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Under Lock & Key

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[Campaigns] [Wynne Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 32]
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50 Texas Prisoners Sign Grievance Petition

I'm writing to let you know that I used the petition that you sent me. I sent it to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Board, on a Grievance Step I, and attached 50 signatures to it. About 80 to 100 prisoners wanted to sign, but due to the fear of retaliation and abusive and frivolous disciplinary cases they did not all sign. But these 50 prisoners signed voluntarily and have all had problems with the grievance department for lack of responses by the grievance investigator. If I am put in lockup for retaliation I am going to be happy because I tried.


MIM(Prisons) adds: Inspired by the California petition for the proper handling of grievances, comrades in Texas made a petition specific to their state. Our ability to fairly have our grievances handled is directly related to preventing arbitrary repression for people who stand up for their rights or attempt to do something positive. To get a copy of the Texas petition, or one for your state, write to MIM(Prisons). If we do not yet have a petition for your state, we will send you a generic one and you can do the legal research to customize it.

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[Campaigns] [Jordan Unit] [Texas]
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Texas Prisoners Win Victory by Filing Mass Grievances

I have some encouraging news to report concerning the grievance process here on the Jordan Unit in Texas. I am a medium custody G-4 prisoner and per the Texas Dept of Criminal Justice "Offender Orientation Handbook" (I-202) pg 32 which outlines the out-of-cell time requirements, we G-4 prisoners were being shorted our 4 hours daily requirement. We tried many different ways to rectify the problem. First we wrote the Major and then the Warden about this with no response. A group of us tried to "jack the dayroom," meaning not racking up in our cell when told, while others protested by kicking cell doors, forcefully making our requests and issues known to the pigs. This didn't work either, it just earned us a 24-hour lockdown.

Several of us wrote grievances periodically over the course of two months with each response being "no policy violation noted." Finally we decided to send in "a mass grievance." We submitted approximately fifty five to sixty grievances concerning "out of cell time" at one time. The response by the Warden was the same "no policy violations noted." The very next day after we all received our grievances back the pigs gave us our 4 hours out of cell time.

It took us over 6 months in trying different tactics, but we finally won. Crazy to think all we won was what we were supposed to have per the rules set forth by these pigs. I would suggest to every prisoner across the state of Texas following our winning process and submit "mass grievances," the more the better at one time. Persistence paid off in this case.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This is an encouraging report among many defeats in the grievance battle. And it is important that this comrade wrote up the tactics used so that others can learn from this. We also will stress what the comrade wrote: that all that was won is what was already set out in the rules created by the prison in the first place. We use the grievance system to try to win some improvements in conditions within the criminal injustice system. But we need to understand the limitations of this strategy and continue to educate people about the importance of dismantling the entire criminal injustice system. We can only win that battle as a part of the larger anti-imperialist fight.

(read more on the grievance victory at Jordan Unit)

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[Campaigns] [California State Prison, Los Angeles County] [California] [ULK Issue 32]
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Taking Grievance Petitions to Next Level

I send my greetings to the reader of this letter. Thank y'all for sending me ULK 30. As always, it was easy, mind-broadening reading. Although I understand and accept the realities presented by your info, it is discouraging to see that we of this line of thought are the minority. As obvious as all of the societal contradictions, imbalances, and institutional hypocricies are, the majority of people still hold on to the lie that Amerikkka is a fair, just, and free society. It's absurd and obscene.

I had filed a state court petition challenging the staff's abuse of the inmate appeal process here at California State Prison - Los Angeles County. The judge has issued an order for the prison officials to informally respond, and they in turn were granted an extension of time on responding. The good thing is that the petition was not summarily dismissed as is routine in the California state courts. Nevertheless, the facts, law, and evidence are strong in my claim. If given a fair shake in litigating I absolutely expect victory in the case.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade filed a state court petition in the same vein as the campaign for the proper addressing of grievances which is now three years strong. Many participants in this campaign are still circulating petitions in their facilities and mailing them to their respective wardens, prisoner support groups, etc. But others, like this comrade, have applied their knowledge of the legal system to push the campaign even further.

