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Under Lock & Key

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[Political Repression] [Religious Repression] [Florida] [ULK Issue 38]
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Florida Prisoners Must Salute the Flag and Praise Jesus

My most sincere revolutionary greetings to all strugglers. Just a short note informing the world on the haps here on master Martin's plantation.

On Thursday, 27 February 2014, during Black history month a white Christian band was brought in to perform on the rec yard. Upon attending the function, prisoners were ordered to sit on the grass by staff. By the time the show began only about 30 prisoners stayed sitting on the ground. The whole compound went back inside. Feeling insulted and embarrassed, the administration took dictator-style action. They entered the dorms where the prisoners had already been placed on lock down for not participating in a religious event. The officers announced loudly in the dorm that "all who refuse to participate in the religious event on the yard will not only be kept on lock down, but their cells will be shook down and their personal property will be ransacked." So to avoid our personal property from being ransacked and thrown away, everybody from every dorm went to the yard and sat on the ground. How is that for the First Amendment?

Martin Correctional Institution happens to be one of the plantations at which the Veteran's Program is allowed. Not a problem, except that when the U.S. flag is being risen and put down with the sounding of the trumpet, all prisoners on the walkway must stop walking in honor of the flag or be disciplined, even placed in confinement. Dead-ass serious.

Enclosed is a disciplinary report (D.R.) written by Martin CI mail man Mr. Payne, accusing me of mail violation because I wrote a letter to Boston ABC some time in early 2013 concerning a petition regarding the Keefe Commissary network. The letter mentions that I stated that I placed a petition online. This must be a mistake considering the fact that the petition had been online long before I was informed of it and promoted it. It's also a known fact that I did not post or initiate the petition. Be that as it may, I pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 30 days on D.R. confinement, which I'm currently serving.


MIM(Prisons) responds: The political repression this comrade is currently facing for authoring an article protesting high commissary costs is a good example of why we do not print prisoners' names in Under Lock & Key. The pigs have too much control over our comrades' lives to let them know who is doing what all the time and not have it come back to bite us.

We can also add a concerted effort to censor Under Lock & Key to the list of political repression going on in Florida recently. They do things that piss people off, and then censor ULK for being "inflammatory" by reporting on it.

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[Organizing] [ULK Issue 37]
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Financing the Revolution

It has often been the position of readers of ULK and members of the United Struggle from Within that economic means and methods should be tried and applied in the struggle of prisoners against the capitalist-imperialists. Some say to boycott the commissary and deprive each state of the prisoner dollar it so much cherishes. Others say stop ordering packages from the state approved vendors. More sophisticated circles would say create more damages via civil action suits: state tort, personal injuries, small claims, you name it. Others have said to boycott prisoner accounts altogether to avoid any fees or cuts the state takes from it for restitution, release, medical co-pay, etc.

All of these tactics can potentially prove devastating if the right group of people apply them and progress the idea into material reality.

With $0.50 a prisoner can do so much, as that is the cost of a postage stamp. A letter can contain a list of new subscribers to Under Lock & Key. It can include an article, poem submission, or art. It can contain study group responses or a criticism to push our struggle forward.

Even if you don't draw, i know there's an artist next door to you. He/she lives off of their artwork alone. They don't go to the store, they just draw their tail off. For just a dollar that artist next door will draw four drawings of your imagination, the size of about a quarter of an average sheet of paper. With those four pieces you could express the walls of prison crumbling, or a lumpen prisoner handing their dinner tray to the family of an underdeveloped country through the window of a prison cell. You can commission this artist to draw anti-imperialist art to submit to ULK to be printed in the next issue. That one picture is surely going to touch more people than the artist expected it to.

Yet, in the economic struggle, lumpen prisoners often fail in the materialization of their own wealth. We must change this. In prison we often see ourselves as the haves and have-nots, when in the material reality of things we all have something to offer. Take the commissary industry. Not everybody actually submits an order form. There are those with monies to spend and those who have the heart to work with those who spend, earning a share of the spender's purchase. I persynally don't deposit monies in my trust. I use craft and trade to survive. I braid, cut and style hair. Many prisoners who have money to spend inside get monies from a source outside of prison. These sources deposit money into a prisoner's trust to take care of the prisoner. In return the prisoner takes care of hself. My specialty is helping the prisoner do this by keeping up their appearance and in return they offer a product from the commissary, where i then have purchasing power. Me, an anti-imperialist. I bring in anything from $1.50 to $3.00 easy per client on a yard that allows time and opportunity. Fast forward about ten clients per week and in a month's time i'll have $120. Off of this buck twenty i can order a pair of hair clippers with the works and the hottest legal commodity in prisons: coffee. Adding haircuts to my service, i'll double clientèle. Sixty dollars worth of coffee on the shelf will grow legs and trade itself. One dollar for a coffee lid of coffee, or an exchange of one full jar on credit for two jars at the convenience of the creditor (the value varies).

I don't drink coffee so there'll never be a loss due to persynal consumption. The product will pay for itself and expand at a controlled rate. I'm doing hair and trading coffee. The service can be offered to a wide range of characters and political affiliations: Black, Brown, Red, Yellow, Pink, Blue or Purple, the objective is Green.

Doing such, i'm offered the opportunity to socialize with a wide range of characters and gossip about the latest and greatest revolutionary culture, from international news to news on the hip hop revolution underground affiliates. I alone as a USW leader, taking the scraps that are there amongst the so-called prison ballers, have become a resort for prisoners caught in the trappings to retreat to when they must spend their money and look good doing it.

The coffee will expand from my cell to the cell of another USW comrade proving themselves capable of opening up shop on the same facility, and when ripe we will venture out into another legal commodity (soap, body washes, shampoo and body oils).

