While reading a comrade's April 2017 SF Bay View, National Black Newspaper, I cam across an ad regarding the Texas prisoners' boycott of the prison commissary injustice.
This ad helped me realize that the unarmed robbery of the loved-ones of prisoners is not only a Florida atrocity, but a national occurrence. Prisoners in Texas and other states are being used as a means of robbing not only tax payers, but loved-ones of prisoners, who are constantly being punished for supporting prisoners financially and emotionally. The imperialist monopolizers are making hundreds of millions annually through the commissary system. I can't help but confirm and echo the main points of the Texas prisoners' ad:
Sub-par and poor quality food items.
Faulty electronics that regularly break (after short use).
Tennis shoes which tear up after a week of use.
Inflated prices and price gouging tactics.
Abuse and disrespect from employees of commissaries.
All of the above mentioned is nothing but the truth to which I would love to add more. In Florida, specifically Charlotte Correctional Institution, there exists a staff canteen menu and a prisoner canteen menu. The double standard and financial discrimination can't help but be realized once both menus are compared. Prisoners are paying twice as much as staff for the same food items. Some of the most popular food items are listed below for your own concluding.
Charlotte CI staff canteen menu prices and Prisoner Canteen menu prices:
.88 per sleeve
The above list does not mention hygiene items. However, prisoners are paying exorbitantly for hygiene items that are clearly not worth their price. For example, the $4 deodorant from prescription care and Oraline-Seccure (meant for indigent prisoners) leaves prisoners musty in just a matter of hours. The $2.85 prescription care lotion is so generic it dries the skin quick as it moistens it. And it's definitely not meant for Black people. The $1.12 prescription care shampoo does not lather up and causes more dried scalp and itching than the state soap. There is 99-cent soap claiming to be anti-bacterial and 50-cent soap, both made by Silk. Neither of these soaps are worth even being given away for free.
Prisoners do not want these canteen items. They complain amongst each other but are too cowardly to write grievances or stop buying from canteen. We all know that it is our loved ones who are being attacked by the state. We all know our families who support us are being extorted, but the needle is just too deep in our veins. Florida only has one canteen vendor (Trinity) leaving us without options or other places to shop. We are simply victims of a monopoly and we are contributing to our own victimization.
It is quite clear that the canteen profits only benefit Trinity and high-ranking members of the state prison system. It is clear that the profits are being used against prisoners rather than for their welfare and genuine rehabilitation programs.
Even in the visiting park, freeworld citizens visiting their loved-ones are forced to pay prisoner canteen prices. This price-gouging is a war against the innocent citizens who support prisoners. It also results in the isolation of prisoners from the outside world and leaves prisoners dependent and vulnerable against the state.
One is left with no choice but the question: where is all the profit from the unarmed robbery of prisoners' loved ones? What is being done with these millions of dollars in profit? This matter must be investigated and objectively challenged. We prisoners surely need to stop perpetuating our own victimization by the state of Florida DOC.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer exposes one of the many ways that companies and individuals are making money from the prison system in this country. While overall the prisons are run at a financial loss, subsidized for most of their costs by state and federal funds (i.e. taxpayer money), lots of people are still making money off the operation of prisons.
Obviously the prisons' employees (COs, administrators, etc.) are earning a good salary and have an interest in keeping the system going. In some prisons medical is contracted out, and then there are the many companies that sell prisons all the stuff they need to run: from clothing to food to furniture to security equipment. Most of this is funded by a subsidy from the government.
But canteen is a case of the costs falling on prisoners' families. And this is just one of many costs borne by families of prisoners. As we exposed in an article in ULK 60 "MIM(Prisons) on U.$. Prison Economy - 2018 Update," mass incarceration costs families and the community $400 billion per year.
Throughout the numerous issues of Under Lock & Key (ULK), we have read countless articles detailing the unjust and inhumyn conditions of imprisonment across U.$. prisons and jails. Many of these stories, and the compelling analyses they entail, help shape and develop our political consciousness. From the hunger strikes in California to the rampant humyn rights' violations in Texas on to the USW-led countrywide grievance campaign, through the pages of ULK, we have shared our organizing struggles, the successes and setbacks. As a result, our clarity regarding the illegitimacy of the U.$. criminal (in)justice system has sharpened tremendously.
And yet, there are some political and economic dimensions of our imprisonment that seem to evade our critical gaze. It is not enough that we become familiar with each others' stories behind the walls. At some point, we must move toward relating our collective organizing experiences in prison to much broader struggles beyond prison. To this end, the anti-prison movement(1) is but a necessary phase of national liberation struggles that has serious implications for anti-imperialism. And in order for the anti-prison movement to advance we must analyze all sides of the mass incarceration question.