We hope the state court petition this comrade filed does have its fair shot at success in the courts, as these victories can contribute to the larger struggle of the oppressed in this country. Sadly, we know this is unlikely, and it is for the same reasons why Amerikans choose to ignore the "societal contradictions, imbalances, and institutional hypocricies" we report on in Under Lock & Key. Even though all Amerikans have at least some general idea of the terrible things this country does across the world and within its own borders, they receive so many great things from being Amerikan that they are willing to accept and even back those actions. We are in the minority in this country. Rather than stay discouraged, we should do as this comrade does and take that as a cue that we need to work that much harder and with more creativity in order to pave the way for revolution. And always keep in mind that we are in the majority globally.

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[Abuse] [Censorship] [Illinois]
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Fabricated Protests and Repression

29 April 2012 — Greetings with love and peace. I hope you're all well and peaceful when you receive this scroll. My six month date to check in has arrived so here it is.

I have received the November/December 2011 ULK issues. I received the January/February 2012 issue as well. There was an article in there about some alleged protest at Stateville Correctional Center in Illinois. Also, an article about the cruel and unusual conditions of confinement at Menard Correctional Center.

I was sent here to Pontiac Correctional Center because Stateville I.A.[?] members — in retaliation for me filing grievances and a 1983 on them — framed me as a ringleader in that alleged protest. I have since come to find out (as I suspected all along) that no protest occurred. Yet, I was punished with a year segregation for the false ticket I.A. issued against me.

I wrote an 11-page letter for ULK to publish in which I addressed this, the issues at Menard Correctional Center, and how I filed a suit on the I.A. for issuing me two false tickets in retaliation for me exercising my First Amendment rights.

The I.A. here intercepted that letter and wrote me up for Dangerous Communications, and attempting Dangerous Disturbance. I was found guilty and given six months segregation amongst other things. I filed a grievance and for the second time in my 12 years within Illinois Department of Corrections the ticket was expunged. The Grievance Officer called the Director and the Director told him to expunge the ticket and Final Summary Report.

Hopefully, this letter reaches you. Did the February 2012 letter of mine reach you? Just wondering if it went out since the ticket was expunged.

I had to refile my suit and did so last week. I think the judge may have appointed me counsel (as she should) because I filed another 1983 in the same envelope against Correctional Officer Christopher M. Medin from Stateville and already received a form to serve on him via the U.S. Marshal.

It is imperative that this letter be published as other prisoners were set up as well. My suit is in the Northern District under the title Mejia v. Harrington, et al., No. 12 C 2824.

All of the ULKs I received were confiscated by the I.A. here (Paul Blackwell) and I have grievances pending on those matters. Now all of a sudden I cannot have the March/April 2012 ULK. I have a grievance pending on that. Well, it's that hour for me to withdraw but open your minds and not your porno mags and state property boxes.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We are publishing this letter almost one year after it was sent to us because of the recent campaign being initiated in Illinois to expose and fight the censorship of Under Lock & Key and other mail from MIM(Prisons).

As is demonstrated here, we have limited access to information coming from behind the walls, and rely on the reports of our correspondents on the ground to tell us about how the prison movement is developing. The article from ULK 24 reported a unified uprising against conditions of confinement in the same spirit as the California action in July 2011. The more correspondents who write in on the political movement in their prison, the more sound information we will have to report on in ULK, particularly where we can cross-reference different reports to get an overall picture of what is going on. Get in touch if you'd like more direction on how to become a ULK Field Correspondent.

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[Elections] [National Oppression]
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Prisoners Used to Boost Rural Census Counts

Lots of attention is being given to counting prisoners in the political arena, why?

Because census counts add prisoner population numbers to the community where the prison is located, more and more incarcerated inner city residents are being used to strengthen the economically weak areas of rural Amerika. More prisoners means more jobs, more government money and more political power.