We can turn all this paper money into fuel for the fire to finance the anti-imperialist machine, funding independent institutions like the University of Maoist Thought, extended printing of ULK, MIM(Prisons)/USW-hosted events, Prisoners Legal Clinic, MIM(Prisons)'s Free Political Books to Prisoners. These are just to name a few. In this microcosm of Amerika, great revenue will come to be. What separates us from most collecting such revenue is we'll be providing a service at a very low cost to those who have and ALL of the proceeds will go to those who don't. We are funding revolutionary cadres of our USW and MIM(Prisons) across the snakes.

This should be our matter of concern, if we truly hope to shift the economy into a landslide towards the people. Don't boycott the commissary, use it as a uniting factor!!!


MIM(Prisons) responds: It is a strong statement to say a well-executed boycott can have "devastating" impact. More likely, the prisoncrats will notice what is happening and make a simple policy change to ensure they are able to milk prisoners for all they have. The main benefit of organizing boycotts isn't the financial impact, but coming together to organize around a collective interest. The connections, networking, and unity are more valuable than any amount of money we're saving from the oppressors' collection.

When assessing the "value" of an action or investment, we need to always keep in mind the political value. There are a lot of ways we can use what little money and resources we have to make a big political impact. As long as we aren't harming the people, the importance isn't in how we hustle, but in why we hustle. Use your creativity and resourcefulness to find a way to hustle for the people!

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[Censorship] [Lanesboro Correctional Institution] [North Carolina]
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Don't Be Silenced - Censor Victory in North Carolina

On 14 February 2014, I won a very small victory in my struggle against the oppression of political beliefs in the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections.

On 10 February 2014, I received two notices from the mail room, indicating that both the November/December (#35) and the January/February (#36) issues of Under Lock & Key were being rejected. The reasons given were that these publications supported "disobedience and insurrection."

Due to the fact that ULK #35 was already on the banned publication list, I was not permitted to appeal this rejection, however, I was permitted to appeal the ULK #36 because it had not yet made the master list held by NCDAC.

I brought up a constitutional argument about how prisons cannot maintain a list of banned materials, my right to my political beliefs, and the fact that a prison can not ban a publication just because it does not approve of the organization it comes from. This was decided in a court case called Williams v. Brimeyer, 116 F. 3d 351, 354 (8th circuit 1997). I also argued that ULK does not promote insurrection and disorder, yet uses prison issues to promote peaceful change to both prisons and the outside world through education and the study of politics.

Surprisingly, when mail came today, issue 36 of ULK had been returned to me. Sometimes you just have to stand up for what you believe in and not give up. For anybody who faces the rejection of the ULK newsletter, I would like to make known, that ULK does not contain a significant security risk to prisons, and therefore is constitutionally protected. If your newsletter has been rejected, I strongly recommend that you fight for it on this basis. Do not allow anyone to silence the struggle.

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[Civil Liberties] [Hunger Strike] [Gang Validation] [Lanesboro Correctional Institution] [North Carolina]
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Denial of Constitutional Rights to STGs Spreads to North Carolina

Lanesboro Correctional Institution, in Anson County, North Carolina, has just enacted a gang program, which is nothing shy of draconian. Even for a state that is draconian to begin with.

It started when these pigs separated all of the inmates who were not listed as "STG" from the inmates who were considered part of the "Security Threat Group." Federal law allows violation of prisoners' Constitutional rights during times of emergency, when there is a "threat to the security of the institution." By naming inmates a "security threat," they are basically saying that these inmates have no Constitutional rights. They are being forced to shower in chains, handcuffs and shackles, and are pretty much being denied any and all rights.

The gang program is locked down 23 hours a day, and requires going 6 months infraction free to step down a single step. There are 3 steps in all, and a class of "STG associate" after that. This could force prisoners to go infraction free for 2 full years to get out of the program. Along with this program came a whole new set of rules which makes it nearly impossible to go infraction free without favoritism from the police. Of course, the only way you get that is by snitching, which in such an environment would get a prisoner killed. Being listed as an associate could be justified by something as small as an officer's claim that you said something gang-related, or even my writing this article.

In response to this new policy, prisoners on 3 of the 8 STG blocks have declared a hunger strike. More prisoners on the STG unit are doing the same, in an attempt to break down this program in its infancy. The pigs are responding by cutting off their communication so they cannot be heard. I only learned of this by accident when a "Non-STG" prisoner was moved into my block to make room for more STG blocks.

This policy is being carried out in many states as we speak. Gang members are still human beings, and therefore entitled to the same protections as everyone else. Prisoners need to stand together everywhere and shut this down before it goes into full effect.

This article referenced in:
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[Campaigns] [Texas] [ULK Issue 37]
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Texas Restrictions on Indigent Correspondence Campaign Update

When a prisoner writes the TDCJ Executive Director it will always be forwarded to the Ombudsman. They (Ombud) will always reply that they do not respond to prisoner complaints and that the grievance procedures should be followed. It's a "closed loop" to prisoners.

The Call to Action that I wrote which included the contacts were primarily for our family and friends to put pressure on authorities so that our grievances are more effective - eg. our families should contact the Executive Director and Ombudsman to file an official complaint about the policy change.

I got my Step 2 back around November and I sent it to the Texas Civil Rights Project to see if they would be interested in representing this issue in a lawsuit. I am yet to get a response from the Texas Civil Rights Project. It could be worth while if someone could contact them (TCRP) about this issue to prompt a response to my correspondence to them as I know they get piles of mail every week.

We not only need to file grievances but also strongly encourage our freeworld friends and family to contact all the contacts on the Call to Action to put a lot of pressure on the Texas Board of Criminal Justice to repeal the policy.

I believe it is futile to send the Texas Grievance Petition to the Executive Director because of the closed loop with the correspondence being forwarded to the Ombudsman. It could be worthwhile for freeworld people to send a version of the petition to the Exec Dir but I think prisoners need to start directing the petition to someone else.