Many of us already understand that prisons function as tools of social control. We also recognize that U.$. prisons are disproportionately packed with oppressed nation lumpen, ostensibly because these groups organized and led national liberation movements during the late-1960s to mid-70s. After these movements succumbed to repression from U.$. reactionary forces (COINTELPRO), the U.$. prison population rose dramatically and then exploded, resulting in what we know today as mass incarceration.(2) Thus, we see, in a very narrow way, the basis for why U.$. prisons serve in neutralizing the existential threat posed by oppressed nation lumpen.
But understanding the hystorical basis of mass incarceration is only one part of the question. The other part is determining how the systematic imprisonment of oppressed nation lumpen has developed over time, and exploring its impact throughout that process. Because while the question of mass incarceration may seem as formulaic as "national oppression makes necessary the institutions of social control," the reality is this question is a bit more involved than mere physical imprisonment.
The latter point in no way opposes the analysis that the primary purpose of mass incarceration is to deter oppressed nation lumpen from revolutionary organizing. In fact, the political and economic dimensions of mass incarceration described and analyzed later in this article function in the same capacity as prison bars -– in some instances, the bonds of poverty and systemic marginalization, or the racist and white-supremacist ideology that criminalizes and stigmatizes oppressed nation lumpen are just as strong as the physical bonds of imprisonment. If oppressed nation communities, particularly lumpen communities, are kept in a perpetual state of destabilization, disorganization, and distraction, then these groups will find it that much harder to effectively organize against a status quo that oppresses them.
The point of this article is thus to widen the panorama of our understanding, to take in those political and economic dimensions of mass incarceration that too often go unnoticed and unexamined, but are nonetheless important in determining the line and strategy necessary to advance the anti-prison movement.
Partial Integration Set the Table for Mass Incarceration
As pointed out above, mass incarceration deters oppressed nation lumpen from revolutionary organizing. But what does this analysis really mean in today's context of the national question? How does the prevention of oppressed nation lumpen from organizing for national liberation impact the national contradiction; that is, the contradiction between the Euro-Amerikan oppressor nation-state and the U.$. internal oppressed nations and semi-colonies?
The lumpen-driven liberation movements of past were, in part, strong rebukes against the integrationist Civil Rights movement (which of course was led by the bourgeoisie/petty-bourgeoisie of oppressed nations). Thus we see the partial integration agenda as an alliance and compromise between the Euro-Amerikan oppressor nation-state (its ruling class) and the comprador bourgeoisie of oppressed nations. It is meant to answer the national question set forth by the earlier protest movements (revolutionary and progressive) of oppressed nations, on one hand, and to ease tensions inherent in the national contradiction, on the other hand.
In exchange for open access to political power and persynal wealth, the comprador bourgeoisie was tasked with keeping their lumpen communities in check. To this point, it was thought that if Black and Brown faces ruled over Black and Brown places, then much of the radical protest and unrest that characterized the period between the mid-60s to mid-70s would be quelled.
This is the very premise of identity politics, and, as Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor aptly notes: electing leaders of oppressed nations into political office does not change the dire material and socioeconomic circumstances of the communities they represent.(3) In eir book, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, Taylor goes on to describe the failure of partial integration (and identity politics) with respect to the New Afrikan nation,(4) contending:
"The pursuit of Black electoral power became one of the principal strategies that emerged from the Black Power era. Clearly it has been successful for some. But the continuing crises for Black people, from under-resourced schools to police murder, expose the extreme limitations of that strategy. The ascendance of Black electoral politics also dramatizes how class differences can lead to different political strategies in the fight for Black liberation. There have always been class differences among [New Afrikans], but this is the first time those class differences have been expressed in the form of a minority of Blacks wielding significant political power and authority over the majority of Black lives."(5)
Here we see Taylor describes the inability of partial integration to remedy the plight of the entire New Afrikan nation and its communities. Ey also articulates very precisely the internal class divisions of New Afrika brought to light by such an opportunistic agenda, which serves to enforce and maintain semi-colonialism. There is a reason why the Euro-Amerikan oppressor nation-state allied with the comprador bourgeoisie, as their interests were (and are) clearly more aligned than conflicting, given the circumstances. Where the bourgeois/petty-bourgeois integrationists wanted access to capitalist society, the lumpen and some sections of the working class of oppressed nations saw their future in their liberation from U.$. imperialist society – two very different "political strategies" reflective of somewhat contentious "class differences."
Furthermore, Taylor highlights the moral bankruptcy of partial integration (and identity politics) with the contemporary lesson of Freddie Gray's tragic murder and the Baltimore uprising that followed. Ey explains, "when a Black mayor, governing a largely Black city, aids in the mobilization of a military unit led by a Black woman to suppress a Black rebellion, we are in a new period of the Black freedom struggle."(6) This "new period" that Taylor speaks of is nothing more than good-ole neo-colonialism.