Prisons, which were once eschewed have become a boom for many small towns. Cheap land and willing residents make these isolated communities the perfect location for this country's growing number of human warehouses.

Census numbers determine such things as highway funding, fire stations, hospitals, medicaid, foster care, rehab-services, schools and parks just to name a few. Most of these benefits will never be seen by prisoners. Prisoners are a lucrative commodity in the census game.

State officials are quick to cite the benefits of prisons in economically depressed communities. Government aid, indigent medical care, energy assistance, and revenue sharing are just a few of the selling points.

The majority of the nation's prison population is either Black or Latino. Locating these unwilling residents in a small, predominantly white towns fundamentally shifts the balance of political power through the redistricting process. It is not just federal money that follows us out of our community, it is political power as well.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This prison-based gerrymandering is a problem that has been extensively documented by the Prison Policy Institute who explain: "The Bureau counts incarcerated people as residents of the towns where they are confined, though they are barred from voting in 48 states and return to their homes after being released. The practice also defies most state constitutions and statutes, which explicitly state that incarceration does not change a residence."

Unlike the PPI, we don't prioritize the fight to change the Census Bureau policies. The push for reform is insidious in the implication that we can improve capitalist democracy to make elections and government programs actually serve the people. But this is a good example of the hidden forms of white power that are executed through the state to this day in 2013. While oppressed nations are disproportionately disenfranchised of the vote in Amerikan democracy, white communities use these prisoners to skew financial resources away from the oppressed nations to themselves. This, of course, is only possible because of national oppression earlier on in the process where law enforcement targets oppressed nation communities, while drug use in white communities goes on with little interference. Such types of oppression and manipulation are inherent in a capitalist system.

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[Campaigns] [California State Prison, Corcoran] [California]
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The System Isn't Broken, it Works for the Oppressor

Fifteen years of prison, so-called, life, and still I am surprised at times by the way these pigs are willing to sink to new lows.

This 602 appeals system at Corcoran is extremely scandalous. Not only have I received the 602 appeals of several other people, having to get their mail back to them by a transporter and fishing line, in 2012, 5 appeals I sent to my "counselor" (nothing but a plainclothes CO) to be referred to the appeals coordinator, had just disappeared! And yet the pigs still ask you to submit evidence to them with your appeal. Why? So they can throw it away? 2013 is not any different. We get a total runaround and boldfaced filibuster.

In the past months I have been 602ing the issue of the pigs only choosing English on these silly movies they play. They know I have an issue with a few court rulings associated to it, and the game this time was to wait a month with my 602 in their hooves and send it back to me one month to the day, unanswered or stamped or even declared "rejected" which they do for incredible "reasons." Now, when I refile, they will say I didn't "take action" within 30 days, as if they didn't sit on my 602 for a month. As if I didn't do anything.

The other issues include trying to get SHU inmates to be allowed chess and cards, like on the mainline. I have received 10 dirty trick filibuster moves from them. One appeals coordinator says I attached "inappropriate forms" in my appeal, my response was to show how the form I got came from another appeals coordinator!!! Then they say I have to resubmit the original appeal because the new one duplicated what they stamped as "rejected." So, I tore up parts of that and submitted them as proof that the original is torn up, "can't retrieve from sewers" I wrote. They will reject that too for some ridiculous pretext. I am collecting all of their confetti, to show to the new convicts and people on the outside who don't know yet, this system isn't broken, it is meant to work exactly as it is, that is against us, against our interests.

I am incensed and enraged that I am undergoing the same type of gimmicks that I have read about describing the state craft of "Israeli rejectionism" where only if you are an obedient Israeli can you get a license to drive or build a home or work on a farm: they "reject" all attempts at life outside their monopoly. They want to maintain jurisdiction over me.

The same gimmicks were employed in South Africa, under apartheid where we learn from studying the example of that tyranny, how it "thrives on details." Bureaucratic delays and technicalities employed ad infinitum to deliberately runaround any application or petition or appeal. The paperwork would not work if filed by a Black African. "I can't hear you, I can't see you, I can't say anything."