I also want to mention that this mail restriction should not affect legal/privileged correspondence - prisoners should still be able to send 5 per week.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We received information from another prisoner on this same issue:

Comrades in Texas, do not send your petitions to the Executive Director or Central Grievance office because they are not working in our favor. They only forward the petitions to departments that don't address these issues, who contacted me and said "address this grievance related issues on a unit level with the grievance investigators."

We on the Polunsky plantations are sending our petitions to: ARRM Division, Administrator, PO Box 99, Huntsville, TX 77342-0099. I suggest that all Texas prisoners do the same so that we will be in solidarity. Let's flood their office with our complaints. If this doesn't work we will flood the DOJ in Washington DC. Let's work in solidarity!

We agree with these comrades' recommendations that prisoners focus sending their grievances to somewhere other than the Executive Director. We suggest the following addresses:


ARRM Division, Administrator
PO Box 99
Huntsville, TX 77342-0099

Senator John Whitmire
PO Box 12068, Capitol Station
Austin, TX 78711

Oliver Bell
Chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice
PO Box 13084
Austin, TX 78711-3084

We also now have a sample Step 2 grievance available to those who had their Step 1 on this issue rejected. Write to us if you need a copy of this.

We know this campaign is not going to change the criminal injustice system in any significant way. But restrictions on mail access is equivalent to cutting many people off from the outside world. And for those who are engaged in educational and organizing work, this is a significant problem. For this reason, focusing a campaign on restrictions on indigent correspondence is important to our broader organizing work.

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[Medical Care] [Campaigns] [Texas] [ULK Issue 37]
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Fighting the System: Appealing the $100 Medical Co-Pay in Texa$

The Texa$ Legislature cut $60 million from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) budget for 2012 and raised the medical co-pay from $3 per visit to $100 per year. They had the unrealistic expectation of collecting up to $15 million from the prisoners [see Prison Legal News, Oct 2012 p. 42]. As all of us have noticed, the TDCJ also enacted other corner cutting measures to save pennies. These include: cutting back on legal books at the law library, reducing education and rehabilitation programs, serving two meals on the weekend and dessert once a week, restricting indigent correspondence to 5 letters a month, banning freeworld stationary (so you must buy it from the commissary), and reducing the number of staff. The idea was to reduce expenses that would help Texa$ manage its massive budget shortfall.

This guide is about appealing the $100 medical co-pay in Texa$. It presents all the Co-Pay Exemptions that can be used to get your money back. We want to keep our very limited funds out of the hands of the TDCJ so that we can use it for more important purposes. Specifically, you are encouraged to spend any money you recover on educating and organizing others. Send a donation to Under Lock & Key to expand the pages in this valuable resource, create study groups and make copies of literature to study, copy and distribute grievance petitions to fight the corrupt grievance process and to end the limit on indigent correspondence, or buy stamps and envelopes for indigent prisoners who can't buy for themselves. There are a lot of things we need to be doing with our limited funds, so we fight to keep this money from being appropriated by the state.

How Do We Appeal The Medical Co-pay?

It is rather simple. Get a Step One Grievance (I-127) and explain on it why you are exempt. If your Step One is denied, follow through with the same argument in a Step Two (I-128). You will be surprised at how often the Appeal is granted. The issue is that most medical departments systematically charge everyone the co-pay out of hope you are ignorant about the exemptions and fail to appeal it. They get away with this because there is no confirmation necessary for them to charge you (compared to commissary purchases, receiving legal mail, sending indigent correspondence - all need your confirmation - but not the medical co-pay). Here is a brief example: Co-pay is not to be assessed for any prisoner receiving a clipper shave pass as they have been diagnosed with a chronic and permanent dermatologic condition - "pseudofolliculitis barbae." Diabetic prisoners who receive foot care, specifically toe nail trimming, as part of their chronic care treatment plan are not to be assessed a co-pay fee either.

The medical co-pay regulation can be found at Texas Government Code 501-063. The Administrative Director for it in TDCJ is AD 06-08. In relevant part, the Co-payment Determinations and Exemptions are found in Section III.

Here are the Exemptions:

A) Unless specifically exempted, offender-initiated visits shall be subject to a copayment (meaning that if you do not initiate the visit, i.e. work related or officer initiates it, then you are exempt).

B) A copayment shall NOT be charged if the health care service is the result of an emergency which includes, but is not limited to, injuries sustained as a result of an accident or assault. Such injuries shall be covered by the emergency visit exemption.

C) Copay shall NOT be charged if the health care services are related to the diagnosis or treatment of a communicable disease. Such services, including follow-up visits and testing, are exempt as either a chronic care visit or a department-initiated visit. Offenders shall not be charged for initiating communicable disease testing.

D) Initial requests for mental health reviews initiated by the offender are NOT subject to the copayment requirement. Emergency, follow-up, or chronic care requests for mental health reviews shall NOT be charged a copayment.

E) Follow-up visit related to the monitoring or treatment of a condition diagnosed in a previous visit with a health care provider are exempt from copayment charges.

F) Prenatal services, including the initial visit diagnosing pregnancy, subsequent examinations, testing, counseling and patient education services are specifically exempted from copayment requirements.

G) Physical or mental health screening, laboratory work, referrals and follow-up appointments provided or recommended as part of the initial intake diagnostic and reception process are exempt from the copayment requirement.

H) A health screening upon arrival at a new unit of assignment shall be considered a visit to a health care provider initiated by a health care provider and is exempt from the copayment requirement.

I) Prescriptions and medications are considered to be a result of a medical visit and follow-up procedures and are exempt from the copayment charge. No charge shall be assessed for accessing approved over-the-counter medications made available in the offender housing area.

J) A copayment applies to a single visit. An offender requesting a visit to a health care provider for multiple symptoms shall be charged only one copayment if the symptoms are addressed in the same visit. If a request for a visit with a health care provider results in scheduling of appointments with more than one provider, such as a dentist and a physician, the initial visit with each clinician is subject to the copayment requirement.