To elaborate further, an understanding of the Baltimore uprising, for example, cannot be reduced down to a single incident of police murder. Let's be clear, New Afrikan lumpen (and youth) took to the streets of Baltimore in protest and frustration of conditions that had been festering for years — conditions that have only grown worse since the end of the "Black Power era." Obviously, the political strategy of identity politics (i.e. "the pursuit of Black electoral power") has not led to "Black liberation." Instead it has resulted in an intensification of class tensions internal to the U.$. oppressed nation (in this case, New Afrika), as well as increased state repression of oppressed nation lumpen.
This latter point is evidenced by the support of policies from the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) that target, disrupt, and imprison oppressed nation communities (lumpen communities).(7) At the same time that these communities struggled under the weight of economic divestment and merciless marginalization, conditions which in many respects worsened under the political leadership of the comprador bourgeoisie, the drug trade opened up, providing a precarious means of survival. Predictably, as "crime"(8) increased so too did the creation and implementation of criminal civil legislation that fueled mass incarceration. To really get a sense of the true interests of the comprador bourgeoisie of oppressed nations, we only need to look at the positions taken by the CBC, the so-called champions of freedom, equality, and justice, which "cosponsored conservative law-and-order politics out of not political weakness but entrenchment in Beltway politics."(9) It is clear that partial integration has been "successful for some," but it is equally apparent who the victims of this opportunistic agenda have been.
What is often missed in any serious and sober analysis of the CBC (or any other political org. representative of the comprador bourgeoisie) is the legitimacy it bestows upon the prison house of nations: U.$. imperialist society. This legitimacy isn't some figment of imagination, but a material reality expressed primarily in the class-nation alliance signified by the partial integration agenda. Dialectically, while the comprador bourgeoisie is granted the privileges of "whiteness," access to political and economic power, the lumpen and some sections of the working class of oppressed nations are deemed superfluous (not necessary) for the production and reproduction of U.$. imperialist society. Of course, the election of more members of oppressed nations into office goes a long way in maintaining the facade that the United $tates is a free and open society that respects and upholds the rights and liberties of its citizenry. However, identity politics will never obscure the sacrificial zones within U.$. society -– South and Westside Chicago, Eastside Baltimore, Compton and South Central and East Los Angeles, and many more deprived urban lumpen areas –- maintained and, in many cases, made worse by partial integration.
Unfortunately, this is where we find the oppressed nation lumpen today on the national question, held hostage by a set of identity politics complicit in its further marginalization and oppression.
Politics of Mass Incarceration
In discussing the failure of partial integration to effectively improve the material and socioeconomic life of the entire oppressed nation, we can better appreciate the extreme limitations of such an anemic political strategy that is identity politics. But if the legitimacy that partial integration (and identity politics) provides U.$. society can only go so far in actually pacifying oppressed nation lumpen, then by what other means and methods are these superfluous groups controlled? In the next two sections, we will explore and analyze this question.
Racism and white supremacy are constant ideological threads woven throughout the founding and development of U.$. society. In each era, be it slavery, segregation, or mass incarceration today, the primary function of this political ideology is to rationalize and legitimate the oppression and/or exploitation of colonized peoples, which throughout these different eras invariably involved employing particular methods of social control against these peoples or specific groups thereof.
Now, of course, we cannot compare the fundamental nature of slavery with that of mass incarceration. And to be clear, this is not the point of this particular section. It should be obvious to the casual ULK reader that where the slave performed an essential economic role and was therein exploited and oppressed, oppressed nation lumpen have no role within the current socioeconomic order of U.$. society, as it is systematically denied access to it. The point, however, is to show how the ideological forces of racism and white supremacy, while they have assumed different forms depending on the historical era, are mobilized in service of the status quo. It is in this sense that political motivations underpin the system of mass incarceration. And as we will see in this section, these motivations are hystorically tied to the oppression and/or exploitation of U.$. internal oppressed nations and semi-colonies.
To be sure, the need to control oppressed nations has always been a paramount concern of the oppressor (settler) nation since settler-colonialism. During the era of slavery, slave codes were implemented to ensure that slaves were held in check, while slave patrols were formed to enforce these measures. We see here the emergence of the modern U.$. criminal (in)justice system in its nascent form, with its proto-police and proto-criminal laws. But it wasn't until after the abolition of slavery that we find express political motivations to criminalize oppressed nations. For Angela Y. Davis,
"Race [nation] has always played a central role in constructing presumptions of criminality ... former slave states passed new legislation revising the slave codes in order to regulate the behavior of free blacks in ways similar to those that had existed during slavery. The new Black Codes proscribed a range of actions ... that were criminalized only when the person charged was black."(10)
While the Black Codes were created in large part to control New Afrikan labor for continued exploitation, we are able to see the formation of policies and policing designed for the specific purpose of repressing oppressed nations. As a side note, irony doesn't begin to describe the enactment of the Thirteenth Amendment, meant to abolish slavery, to disestablish one system of oppression only to provide for the legal and political basis for another system of oppression -– convict lease labor.