The courts will reject you too if you don't exhaust your administrative procedures. It's good for prisoners to get this runaround game out of the way as soon as they get here, to learn that, wherever one class of people is slave to another class whether in a colony or the pen, or on a city street, such gimmicks have to exist alongside of the oppression. And its vital to know the futility of trying to beat the pigs, at a game played by pig rules. And it guarantees an explosive response.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We agree that it is good to work through the administrative procedures for grievances even though they are set up so that most grievances will fail. This does teach prisoners a lesson about the game that is played by pig rules. But we can also use these rejections to educate others to fight the system on their own terms. This rigged grievance system is why United Struggle from Within initiated the grievance campaign in California, which has now spread to many other states. The petition is just one more way to put pressure on the criminal injustice system to play by their own rules. Some victories have been won with persistence. But we know that even with a systematic campaign we can not hope to fundamentally alter the criminal injustice system under imperialism. This is why the grievance campaign is just one small part of our larger anti-imperialist battle.

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[Education] [Adirondack Correctional Facility] [New York]
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Prisoners Struggle with Lack of Education Programs in NY

Upon entering the state of New York's prison system in 1992 I did not have my high school diploma, nor did I possess my GED. I am a high school drop out. Leaving my education behind was one of the biggest errors I committed in my life while coming of age as an irresponsible adult.

My biggest hurdle, besides my own roadblocks, was worrying about how my peers would judge me (in prison) if I was to enroll in the GED class. This prevented me from signing up. In the New York State Prison System (NYSPS) you cannot get a respectable job/program if you lack the credentials of either a high school diploma or GED. The most you can make is $6/bi-weekly. However, if you have this education then you can make as much as $30/bi-weekly. I was hindering myself from earning more money due to an attitude, misinformation, and pride which left me stagnated for many years.

A person incarcerated in NYSPS cannot enroll in any college programs without either a high school diploma or GED. This was another slap in my face when I desired to register in the "free" college program in 1993 while housed at Attica Correctional Facility.(1)

In 1999 the assistant to the leader in the Islamic Chaplain ordered me to enroll in the GED program when he learned I did not have either a diploma or GED. I enrolled in a GED class and after earning it in 1999 I enrolled in the Inmate Program Assistant (IPA) course which I completed with honors allowing me to land a program as a Teacher's Aid.

Through the years from 1992-1999 I witnessed a drop in the GED graduates among the prison population. This was partly due to, in my observation, the lack of concern the civilian teachers(CT) had for the education of Blacks and Latinos in the classroom, deficient supervision from the civilian teachers toward the hired IPAs who'd rather play cards with the student than help them learn, and poor administrative leadership which directly affects almost every student who really does want to learn. Albany administration limited the utilization of IPAs when the civilians failed to compete with the IPAs statistics in turning out more GED grads than the CTs. So a memorandum came down from Albany to reduce some of the IPAs in the classroom.

From 1999-2008 I witnessed a swooping change in the classroom which shocked my conscience. I saw very few IPAs in the classroom who were bilingual (speaking Spanish and English), I rarely saw Spanish-speaking CTs who could relate to the Latino speaking population. This lack of diversity in the State of New York prison system is hindering the chances for Latinos.

My experience at Barehill Correctional Facility will shock your mind, because of the laziness of the CTs who sit in boardroom chairs, leaning back reading the latest James Patterson novel, with no care in the world. As long as the students and IPAs remain quiet, everything is okay! The CTs get paid for sitting in a classroom doing absolutely nothing, just making sure the students don't tear up the classroom or fight one another. I have written Albany to explain the downfall in the classroom only to be dubbed the troublemaker, whistle blower, or snitch amongst the prison administration in NYS.