K) If an offender is being seen by a provider for services otherwise exempted from the copayment and during the course of the visit requests healthcare services related to a different condition then that being served, the additional request shall be treated as an initial offender-initiated visit, shall be documented in accordance with the walk in procedures, and are subject to the copayment requirement.

L) A copayment shall NOT be assessed for medical treatment of self-inflicted injuries. Offenders inflicting injuries on themselves shall be referred to mental health evaluations.

M) Offenders shall NOT be charged for "No-Shows" because a visit did not occur. The copayment requirement only applies if the offender is seen by a health care provider. "No-Shows" shall be documented in accordance with CMHC procedures.

N) Dental services are considered health care services and subject to the copayment requirements if the services are initiated by the offender. Exemptions from copayment requirements for emergencies, chronic care, follow-up, health screening and evaluations, and department initiated visits are to be applied in the same manner as for other health care services.

O) Physical evaluations following use of force incidents are required by TDCJ policy and are not subject to the copayment requirement.

P) Inpatient services are considered follow-up services and are not subject to the copayment requirement. These services include, but are not limited to, hospitalization, extended care nursing, hospice and unit infirmary inpatient care.

Q) Procedures or testing ordered by a Court or performed pursuant to state law are exempt from the copayment requirement.

R) Services provided under contractual obligation established pursuant to the Interstate Corrections Compact or under an agreement with another state that precludes the assessment of a copayment shall be exempt from the requirement to charge.

Each One, Teach One

Share this guide with those who need it. If you are a good grievance writer, then help those who may not feel as confident. And be sure to encourage everyone to make good use of the money they win through these grievances. It is not enough to just keep $100 out of the hands of the TDCJ. If that money is spent on unnecessary canteen purchases or on drugs or services that are bad for your health and/or a waste of money, you haven't actually accomplished anything. Spend this money on meaningful work to fight the criminal injustice system. Even a small donation can help with the education of others and the expansion of our work, and $100 can do a lot! Get in touch with MIM(Prisons) to make a donation or for more information about educating and organizing in Texas prisons and beyond.

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[Control Units] [Political Repression] [ULK Issue 37]
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Leaked Document on CDCR Step Down Program Exposes Brainwash Techniques

coffin for SHU hunger strikers
I wanted to write a few words concerning the new step down program that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has begun to implement. There is nothing new about this brainwash program because brainwash kamps are tools learned in the "School of the Americas" (aka Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), which was founded in 1946. Brainwash kamps were unleashed on the Vietnamese by the French, on Jews and communists by the German Nazis before the gas, and the Koreans tasted these kamps by their Japanese colonizers. In fact, all colonized people experience some form of brainwashing by the oppressor. Security Housing Unit (SHU) prisons are examples of U.$. imperialism following this tradition.

First we should keep in mind that many folks captured in these SHUs are not guilty of what they are accused of. So long as information is extracted via torture, i.e. years of solitary confinement, then false information will be provided to the torturers. It is a fact that some humyn beings will say or do anything to stop the torture, and as a result many prisoners will be subjected to torture for false accusations.

We happened to get our hands on one of the journals that are used in the step down program. A guard slid one of them into our pod by "accident" and as you could imagine it was heavily scrutinized.

This brainwash manual has quotes of nameless supposed prisoners sprinkled throughout saying things to the effect that the supposed prisoner once blamed the system or other elements but has now realized it was her/his own fault. Each page has the following words on the bottom, "It is illegal to duplicate this page in any manner."

The supposed purpose of this program is for prisoners to work their way out of the SHU. This will supposedly be done to allow prisoners a way, outside of informing on people, to get back to the general population. What they don't tell you is that you will have to now go through their brainwash course. Even then they can deny you if they feel you are not sincere. But my question is, why do I have to undergo a deprogramming when I am the torture survivor? Why shouldn't my torturer have to take classes on why it's wrong to torture?

In the "journal," each page asks questions, such as for the reader to list wrongdoings you have done and then asks what caused you to make these choices. Examples are given of different crimes the supposed prisoner committed. They then ask for pros and cons of crimes one committed and one is even asked if you feel sly or manipulative when you deceive people.

All these questions are asked in a way that implicates you and attempts to blame you for not just being in prison but in SHU as well. At no time is the possibilty even hinted of someone being in SHU for false allegations. There are lists of good habits and "criminal" behavior. But good habits like "caring" or "responsibility" are what we already showed in the strikes, and "criminal" behavior listed like "dishonesty" or "irresponsibility" is exactly what the state has done. Yet this brainwash journal wants us to say we are criminal if we want to advance in this de-programming or de-revolutionizing program. There is no way I will even act or role play with my torturers just to go to general population. What they are doing is wrong and rather than take them off the hook by falsely admitting to criminal behavior I will refuse their brainwash program and continue to publicize this torture and agitate for resistance in these death kamps!


MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade asks a good question as to why it is not the torturer who has to take classes to help them understand that what they did was wrong. Of course there is a class character to every justice system, and in the United $tates we have a bourgeois state. When there was a proletarian-led state in China it was the torturers, landlords and spies for the imperialists that underwent re-education in what might be called a brainwashing program by the imperialists. The difference in the class character of the Chinese prison system and the Amerikan one is that those deemed criminals were put in communal living situations, where they had to learn to live and work together with others, where they were given reading materials, and required to study. So while the ultimate goal of getting the criminals to recognize that what they did was wrong was similar, this was done through group study and struggle, rather than long-term isolation and torture as is common for the oppressed languishing in U.$. prisons.

We do not oppose re-education as we are all products of our environment. Even in U.$. prisons, many of the oppressed locked up have committed (relatively minor) crimes as they emulate the values of the bourgeoisie. What we do oppose is torture, wasting of humyn lives, and a justice system that prioritizes profits over humyn life.


Note: for more on the re-eduation programs in Chinese prisons check out Prisoners of Liberation by Amerikan students Allyn and Adele Rickett or the autobiography of the last Emperor of Manchuria, Pu Yi, From Emperor to Citizen.