Furthermore, Davis observes that, "The racialization of crime – the tendency to 'impute crime to color' ... did not wither away as the country became increasingly removed from slavery. Proof that crime continues to be imputed to color resides in the many evocations of 'racial profiling' in our time."(11) In this sense, oppressed nation lumpen criminality under conditions of mass incarceration is analogous to Afrikan "inferiority" or First Nation "savagery" under conditions of settler-colonialism. In both instances, there are narratives, informed by racism and white supremacy, which serve the continued functioning of the status quo.
Given that the criminalization of oppressed nations is not some modern phenomenon, but one that originated in the hystorical oppression and exploitation of oppressed nations, we now have a different angle from which to view mass incarceration. Part of this view involves recognizing that the criminal (in)justice system, law enforcement, and legislators are not neutral arbiters of justice or "law and order." These people and institutions are infected by racism and white supremacy and thus function to carry out ideological and political aims.
Therefore, it is important that we remain diligent in uncovering the many guises under which racism and white supremacy lurk and hide. This is no less significant today as it is in the cultural arena where reactionary ideas and ideologies are propagated and traded. To be more clear, when trying to rationalize why oppressed nation lumpen are imprisoned at disproportionate rates relative to similarly-situated Euro-Amerikans, arguments about lack of responsibility and no work ethic are tossed around as explanations. Mainstream media go even further by portraying and projecting stereotypes about oppressed nation lumpen (and youth), that is to say, stereotyping the dress, talk, and actions, which is really a subtle but sophisticated way of stigmatizing. Of course, this stigmatization goes on to construct a criminal archetype, which many of us see today in nearly every facet of U.$. media life.
All of these factors, taken into consideration together, shape the public conscience on "crime" and criminality, laying the groundwork for rationalizing the great disparities characteristic of the current criminal (in)justice system. Unsurprisingly, this propaganda has worked so effectively that even oppressed nation members find it hard to ignore. So where there should be unity on issues/incidences of national oppression, none exists, because the oppressed nation is divided, usually along class lines. Taylor strikes at the heart of the matter:
"Blaming Black culture not only deflects investigation into the systemic causes of Black inequality but has also been widely absorbed by [New Afrikans] as well. Their acceptance of the dominant narrative that blames Blacks for their own oppression is one explanation for the delay in the development of a new Black movement."(12)
This is certainly the plan of partial integration, to divide the oppressed nation against itself and thereby legitimize the marginalization and oppression of oppressed nation lumpen in the process. Naturally, this paralyzes the oppressed nation from acting on its right to self-determination, from pursuing liberation.
To frame this point another way, take a [email protected] business owner. This persyn has a business in a predominantly [email protected] lumpen community, despite residing in the suburbs. This business owner sees [email protected] youth hang out and skip school. Ey sees them engaged in questionable, possibly criminal activity. Add in the scenario that local media frames crime as a virtue of [email protected] lumpen youth on a nightly basis. And then say one day one of those [email protected] kids is killed by the police. How will the [email protected] business owner respond?
Before the era of mass incarceration, the overwhelming majority of the oppressed nation would have viewed this scenario for what it was: a police murder. Today, we cannot be so sure.
To sum up, the current criminal (in)justice system, law enforcements, etc. are unfair and unjust not because these institutions are biased against oppressed nations, but because the fundamental nature of society, the basis upon which these institutions are built and set in motion, is founded on the oppression of non-white peoples. We must remember that slavery was legal and segregation was held up as permissible by the highest courts in this stolen land. For us to view mass incarceration solely from the social control perspective undermines any appreciation for the urgency of anti-imperialism, for the need for a reinvigoration of U.$. national liberation struggles. We need to be more nuanced in our analysis because the system is nuanced in its marginalization and oppression of oppressed nation lumpen.
Economics of Mass Incarceration
This nuance mentioned above is primarily played out on an economic plane. And there are many economic dimensions and impacts of mass incarceration that maintain a strangle hold on oppressed nation lumpen and communities.
We can explore how contact with the criminal (in)justice system can leave an oppressed nation member and eir family destitute, through fees, fines, and other forms of financial obligations. We can look at the impact of prisons located in rural communities, providing employment opportunities and economic stimulus. We could even investigate prison industries and how prisoner labor is utilized to offset the costs of incarceration. However, the point here is that there are many things to analyze, all of which, taken as a whole, disadvantage oppressed nation lumpen and their communities.
The most consequential impact of mass incarceration is how it feeds the cycle of poverty and marginalization characteristic of lumpen communities. Basically, the criminalization / stigmatization of lumpen reinforces its material deprivation, which in turn nurtures conditions of criminal activity as a means of survival, further unleashing the repressive forces of the criminal (in)justice system, which proves or validates the criminalization / stigmatization of oppressed nation lumpen in the first place. Thus, oppressed nation lumpen are inarguably subjected doubly to the poverty and marginalization, on one hand, and to the relentless blows of national oppression, on the other hand.
