely State Prison (ESP) since 2002. ESP is a supermax where we are locked down 24 hours a day. I have spent 8 years trying to get a transfer. I was finally approved last month, and this threat to keep me here is their way of trying to force me to stop passing around the petition. I am not going to stop with my effort to have these petitions signed. If it costs me my transfer so be it, I've been here almost 11 years, I can handle more!


MIM(Prisons) adds: This is just one more example of how Amerika uses long-term isolation as a form of social control against those trying to organize for better conditions, even small reforms around basic needs. This comrade's determination to continue the fight against food deprivation, even with the threat of ongoing long-term solitary confinement, is an example for prisoners everywhere. This campaign has gained support among prisoners in Nevada because it is a clear problem for all prisoners, and one that we can reasonably expect to win. We do need to be clear when spreading campaigns such as this one that this is just a small battle that must be part of a broader effort to educate and organize prisoners against the criminal injustice system. Only an anti-imperialist movement with the long-term goal of a system where no group of people oppresses another group has a chance of putting an end to the criminal injustice of imperialism. The oppressed, united under this goal, must build a new state that applies proletarian justice, making depriving people of basic food and medical care a crime that is punished and eliminated.

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[Hunger Strike] [North Kern State Prison] [California]
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Transfers and Censorship Retaliation for Hunger Strikers

Here in the Ad-Seg unit at North Kern they've transferred a lot of us to A4 which is on the main level III yard, and half of the building is Ad-Seg, the other is orientation. All of us are on single cell status and validated members and associates of STG (Security Threat Group types) I & II but there's unity in here.

The hunger strike/work stoppage is over, and most if not all received 128 G chronos for participating. This will be used as validation points, but no one cares. We don't get our 10 hour a week for yard, no laundry exchange, or supplies being passed out, and our food is cold because they serve it on paper trays.

Our mail has to get rerouted from the other Ad-Seg unit and the IGI/ISU informed us that the SF Bayview, CA Prison Focus, The Rock, Revolution, Militant, PHSS, MIM(Prisons) and any of the literature that makes reference to our struggle behind these walls will be screened and withheld. I've been receiving mail that's 2.5 months old. We have a group 602 going around collecting signatures so we can show the yard captain we're not happy with this program we have here in the A4 location. Just yesterday they cell extracted someone and all of us above the incident on the top tier had pepper spray in our cells, because it came up through our cells, and the ventilating shaft.

This is all from the North Kern Grave Yard.

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[Hunger Strike] [New Jersey State Prison] [New Jersey] [ULK Issue 34]
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New Jersey June Protest Prelude to October

I'm writing to give you an update on the protest back in June. The protest in June was just the start. The real protest will jump off in October. The one in June went on for six days, not two. It was on for two days before the south and north compounds took part. We really wanted to go off with the July 8 one, but things here were getting so bad the prisoners just couldn't hold back any longer. By October all should be ready. If not, those that are prepared will be ready to share the understanding of what is going on so all the population will be on the same page. And everyone understands this is a peaceful protest, too much is just not right. I'm not the one doing the talking but I'm surely a part.


MIM(Prisons) adds: As another comrade from New Jersey reported: "Although nothing has changed as of the writing of this report, it is important to highlight that the level of unity achieved across nations and groups, the effective organization of the protest, and the fearful response by the state demonstrate the power of non-violent resistance in a corrections environment." We agree this unity is critical. We are seeing unity in resistance in prisons across the country. We need to take advantage of this opportunity to educate and build. As this prisoner points out, those who are ready for October in New Jersey will share information so that all the population will understand. We call on anti-imperialist comrades in prison to expand this education and take this opportunity to educate others about the nature of the injustice system and its role in imperialism in general. Protests to improve conditions are important, but they are just the start.

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[Medical Care] [Neal Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 34]
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Medication Denials in Texas

It seems as if all chaos has been released on this unit, as now the security officers and administration officers are denying prisoners here their prescribed medication. Medical wants to close evening pill dispensing at 5.30pm whether all prisoners get their medication or not, to avoid overtime. The unit is relatively small and if run by security staff properly, it could run pill window for all prisoners by 5:30pm. But the prison creates conditions that make this impossible, delaying count, shutting down prisoner movement, etc.

Because of a lack of proper medication several prisoners have had violent epileptic seizures. Other prisoners have gone days at a time without their medication. A building missed their medication three days straight.

It is obvious that the wheels have fallen off when the medical department blames security for such denials of a person's medication, and security blames medical by stating they "have no control over medical decisions."

Four days out of ten last month I myself missed medication, and I was placed in protected custody twice for speaking out against such blatant violation of our rights. Because of this, trouble is brewing that presents an environment that is hostile and unsafe for both officers and prisoners, a violation of our right to a safe and secure place to do our time.


MIM(Prisons) adds: Medical neglect is all too common in Amerikan prisons. This should be no surprise as capitalism puts profits before health, and in the case of prisons it puts social control before health. This is a clear example of the criminal injustice system punishing prisoners just for the sake of punishment. There is no possible rehabilitative purpose to denying prisoners their medicine. It is a way to put lives in danger. They might claim to save a few dollars on staff overtime in the short run, but the long-term financial cost of treating seriously ill prisoners will far exceed these savings as many prisoners are on medication critical to control serious conditions.

The abysmal health care in Amerikan prisons mirrors the situation on the streets in this country that spends more money per persyn on health care than any other in the world, but yet has far poorer health than most First World countries and even some Third World countries. Ironically this poor health hits the wealthy in Amerika too. These are some ways in which communism will serve all the world's people, not just the poor. Although the wealthy will be brought down to the same economic level as everyone else in the world, improvements in healthcare, an end to environmental destruction, and opportunities to lead productive lives are all important enhancements in life that all will enjoy when capitalism is overthrown.

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