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[Latin America]
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Miss Venezuela Media Hype Ignores Biggest Murderer

Much hype and media attention has been brought by the murder of the runner up of the Miss Universe, Miss Venezuela. News pundits like to point out that Venezuela had over 25,000 murders last year and is the world's murder capital. The killing of any person through murder and greed is sad and tragic, but what the media fails to talk about is Amerika's own murder rate.

Statistics for 2010-2011 from the FBI's Crime in the U.S. report has murder and negligent manslaughter at 14,612. This is below the 24,000 murders in Venezuela, but it doesn't account for murders committed by the U.$. armed forces around the globe. In the United States the number of forcible rapes for 2010-2011 was 85,593. This does not account for non-reported rapes as well as rapes in the military.

The government-mouthpiece media in the U.$. viciously portrays other country's problems and flaws in order to keep the prying eyes of the world off the United $tates.

People the world over should strive to end crime in their communities. But most importantly people should understand that the grandfather of all criminals is the imperialist system here in Amerika.

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[Aztlan/Chicano] [National Oppression]
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National Struggle or Assimilation

national liberation or assimililation
Reading MIM Theory #7: Proletarian Feminist Nationalism I couldn't help but notice that to date there has been a strong trend of oppressed nationals becoming more and more molded and fitted to U.$. culture and its parasitic ways.

A quote by Malcolm X found in MT7 struck me hard: "I'm not going to sit at your table and watch you eat, with nothing on my plate, and call myself a diner. Sitting at the table doesn't make you a diner, unless you eat some of what's on that plate. Being here in America doesn't make you an American. Being born here in America doesn't make you an American."..."No, I am not an American, I'm one of the 22 million black people who are the victims of Americanism. I don't see any American dream, I see an American nightmare."(1)

I'm hard pressed to find an organization that's "Latino" nationalist and agitating for the emancipation of what is currently the south western portion of the United $tates to become a nation itself.

These days you hear Latinos all throughout the United $tates clamoring for comprehensive immigration reform. Enough of this assimilation, and how about a call for what was once Mexico to return to its people. Whether this emancipated state will become part of modern day Mexico or form its own nation is for the people to decide for themselves. Those same people clamoring for immigration reform, who fail to realize that they are an oppressed nation within an oppressor nation, can't help but feel as if they constitute a part of this oppressor class (white chauvinism). The policies that will be enacted due to their protesting and petitions will only hurt and destroy the Latino communities. As a people who are already stigmatized and oppressed, the crumbs of the white nation are counter to the ultimate interests of Latino people.

It's no secret how the INS and ICE deport huge numbers of Latino people who only come here to make and earn a living. Some might ask: if Amerika is so fucked up why do you want Latinos here? Well if numbers are power then the more people we have the better we are able to form a revolutionary nationalistic party and arouse national sentiment in face of brutality. Moreover as burdensome jobs will go to those immigrants the better it'll be to swell the ranks of the proletariat.

Most people these days are so jingoistic with Amerikanism that at the same time they wave the U.$. flag they wave their country of origin flag too, not grasping how NAFTA and trade relations with "south Amerika" are one sided and are to the advantage of the white U.$. middle class. Even within prison you hear prisoners clamoring of how great the United $tates is.

Oppressed nations must take notice that you are not what the U.$. constitution meant to defend, you never will be and it's futile to think cheering and asking for reforms will free your nation. H. Ford Douglas put it nicely: "There is as much force in a black [Brown, red, etc] man's standing up and exclaiming after the manner of the 'old Roman' - 'I am an American citizen,' as there was in the Irish man who swore he was a loaf of bread, because he happened to be born in a bake oven... I can hate this government without being disloyal, because it has stricken down my manhood and treated me as a saleable commodity. I can join a foreign enemy and fight against it, without being a traitor, because it treats me as an ALIEN and a STRANGER, and I am free to avow that should such a contingency arise I should not hesitate to take any advantage in order to procure indemnity for the future. I can feel no pride in the glory, growth, greatness or grandeur of this nation."(2)

Notes:
1. Malcolm X, The Ballot or the Bullet, April 3, 1964, Cleveland, Ohio
2. Quoted in MIM Theory 7, pg 40.

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[Campaigns]
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Texa$ Grievance Guide

This pamphlet is a compilation of the work a prisoner, who is a member of the National Lawyer's Guild (Jailhouse Lawyer member) and sits on the Steering Committee of the NLG Mass Incarceration Committee and a pamphlet produced by the Director of the Prisoners' Rights Program, Texas Civil Rights Project (Oficina legal del Pueblo Unido, Inc. 1405 Montopolis Drive Austin, Tx 78741-3438 www.TexasCivilRightsProject.org). MIM(Prisons) combined the information put together by these authors and we welcome feedback, corrections and additions.

Introduction

Regardless of what mistakes you may have made in the past, there is one thing that being in prison can never change, and that's the fact that as a humyn being you have unalienable rights. These rights can never be taken away from you. The Texa$ prison system encourages the belief that we have no rights, that somehow by violating a statutory law you lose your constitutional or humyn rights. This is a demoralizing lie. The purpose of prison is to separate us from society for a specific period of time, not to be sadistically mistreated by prison officials. Texa$ will continue to abuse and violate our rights until we make a stand and demand they either reform or abolish their oppressive, outdated and counterproductive ways.

Our greatest advantage is that we have numbers, at least 166,000 prisoners. Our biggest disadvantage is ignorance. Most prisoners don't know their rights. this guide has been written by prisoners for prisoners. It is to show you what your rights are, how to stand up for them, and why it is important to do so. No one on the outside can do this for us. They can help and support us but only those within the prison walls can make a real difference. This guide is the first step in getting things changed: being paid for work, meaningful good time, conjugal visits, not being forced to shave, legitimate rehab programs, and humane living conditions and treatment (just to name a few).