Todd Clear, provost of Rutgers University – Newark, who specializes in the study of criminal justice, draws a stark picture of this cycle of crime and poverty that lumpen are subjected to:
"A number of the men are gone at any time; they're locked up. And then the men that are there are not able to produce income, to support families, to support children, to buy goods, to make the neighborhood have economic activity, to support businesses ... the net effect of rates of incarceration is that the neighborhood has trouble adjusting. Neighborhoods where there's limited economic activity around the legitimate market are neighborhoods where you have a ripeness to grow illegitimate markets."(13)
What Clear is depicting is not so much the fact that crimes take place in lumpen communities. Clear is emphasizing that criminogenic factors (factors that strongly tend to lead to criminal activity/inclination) are really a reflection of the lack of socioeconomic opportunities to social upward mobility. This is the essence that fuels the dynamic relationship between crime and poverty. What Clear fails to mention is that there are Euro-Amerikans who are in similarly-situated circumstances as oppressed nation lumpen but are more likely to escape them where oppressed nation lumpen are trapped. This is so for reasons already mentioned in the above sections.
Furthermore, not everyone in lumpen communities are imprisoned; in fact, most likely never see the inside of a jail or prison. But enough people do go away and stay away for a considerable period of time that the community is destabilized, and familial bonds are ruptured. When free, the imprisoned persyn from the lumpen community represented some sort of income, and not a liability weighing down a family, financially, morally, etc, already struggling to make ends meet. Enough of these families are part of the lumpen community that the cycle mentioned above seems to be unbreakable. Kids growing up in broken homes, forced to assume adult roles, only to make kid mistakes that come with adult consequences; and the cycle continues.
To be sure, this cycle has been in force with respect to oppressed nations since the end of slavery. It has just become necessary over time to enact laws and policies that now target and disrupt these communities. Both the politics and economics of mass incarceration work to keep lumpen communities from organizing for national liberation as was done during the late-60s.
Part of any strategy related to our anti-prison movement is first recognizing these dimensions of mass incarceration, and taking into account that we live in enemy society where enemy consciousness prevails, even amongst much of the oppressed nations. We have to also recognize that the interests of oppressed nation lumpen are not the same as the other classes of the oppressed nation. There are some members of the oppressed nations who have bought the bill of goods sold by partial integration. They are fully immersed in the delusions of identity politics, subtly sacrificing their true identity for the trinkets of "whiteness."
Understanding and recognizing these points means we can focus our organizing efforts on building public opinion and independent institutions, on a concrete class/nation analysis and not because someone is Black or Brown. We need to be patient with lumpen communities as they are in that day-to-day grind of survival and may not (or cannot) see the merit in our movement. Ultimately, we need to step up and be those leaders of the movement, so when we do touch we hit the ground running.
Prison labor is an interesting concept. Compared to the enormous expenditures (financial, mental, physical, etc.) the rewards/benefits of prison industrial labor are trivial in the extreme.
Excluding coveted "prison industry" posts, over 95% of prisoners are employed in prison maintenance, construction, administrative/educational labor). [This figure may be accurate in this comrade's state. Our preliminary results across 22 systems in the U.$. show almost 25% working in manufacturing and agriculture. — Editor] Indeed, such work does prove beneficial (in the case of kitchen labor — invaluable) to prison operations. Kitchen work notwithstanding, the sum total of benefits is small. So why do prisons use prisoner labor? Especially considering it does little to lessen the economic burden of penal institutions on society. There are two plausible answers to this question. Surprisingly, neither is directly linked to financial interests.
In the first place, prisoners are employed to reinforce socially acceptable behavior and occupational patterns (by capitalistic standards). While this may sound perfectly justifiable and even admirable; truth is, it is far less altruistic. Reinforcement of socially accepted roles is an integral aspect of the subjection-manipulation cycle (see ULK 52 – An Invaluable Resource? And ULK 54 – The Adaption of Capitalistic Controls), which through an invasive, subtle and constant life-long indoctrination, endeavors to create a homogeneous populace. Prison labor is meant to be a control for inducing conformity in prison which later translates to the same out in society. An objective achieved through subjection (mandatory labor) and manipulation (rewards or reprimands, restrictions and sanctions) in a never-ending cyclic process. A process similar to Pablo Escobar's approach to business — plata o plomo (silver or lead). In simple terms, accept my favor or risk my displeasure. This reality is paralleled throughout society. Contribute to capitalism, strive to become a capitalist, or experience privations, marginalization, ostracization, imprisonment or worse. In a way, prison labor is a form or reeducation, along capitalist lines.
In the second place, labor in prison provides an added buffer against unrest and radical organization among prisoners. Prisoners structure their days around their jobs, giving it importance and prominence in their daily lives. Many would feel lost at sea, wayward, direction-less without it. It gives the prisoner a focal point distinct from and meaningless to their best interests – toppling the penal system. Distracted by menial duties, most prisoners never bother to contemplate their plight, subjection/manipulation, origins of their situation and the oppression, which made it all possible (eventual?); not even mentioning the oppressors who become an abstract "them."