Right now I am struggling to continue my education in this facility. It is very difficult to pursue higher education in this facility because of the mindset of the administration (prejudice, racist, and bias) toward the Blacks and Latinos who desire superior education, as opposed to working as a porter around the compound. The waiting list for enrolling into school is at least 3-4 months. By that time many of the prisoners are preparing to either go home, see the board of parole, or transfer to another facility. According to some of the prisoners at Adirondack CF, there are only two civilians teachers who serve the population.

Notes:
1. While at Attica Correctional Facility in 1993-1996, the Pell Grant program was eliminated from the educational programming due to NYS legislature yielding to the public outcry that "prisoners have a better opportunity to earn higher education than their children, who struggle to pay their college tuition." so I was unable to earn a college degree sooner.


MIM(Prisons) adds: Lack of educational opportunities is a major element of national oppression in the United $tates. As we wrote about in an article on Affirmative Action, it is not just in prisons where the schools are inadequate. This is part of the system that prepared Blacks and Latinos for prison. One benefit of an education is jobs that pay higher wages, but the primary reason we focus on education for our comrades behind bars is to raise their political consciousness. Learning basic reading and writing skills is the place to start. We encourage all of our comrades behind bars to take advantage of any prison education programs you can find.

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[Censorship] [Education] [Michael Unit] [Texas]
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Study Group Responses Censored by Prison

These repressive forces (Michael Unit mail room supervisor and staff) have stopped my study group answers for the On Contradiction assignment and The Universality of Contradiction assignment. This is my first submission of study group answers from this unit and apparently they are misinterpreting and/or deliberately misconstrue the content of my study group answers. Well now they need to be checked and stopped in their tracks before they get to feeling themselves.

Note in the attached censorship notification they wrote: "Correspondence contains information pertaining to unauthorized group or organization." The form I signed off includes a postscript explaining that this office will notify the mail room of this address possibly being used by gang members.

How in the hell do my study group answers on philosophy correlate with information pertaining to unauthorized groups? Obviously they are trying to make a connection to my pseudonym and my official association, which has nothing to do with my participation in the revolutionary study group. They are also intimidated by any language that uses terms that they cannot fully comprehend.

I am never passive in my affairs and had intended to catch up on my study group activity after my recent unit reassignment caused me to fall behind. I do understand the repressive tactics and strategy that these opposition forces are well known for using. Anything to criminalize a real revolutionary.

I will expose them for their incompetence and harassment. I have previous documents that will show that my involvement in study group is long standing and has nothing to do with my official association. I will file a grievance if my appeal is denied.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We run political theory study groups through the mail for prisoners interested in advancing their education. These classes study things like the Mao essay "On Contradiction." The only "group affiliation" in these classes is work with MIM(Prisons), and as of yet we have not been banned as an organization in Texas prisons. We applaud this comrade for his diligent fight against this censorship. Prisoners interested in participating in political study classes can write to us to join the next session.

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[Campaigns] [Telford Unit] [Gib Lewis Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 32]
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Fighting for Food in Texas: Grievance Strategy Response to ULK 31

In Under Lock & Key 31, a comrade from Lewis H/S here in Texas wrote about being fed two small corndogs and five prunes for lunch. Here at the Telford unit in Texas we are on unit lockdown at the time, and matter of fact today we were fed two small corndogs and a very small portion of raisins. But this is quite common during lockdown on all units. To our comrade at Lewis H/S, if it's a regular meal you were referring to, then a grievance will work just right. But like a grievance officer here once told us: "You file one or two grievances and they will not do nothing. But get people together and file fifteen or more, and you will get some action."

Here we were having problems with our regular and diet meals. Well a fellow prisoner stepped up and filed a grievance on both regular and diet meals. As we can see, he was willing to fight not only for himself, but for others as well. He needed some signatures. Many in Ad-Seg openly admitted being afraid of retaliation. We still got 46 strong to sign, but only after argument among ourselves. Two weeks later our portions were doubled. But that was only on the pod that filed the grievance.