The information in this guide is for the benefit of all Texas prisoners. Empower yourself with its knowledge and then actively pass that knowledge on to others. If you are incarcerated in a state other than Texas, I would encourage you to put together your own grievance guide.

Your Rights in Prison - Learn them!

Here are some of your rights in prison:

  1. Freedom from discrimination and the right to equal protection
  2. The right to due process (the fair and proper application of law and policy - this includes disciplinary cases too)
  3. The right to freedom of speech and expression
  4. Prison officials can not open legal or privileged mail unless in your presence to inspect for contraband only (See BP 03-91)
  5. You have to right to practice your religion - you also have the right to meet with a religious leader and to attend religious services of your faith.
  6. You have the right to decent and safe conditions in prison - prisoners are entitled to sanitary toilet facilities, proper trash procedures and basic supplies such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, toilet paper, razors, shower shoes and cleaning products.
  7. Guards to not have the right to harm or beat you.
  8. Prisons must provide prisoners with opportunities for exercise outside their cells
  9. Prison food needs to meet nutritional standards (not just calorie count)
  10. Prisons must provide you with adequate medical care
  11. When you ask for a grievance or request to speak to a ranking office they must do it. It is not discretionary.
  12. Prisoners have the right to complain about prison conditions and voice their concerns about the treatment they receive without retaliation.
  13. You have the right against guard harassment
  14. You have the right against torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.
  15. Collective punishment is prohibited
  16. You have the right against being held in slavery or servitude in any form. You must be legitimately compensated for the work you do in prison ("goodtime" in Texas is not legitimate compensation because it is meaningless. It only goes towards parole eligibility - which is still at the Parole Board's discretion - and must be signed back to the State in order to make parole).
  17. You have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, even for disciplinary cases.

Detailed Guide to Filing a Grievance in a Texas Prison or Jail

In most cases, prisoners must file a grievance about a problem in prison before they can file a lawsuit. The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) requires prisoners to "exhaust administrative remedies" before they can take a problem to federal court. Though grievances may not work, an inmate must at least try to fix a problem through the grievance process. In most prisons and jails, "exhausting administrative remedies" requires filing a grievance and an appeal. If an appeal is not also filed, a prisoner has not "exhausted" their remedies and cannot go to federal court.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice
For prisoners in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, complete a Step 1 (I-127) and Step 2 (I-128) grievance. Be careful to follow TDCJ's grievance rules.

Before you file: Talk with prison staff about the problem. This is considered "Informal resolution."

How to file:

  1. Get a grievance form from TDCJ. Forms should be available in the law library and your housing unit.
  2. Follow these guidelines when you write your grievance:
    Only write about the issue you want help with. Each grievance can only discuss one problem. If you have more than one problem, write a different grievance for each problem. Remember you are limited to writing one grievance per week.
    When you write the grievance, explain who you talked to and what they did (if anything) about your problem in the "Informal resolution" part.
    Be sure to file your grievance within 15 days of learning about the problem, or as soon as possible.
    Make sure you include how you would like to have the problem solved. For example, if you are sick and need to see a doctor, write "I want to see a doctor."
    Do not use indecent, vulgar, or threatening language. TDCJ has the right to refuse to process a grievance with bad language.
  3. TDCJ has 40 days to respond to your Step 1 grievance. You can file a Step 2 grievance as soon as you receive a response to your Step 1 grievance. If 40 days have passed and you have still not received a response and you have not been notified that there will be a delay, you can proceed to file the Step 2 grievance. You must file a Step 2 grievance within 15 days of receiving the response to your Step 1 grievance. TDCJ has 35 more days to process a Step 2 grievance.
  4. Always keep copies of your returned grievances. You may need them later on and it can be difficult to obtain copies.

Family of TDCJ inmates can also contact TDCJ's Ombudsman at http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/adminrvw/adminrvw-ombud.htm. Speaking with the Ombudsman does not exhaust administrative remedies under the PLRA. If You wish to take legal action, you must also make sure Step 1 and Step 2 grievances have properly been filed in most cases. Contacting the Ombudsman is a way to solve problems without having to resort to the courts.

Grievable Issues:

TDCJ polices and procedures
Actions of an employee
Harassment and/or retaliation for use of the grievance procedure or access to courts
Violation of your rights
Loss or damage of personal property by TDCJ
Basic care (things that TDCJ has control over)

Non-Grievable Issues:

State or Federal law
Parole decisions
Time served credit disputes

Remedies that are available:

Restitution of property, either monetary or compensatory (see Gov Code §501-007)
Change of policy, procedures, rules or practice
Correction of records
Other relief as appropriate

Remedies not available:

Request for consequential or punitive damages
Request for disciplinary action against guards or employees (Note: you can request that appropriate action be taken to remind the guard of policy/your rights).


County Jails
Policies are different in every county jail. Please check your inmate handbook for information about how to file a grievance. If you were not given an inmate handbook, ask jail staff how to file a grievance.

If jail staff will not explain how to file a grievance to you, you may not be required to file a grievance before taking your case to court. Make notes about who you asked for help filing a grievance and what they told you.

All county jails are inspected every year by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. To report a problem to the Commission, you can complete an online form here:
http://www.tcjs.state.tx.us/complaint.php. The postal address is: PO Box 12985, Austin TX 78711-2985 (no TDCJ complaints). Contacting the Commission does not exhaust administrative remedies under the PLRA. If you wish to take legal action, You must also make sure to follow the jail's grievance policies in most cases.


Texas Youth Commission
For prisoners in the Texas Youth Commission there are several options to file a grievance, which are different for children and parents:
For children in TYC Custody, grievance forms are available from the grievance clerk on each dorm. Request a form, complete it, and place it in the drop box on the dorm. TYC has 15 days to respond to the grievance.
For parents, guardians and other youth advocates, grievances can be submitted to TYCs Incident Reporting Center: http://www.tyc.state.tx.us/news/tyc_hotline.html
In an emergency, children, parents and advocates can call 1-866-477-8354, toll-free. Children can make this call from the phones In their dorms for free.