As such, prison labor does four important things for capitalism:
Reeducates deviants (self-determinants)
Drains on and distracts prisoner intellect
Impedes any meaningful development (mental, physical, political and social)
Prisons are gargantuan popular control systems. Prison labor is a system within a system created for the advancement of a thriving capitalist state — inequality and an overabundance of commodities. Considering how many prisoners work prison jobs, join society's labor force and become re-acclimated to capitalist control, the effectiveness of prison labor as a process is quite horrifying. Ignorance is a capitalist's bliss. Knowledge is a revolutionary's power. Understanding reality as it confronts us is the first step to dismantling the penal institute as a whole.
MIM(Prisons) adds: The point that much prison labor is not actually saving operating costs is an important piece to our analysis that we have yet to quantify. According to our survey, some 460,000 prisoners are working in prison maintenance jobs in the state and federal systems at a median of 150 hours per month. To hire that work out at $10/hr would cost around $9 billion, or what would amount to 10% of the money spent on the criminal injustice system.
However, it is not uncommon for state-funded programs to hire more people than they need to complete a job, because profit is not the motive. And it makes sense to pay prisoners for attending schooling and other programming activities when the motivations above are considered. This is another perspective on prisons as social control. Socialist states have and will also use prisons to shape populations in a certain direction. Of course, the state apparatus serves that economic system. In socialism, prisons combat classism. In capitalism, they reinforce it.
When state-level petitions fail, we now have this petition to appeal to the Department of Justice. This federal level appeal may help put pressure on the state corrections departments ignore our appeals
Mail the petition to your loved ones and comrades inside who are experiencing issues with the grievance procedure. Send them extra copies to share! For more info on this campaign, click here.
Prisoners should send a copy of the signed petition to each of the addresses below. Supporters should send letters on behalf of prisoners.
Section Chief – Special Litigation Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20530
ACLU National Prison Project, 915 15th St NW, 7th floor, Washington DC, 20005-2112 (for those ready to bring class action lawsuits)
Office of the U.S. Attorney General, 1425 New York Ave. NW, Washington DC 20530-0001
Director/Commissioner/Secretary of Corrections (for your state)
Agency or Facility Grievance System Director or Coordinator (for your state)
And send MIM(Prisons) copies of any responses you receive!
PO Box 40799
San Francisco, CA 94140
I'm writing on this topic a bit early because a lot of young brothers and sisters don't have true or real understanding regarding Black August and Bloody September. But for those of us who are politically aware, both months are rich with our blood, our struggle, and our resistance. As people who fight oppression during these two months as a peoples' movement we should focus our energies around the discussions and actions of George Jackson, the Black Panthers, Assata Shakur, Che Guevara, and any of the many revolutionaries who have set the stage for us.
We should push political education, progressive action, and the revolutionary history. We should most aggressively focus on the establishment of stronger security, because on 16 April 2018 the Department of Corrections and so-called "Rehabilitation" started a statewide weapons sweep of all California prisons to ensure that no weapons are on the prison yards when the state integrates mainline prisoners with SNY prisoners later this year.
We know first-hand what the power structure is doing — they're hoping that the yards all blow up. That would show that their jobs still matter and that we need to be in prison. This is their most outrageous move in years, and they've been feeding the disconnection of mainline and SNY for years as a tool of divide and conquer. The divide and conquer tactic has never been more effective than it is today.
As they say, a tree without roots is dead, and so is a people who are not rooted. Men such as comrade George, Huey P. Newton and Malcolm X started and enhanced their political line in prison as colonial criminals. Within these concentration camps and deep dark confines of Soledad Prison and San Quentin, the alchemy of human transformation took place. They all began to turn the cells they held into libraries and schools of liberation. As George said, to create a new world we have to be a representation of this new being, "The New Man", in words and in deeds, thoughts, and actions. This new man will be in his highest revolutionary form. So as they turned their cells into classrooms, so must we. And as they internalized the most advanced ideas about human development, so must we.
George stated that:
"I met Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Engels and Mao, and they redeemed me. For the first four years, I studied nothing but politics and economics and military ideas. I met Black Guerrillas, George Big Jake Lewis, James Carr, W.L. Nolen, Bill Christmas, Tony Gibson, and many others. We were attempting to turn the Black criminal mentality into a revolutionary mentality."
George and his comrades became living examples and inspirations of organized resistance for prisoners across the country. But on 21 August 1971, Comrade George Jackson and two others were murdered along with three prison guards in a gun fight inside one of California's maximum security prisons called San Quentin. For this reason, and many more, we hold bloody August as sacred.