I don't remember exactly, but according to the grievance we are supposed to be fed a certain amount of calories each meal. Which means that all that is served on our trays has to be measured by weight. Maybe there is a comrade out there somewhere who knows the right amount and can tell us.

Administration does get scared when a large group joins hands. And as we know, there are several organizations out there that will not file a lawsuit for only an individual prisoner. But when a large group joins hands, these organizations will take the case and file for prisoners. We need to file, file, and file. Don't be afraid of retaliation. If the pigs retaliate, add them to your lawsuit. If they deny your grievances, don't stop there, file a lawsuit. How will the state look with all these lawsuits coming from prisoners. We need to stick together brothers. Together we stand, divided we fall.

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[Campaigns] [Jordan Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 32]
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Grievance Victories are Won Through Unity

I would like to inform you of a small but major win for your comrades who have recently joined you over at the Jordan Unit. I was on that unit two years. The entire time I was there I listened to people tell me how they fought the rec issues there constantly to no avail. This was my first flaw; I believed we could not win.

I realized this two years later when I was moved to another wing where the conditions were worse. This prompted a totally different response out of me. I researched the policies myself along with the prior grievances others had filed. I learned several things. One was that we were dealing with tyrants, and two, the people who were filing grievances had been ill-informed and were not formatting them appropriately. Their information was jumbled, they failed to utilize policy numbers, etc. This allowed the administration to play the crazy card.

Long story short, myself and three others went to different individuals educating them on what was and had been going on so that they understood. We got every grievance signed and dropped, and we organized two demonstrations. In one protest we converged on the rec yard simultaneously as a show of solidarity, and once told to disperse we dispersed into smaller groups simultaneously, and once told to disperse again, we went back to what we were doing.

The importance of these steps is to allow the administration to understand: 1) We are together, united on this issue, all peoples, all races; 2) We are structured; and 3) We are willing to follow orders. This is the reason for converging, breaking down into smaller groups, and then dismantling.

The second demonstration was an intentional 23-hour lockdown that drew the administration out to talk to us personally. We learned the policies they were leaning on, and their intended avenue of grievance, and in less than 45 days our first wave of grievances came back denied. And as they said they would do, they took their avenue of defense. But within one more week our last grievance succeeded, and two years of problems were settled in less than 45 days with the appropriate initiative.

There were things I felt could have been handled differently when I look back, but this is the first of many fights to come. The battle cry is far from over. I'm at a new place now, and we will see what experiences are to come. The grievance process as we all know is not always a working thing. How could it be? So in my eyes it is only a method of exhaustion when applicable. So we use it not only for our benefit but for the benefit of all those who stand beside us in the fight no matter what parts they play because they may not be as informed.

The main thing I learned is that the big fight is not our petty battles, but the fight we wage with ourselves. I met many people who could give 1000s of excuses why we couldn't win and not one reason we could. There are those who even believed that they deserved to be treated with no respect because they are incarcerated. And all I could think is, "Wow! How do we get to that point in our minds?"

So to all those that stood by in the fight I send one message: The fight must go on. It must continue even in the face of adversity, partiality, difference, and wanton tyrannical practices. This is the only thing that is certain. And that certainty is found in necessity of sacrifice. There are no exceptions, not for me, not for you, not for anyone. Prepare to give it all every single time until it becomes practice, and hope for an inch. Because unfortunately this is usually how it is gained, one inch at a time. And when we begin to see far enough, we realize that our fights were not to reap immediate benefits, but an investment in tomorrow. Our jobs are simply to keep the fight alive so that someone, anyone, may receive a return on the investment.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We agree with this comrade's message of the importance of unity, and the reality that we can only expect to win small victories through our day-to-day battles. We know that the grievance system in Texas and elsewhere is set up to defeat prisoners' complaints. But the USW campaign to demand our grievances be addressed is helping with small battles like those described by this prisoner. At the same time, we must keep in mind that these small victories are part of a larger battle against imperialism as a system. And we can't expect to win that overnight, but we can build, and educate, as this comrade says "as an investment in tomorrow."

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