If TYC does not satisfactorily respond to the grievance within 15 business days, you must appeal. Ask the facility who appeals should be given to. Children, parents, and advocates may file appeals in the same way. If the appeal does not resolve the problem within 15 business days, another appeal must be filed with TYC's executive director at TYC's central office.

For children on parole, the process is the same. Children on parole can get a grievance form from the district parole office where they report.

For more information about TYC's grievance process, see TYC's website: http://austin.tyc.state.tx.us/Cfinternet/gap/93/gap9331.htm

Children, family and youth advocates can also contact the Office of the Independent Ombudsman: http://www.tyc.state.tx.us/ombudsman/index.html, an independent watchdog agency supervising TYC. Speaking with the Ombudsman does not exhaust administrative remedies under the PLRA. If you wish to take legal action, you must also make sure to follow the grievance procedures in most cases.


PLRA Exceptions to Grievance Requirement
There are many exceptions to the PLRA. If you qualify for one of these exceptions, you may not need to file grievances before going to court:

If you file your lawsuit in state court, the PLRA does not apply to TYC and County jail prisoners.
The PLRA only applies to people in prison, so it may be possible to wait until you are released to file your case. (Remember, though, in most cases you must file within 2 years of when the problem occurred. Do not wait to get out if it will take more than 2 years.)
If you want to file a lawsuit because someone you are related to died in prison, you do not need to file grievances.

If there is any doubt about whether you qualify for an exception, you should file grievances. Try to talk to a lawyer before relying on an exception. Overall the authors of this guide encourage prisoners to follow the PLRA guidelines rather than trying to circumvent it with an exception.

Some Noteworthy Government Codes

These Texas Governmental Codes may be useful to quote in your grievance


§500-001 - 'Supervisory or Disciplinary Authority of Inmates' (this prohibits prisoners disciplining or supervising another prisoner)
§501-002 "If an employee of the department commits an assault on an inmate….the executive director shall file a complaint with the proper official of the county in which the offense occurred." (If you are assaulted it could be worthwhile writing the executive director or get your family/friends to contact him directly and remind him of his statutory obligation to contact the sheriff).
§501-003 "The department shall ensure that inmates … are fed good and wholesome food, prepared under sanitary conditions and provided in sufficient quantity and reasonable variety."
§501-007 "The department may pay for the miscellaneous funds appropriated to the division claims made by inmates … for property lost or damaged by the division."
§501-008 Inmate Grievance System - must provide procedures "for an inmate to identify evidence to substantiate the inmates claim."
§501-010 "a) the institutional division shall allow the governor, member of the legislature, and members of the executive and judicial branches to enter at proper hours any part of a facility operated by the division where inmates are housed or work, for purpose of observing the operations of the division. A visitor described by this subsection may talk with inmates away from institutional division employees."
§501-055 Report of Inmate Death
§501-101 Programs and Services for wrongfully imprisoned persons who are discharged

Administrative Review and Risk Management Division (ARRM)

If you have Complaints concerning the grievance process you can direct them to the administrator of the 'Offender Grievance Program'. The address is: ARRM Division, Administrator, PO Box 99, Huntsville, TX 77342-0099

This address is good to complain about actions of grievance officers such as not following procedure, timelines or refusing to accept a grievance. If you're writing about a specific grievance, make sure to send them the grievance processing number. If you want to complain about the denial of a Step 2, you can write ARRM and respectfully request for them to reconsider or review its denial. Then explain why.

Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook

The essential handbook regarding your rights in prison and a step by step guide on filing a lawsuit against prison officials. It can be downloaded by a friend/family from: www.jailhouselaw.org or you can request a copy by writing: The Center for Constitutional Rights, RE: Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook, 666 Broadway 7th floor, New York, NY 10012

The US Department of Justice

The US Dept of Justice (DOJ) is a Federal agency that is collecting evidence for their investigation against TDCJ for violating prisoners' constitutional rights. We can help them by sending our Step 1 and 2 grievances with a witness statement. You need to make sure that you put their case number for this investigation at the top of every page that you send them. The case number is 168-74-0. You can seal the envelope because it is official legal mail, this way the prison authorities can not find out what you have written. You need at least one forever stamp for every 6 sheets of paper. You can write a "witness statement" (in letter form if needed) stating the injustices you have witnessed while being locked up. Also explain how this affects ALL Texas prisoners or what you have witnessed is happening to all Texas prisoners. This is an important point to emphasize because the DOJ needs to prove that Texas has a systematic "pattern or practice" of the deprivation of Constitutional rights that violates all Texas prisoners to "have the authority to initiate civil actions against state officials to remedy the unlawful conditions." Make sure you provide your full name, TDCJ No, and unit. State that you would like to see a Federal investigation conducted into Texa$ prisons constitutional violations of prisoner rights. Sign it and put a date.

Note: you can not get in trouble for writing the DOJ. Remember, you MUST put the case number (168-74-0) on the top of every page you send them, and seal it.

Appropriate topics for witness statements can be:


Goodtime as a fraudulent and meaningless system
Grievance system a deception of lies
Unjust practices of the disciplinary system
Unsanitary conditions
No payment for Texas prisoners who work
Deficient law library and denial of access to courts
Misuse of force by officers
Medical ignoring complaints of health issues
Guard harassment and retaliation

Send witness statements and grievances to: US Attorney General, US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20530.

More info: www.justice.gov/crt/about/spl

Outside Help

If you can't get an issue resolved or need to put some pressure on the system, it is very helpful to get help from the outside (friends, family, media and advocates). It helps to remind the authorities to remain honest and stop abusing us in any form.

Get people from the outside to write letters or make followup calls to the Warden or Regional Director to find out if an issues has been resolved, and if not, why.