Huey P. Newton was murdered 22 August 1989, in West Oakland on Tenth and Center, by a young drug dealer named Little Blood. He was a product of this system; the young hating the old, the light-skinned hating the dark. That's the same divide we have here today. I can get into the shit and kick up dust with the rest and the best. But I will not allow anyone to stop my hard work in being an organizer and educator. I've given twenty years to this mainline and SNY, so I'm going to push on. As Frantz Fanon stated in Wretched of the Earth, "There is no taking of the offensive — and no redefining of relationships." We know that the power structure wants us dead or locked up. So in case you didn't know, the revolution is on.
Power to the People
Build to Win
and glory be the Phunk is on the bald head man.
MIM(Prisons) adds: The California USW Primer explains how the split between SHU/mainline and SNY in California is at the heart of building a united front of prisoners in the state. All California USW comrades should have a copy of the primer as a guide for their work. Long-time readers of ULK will know that we have printed countless articles addressing this issue. Write in if you can use copies of some of these articles to help in your organizing for the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity this year. The campaign to build peace and unity between mainline and SNY will be coming to a head this year, and USW must play a leading role in guiding things in a positive direction as this comrade calls for.
Looking at the penal code for what has been codified as sexual assault by the criminal injustice system reveals a variety of different offenses, from various misdemeanors to serious felony violations. In the United $tates those accused of committing such heinous acts are considered to be the lowest of the low and prisons are no different. This essay attempts to address the topics of sex offenders within prison society and their relevance to the prison movement.
In attempting to write something on these topics I was forced to keep coming back to two main points of discussion: (1) the contradiction of unity vs. divisions within the prison movement itself, and (2) the all sex is rape line as popularized by the Maoist Internationalist Movement. The strength of my argument stems from both of these points.
What is the Prison Movement?
Before moving forward it is necessary for me to explain what we are trying to build unity around. The prison movement is defined by the various movements, organizations and individuals who are at this time struggling against the very many different faces of the Amerikkkan injustice system. Whether these struggles take place in Georgia, California, Texas, Pennsylvania or any other corner of the U.$. empire is not of much importance. What is important, however, is the fact that those organizations and individuals are currently playing a progressive and potentially revolutionary role in attacking Amerikkka's oppressive prison system.
In one state's prisons or jails the struggle might take the shape of a grievance campaign, or other group actions aimed to abolish the forced labor of prisoners. These movements tend to be led by an array of lumpen organizations. Some are revolutionary, some are not. Some are narrowly reformist in nature and will go no further than the winning of concessions. Others remain stuck in the bourgeois mindset of individualism while deceptively using a revolutionary rhetoric to attain their goals.
However, despite their separate objectives they are each in their own way taking collective action when possible to challenge their oppressive conditions. Furthermore, these movements, organizations and individuals, when taken as a whole, represent an awakening in the political and revolutionary consciousness of prisoners not seen since the last round of national liberation struggles of the internal semi-colonies. Those are the progressive qualities of the new prison movement.
The negative and reactionary aspects of the prison movement are characterized by the fact that many of these lumpen organizations still operate along traditional lines. Most continue to participate in a parasitic economy and carry out anti-people activity that is detrimental to the very people they claim to represent. In relation to the essay, most of these movements and organizations also have policies that exclude those the imperialist state has labelled "sex offenders," But can these movements and organizations really afford to adhere to these state-initiated divisions? What are the ramifications to all this?
According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the number of registered sex offenders in the United $tates for 2012 was 747,408, with the largest numbers in California, Texas and Florida.(1) Consequently, these are also three of the biggest prison states.
All Sex is Rape!
In the 1990s, the Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) became infamous amongst the Amerikan left for two reasons. The first was its class analysis, which said that Amerikkkan workers were not exploited, but instead formed a labor aristocracy due to the fact that they were being paid more than the value of their labor. Amerikkkans were therefore to be considered parasites on the Third World proletariat & peasantry, as well as enemies of Third World socialist movements.
The second reason was upholding the political line of First World pseudo-feminist Catherine MacKinnon, who said that there was no real difference between what the accused rapist does and what most men call sex, but never go to jail for. MacKinnon put forth the theory that under a system of patriarchy (which we live under) all sexual relations revolve around unequal power relations between those gendered men and those gendered wimmin. As such, people can never truly consent to sex. From this MIM drew the logical conclusion: all sex is rape.(2)
This line is not just radical, but revolutionary for its indictment of patriarchy and implication of the injustice system. MIM developed the all sex is rape line even further when it explained the relevance of rape accusations from Amerikkan wimmin against New Afrikan men and the hystorical relation between the lynching of New Afrikans by Amerikkkan lynch mobs during Jim Crow. Even in the 1990s when MIM looked at the statistics for rape accusations and convictions, it was able to deduce that New Afrikans were still being nationally oppressed by white wimmin in alliance with their white brethren.(3)
That said, this doesn't mean that violent and pervasive acts aren't committed against people who are gender oppressed in our society. Rather, I am drawing attention to the fact that Amerikan society eroticizes power differentials, and the media sexualizes children, yet they both pretend to abhor both. Regardless of who has done what we must not lose sight of what should be our main focus: uniting against the imperialist state, the number one enemy of the oppressed nations.