Here are a few contacts that either you or your outside help can contact to put pressure on the system:


TDCJ Ombudsman: 936-437-6791 [email protected]
TDCJ Executive Director, PO Box 99, Huntsville TX 77342, 936-437-8035 [email protected]
Texas Senator John Whitmire, Capital Station, PO Box 12068, Austin TX 78711, 512-463-0115
Central Grievance Office, PO Box 3629, Austin, TX 78764-3629
Inmate Assistance League, 6804 E Hwy 6 South, Ste 202, Houston TX 77083 (Advocates)
Concerned Christians, PO Box 101094, San Antonio TX 78201
Con Care Services: 10124 Champa Dr, Dallas TX 75218-1704, 214-348-0293 (Advocates)
Texas CURE, PO Box 38381, Dallas TX 75238-0381
Office of the Governor, PO Box 12428, Austin TX 78711-2428, 512-463-2000
San Antonio Express, PO Box 2171, San Antonio TX 78297
Austin American Statesman, Attn: Mike Ward, Investigative Reporter, PO Box 670, Austin TX 78767
Houston Chronicle, PO Box 4260, Houston TX 77210
Dallas Morning News, 508 Young St, Dallas TX 75202
Loredo Morning Times, PO Box 2129, Loredo TX 78044
Corpus Christi Caller-Times, PO Box 9136, Corpus Christi, TX 78469
The New York Times, 620 Eighth Ave, New York, NY 10018-1405
USA Today, 7950 Jones Branch Drive, McLean VA 22108

PD-22 General Rules of Conduct for TDCJ Employees

These are the rules the guards can be written up for by their rank. Sometimes it is helpful to include these rule violations in your grievance. A full copy can be found at your law library or can be downloaded from www.tdcj.state.tx.us.

Rule 3: Sleeping on Duty
8: Failure to follow proper safety procedures
10: Falsification of records (also a violation of Texas Penal Code §37.09 and 37.10)
11: Unauthorized taking or use of personal property
13: Failure to obey a proper order from an authority
14a: Use of profane/abusive language/gestures (violation of Texas Penal Code §39.04)
14b: Use of slurs/hostile epithets (TX Penal Code §39.04)
17: Reporting to work under the influence of alcohol or drugs
19: Use of alcohol or illicit drugs on the job
20: Violation of statutory authority/court order/rules/regulations/policies (TX Penal Code §39.04)
22b: Harassing or retaliating for participating in an official investigation/inquiry or for pursuing legal activities (i.e. petitioning the courts) (TX Penal Code §36.06)
23: Mistreatment of offenders - mistreatment usually takes the form of physical abuse but it may also include, but not be limited to, such actions as threats or unauthorized/illegal denial of privileges or entitlements. (TX Penal Code §39.04)
24: Use of excessive/unnecessary force.(TX Penal Code §22.01)
27: Failure to turn in all evidence seized (TX Penal Code §37.09)
28: Improper or untidy uniform (including not wearing name tag)
32: Destroying evidence or giving false testimony/information. (TX Penal Code §37.09)
33: Release of information - a TDCJ employee is not allowed to release any information relating to employees or offenders (TX Penal Code §39.04)
34: Accepting goods, money, services or favors (TX Penal Code §36.02)
36: Insubordination
37: Misconduct
41: Denial of uniform access to courts (also see BP 03-81) - unauthorized denial of legal visits or access to legal materials, harassing or retaliation against an offender for exercising the offender's right to file a grievance or complaint, not giving a grievance once one is requested, not allowing an offender to correspond with the courts or public officials (TX Penal Code §39.04)
44: Tampering with a witness (TX Penal Code §36.05)
50: Discourteous conduct of a sexual nature

Note: When a guard or prison official violates a penal code you can file a sworn complaint to the District Attorney of that county and press criminal charges (requisites of complaint - TX Code Crim Proc Art 15.05). Make sure you read the violated penal code to ensure you list all the necessary elements to establish probable cause for an arrest warrant. As the victim of that crime you have all the rights set out in TX Code Crim. Proc. Art 56.01 and you are entitled to utilize the Victims Assistance Coordinator to enforce those rights (Art 56.04). When guards realize that the law of the state also applies within the confines of this razor wire they may think twice before acting illegally and violating our rights.

Other TDCJ Policy of Interest


AD 3-22 Offender Searches
AD 3-29 Procedure to be followed in cases of offender death
AD 3-31 Procedures relating to unit lockdowns
AD 3-40 Out-of-cell time for general population offenders
ED 2-01 TDCJ ethics policy (great for a laugh)
BP 3-46 Standards for the use of force
AD 3-50 Ad Seg
AD 3-53 Solitary confinement
AD 3-70 Cell restriction for general population offenders
AD 3-72 Offender property
AD 3-76 Offender disciplinary procedures
BP 3-77 Offender grievances
BP 3-81 Access to the courts, counsel and public officials rules
AD 3-82 Management of offender grievances
AD 3-83 Offenders who refuse to comply with grooming standards
BP 3-91 Uniform offender correspondence rules
AD 4-18 Offender jobs assignments, job descriptions, etc.
AD 4-35 Review of offender disciplinary action
AD 4-80 Good conduct time
AD 4-83 Time credit dispute resolution
AD 5-25 Menus and diets
AD 6-08 Medical co-pay (also see Gov Code § 501-063)
ED 7-29 Religious policy statement
AD 7-30 Procedures for religious programming
AD 7-33 Recreation
AD 7-40 Offender organizations
ED 10-61 TDCJ Safety policy
AD 14-09 Postage and correspondence rules
AD 14-62 Guidelines for handling offender funds, accounts and transactions

Conclusion

This guide is only the first step. We hope that it gives you the tools to put resistance into action. Remember: Each one, teach one. It is your duty to pass this info on to others. United in struggle - united we Fight The System.

Disclaimer: This information is for general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. It is not legal advice. Legal advice involves the application of legal knowledge and skill by a licensed attorney to your specific circumstances. If at all possible, always talk to a lawyer before filing a lawsuit. To find a lawyer near you, call 1-800-252-9690.

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