It is no secret that to call someone a "sex offender" in prison is to subject that persyn to violence and possibly death. Furthermore, it is a hystorical fact that pigs have used sex offender accusations as a way to discredit leading voices amongst the oppressed or simply to have prisoners target someone they have a persynal vendetta against. We must resist these COINTELPRO tactics and continue to unite and consolidate our forces, as to participate in these self-inflicted lynchings is just another way the pigs get us to do their dirty work for them.
In carrying out self-criticism, Mao Zedong said that there had been too many executions during China's Cultural Revolution. In particular, ey stated that while it may be justified to execute a murderer or someone who blows up a factory, it may also be justified not to execute some of these same people. Mao suggested that those who were willing should go and perform some productive labor so that both society could gain something positive and the persyn in question could be reformed.(4)
Maoists believe that problems amongst the people should be handled peacefully among the people and thru the methods of discussion and debate. Most prisoners are locked up exactly because they engaged in some type of anti-people activity at one point or another of their lives. Should these actions define prisoners? According to MIM Thought, all U.$. citizens will be viewed as reforming criminals by the Third World socialist movement under the Joint Dictatorship of the Proletariat of the Oppressed Nations (JDPON). The First World lumpen will be no exception regardless of crime of choice.
I wanna talk about an upcoming topic of "sex offenders" and their role in the struggle. A primary question is, I think, do they have a role in the struggle? It boils down to our moral outlook on sex offenders who were convicted by the imperialist justice system. How many wrongfully-convicted comrades are there in prison? I mean those who are not sex offenders. Are we wrong when we say that the U.$. imperialist justice system is broken and biased and oppressive and due to its historical implementation is invalid? No. I think most agree that this is the case.
And if that is the case, we cannot make exceptions to certain crimes and convictions. Or can we?
That leaves us to draw on what we ourselves as communists consider unlawful under socialism. Sex crimes, like all other physical assault, are unlawful. But how do we filter the sex offenders convicted by imperialists into the category with the rest of the convicted so-called "criminals" who fight within our ranks?
We know on the prison yards that we rely on what we call "paperwork" which is any police report or transcripts from the preliminary hearing or trial transcripts or even just mention or allegation that indicates someone's involvement of the crime or "snitching" for a dude to be blacklisted as "no good" on the yard. But that goes back to relying on an imperialist's rule of thumb when determining guilt.
Under our own law we would need to measure someone's guilt by our own standards and come up with ways of determining how to do so.
But what about the sex offenders who actually are guilty of sex crimes? Are they banned for life? Is there no "get-back" for them ever? Becuz of their crime can they provide no contribution to revolution or to society under a socialist state?
I think they can make a contribution to revolution. And under a socialist state, after being appropriately punished (not oppressed) and taught the lesson to be learned against crimes of humanity rehabilitation can be achieved.
Note that I'm not an advocate for sex offenders, so if I must set aside emotion and personal disgust for correct political analysis and conclusion to further the movement on this question, then we all must.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We want to use this contributor's perspective as an opportunity to go deeper into looking at the current balance of forces and our weakness relative to the imperialists. Our difficulties in measuring guilt, and helping rehabilitate people who want to recover from their patriarchal conditioning, are extremely cumbersome.(1)
The imperialists are currently the principal aspect in the contradiction between capitalism and communism. The imperialists have plenty of resources to set social standards (i.e. laws), conduct and fabricate "investigations," hold trial to "determine guilt," mete out punishment to those convicted, and even often find those who attempt to evade the process.
We hope by now our readers have accepted this contributor's perspective that we can't let the state tell us who has committed sex-crimes by our standards. The next step would be for us to figure out how to deal with people who are accused of anti-people sex-crimes in the interim, while we are working to gain state power. We can set our own social standards, attempt to conduct investigations to a degree, establish tribunals to determine guilt, and in our socialist morality, either mete punishment, or, even more importantly assist rehabilitation when we have power and resources to do so.
How much of this we can do in our present conditions is open for debate. How much someone can actually be rehabilitated by our limited resources while living under patriarchal capitalism is debatable. How relevant it is to put resources into this type of activity depends on how important it is to the people involved in the organization or movement.(1) How much resources we put into any one of these "investigations" depends on conducting a serious cost-benefit analysis.
For example, if someone contributes a lot to our work, and is accused of a behavior that is very offensive and irreconcilable to others who work with em, then that makes developing this process sooner than later a higher priority. At this stage in our struggle, low-level offenses should only be addressed by our movement to the degree that they build an internal culture that combats chauvinism and prevents other higher-level offenses from arising. Of course there is a ton of middle ground between these two examples. But what we might be able to address when we have state power (or even dual power) at this time may just need to be dealt with using expulsions and distance.