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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to abuse and violate our rights until we make a stand and demand they either reform or abolish their oppressive, outdated and counterproductive ways.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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[United Front] [California] [ULK Issue 36]
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Applying the United Front for Peace Principles to the Rasta Movement

ULK 33 was a hit. MIM(Prisons) did a great job with the collection of articles published and the placement of artwork and poems. I personally have been silent because I've been running from that Green Wall drone force and ducking placement in the SHU.

I want to respond to MIM(Prison)'s call for the various groups that signed on to the UFPP statement.

I signed on under the leadership of USW and since then have implemented the five principles in the following manner. In 2010 I took up the Rastafari Flag and grew out my dreadlocks and beard. After study, the RASTA movement showed me a perfect vehicle that allows for the incorporation of the five points of the UFPP, and it attracts people from all walks of life.

The Peace is principal and practiced every place that I step. When I meet prisoners I attempt to affect the space positively by being open to conversation with people outside my nationality, sex and class. What this means is I rap with Mexicans, Asians, Arabs, Europeans, etc., on a range of topics. I include homophobes, homosexuals, transsexuals, and lesbians in rapping sessions. I even talk to correctional officers, nurses, cooks, plumbers and cleaners when they are open. What this allows for is information gathering.

The RASTA Mon believes in the universal connection, so what I use as an umbrella for people to stand under in unity is the "one love" concept. This is attractive to a lot of people in here because society has put many of us on the shelf. When we are introduced to the idea of networking amongst each other around how to change living conditions, a conversation begins. Very few people will fight the weed smoking, dreadhead rasta man with the bag of books in his/her hands journeying around the world, but many will join because they know the movement is fair. I just use the 5 [five pointed star] as a way to introduce the 6 [six pointed star].

I've initiated the conversation that we all are convicts. Peace was established when fifteen guys asked me to speak at a meeting held for all convicts addressing the issues at this joint.

I'm anticipating holding a study group here to apply the educational factor of Growth. When a lot of these guys see me they admire the young man of intelligence and become totally open to learning. I tell everybody my motto is growth and development. In order for any true change to come about one must grow out of the termite ways and the key to change is only found through education. This alone implements the third principle.

As for Internationalism, the Rastafari movement has been recognized as one of the most internationalist movements that there is. I teach what I've learned about other nations through the movement. When you begin to talk to a person who would have never guessed you'd know about their native land, the conversation quickly begins to turn into a lesson from the people of another land. I just simply listen at this point.

And last but not least, Independence. Everywhere I've been since 2010 I've become both the Rastafari minister and/or the recreational clerk on the M.A.C. body. I simply go to the chapel, show movies about the struggle around with the brothers/sisters in relation to the movies, and play conscious music as we do workshops developing the tools, products and resources necessary in order for our cadre to affect the conditions.

The progress has not yet been seen by me on this side due to the setback of constantly having to split in order to dodge the iron fist, and a poor line of outside contact which my cell depends on for communication. Where we often have our relatives relay peaceful greetings to one another, sometimes a wife, girlfriend, mother or brother becomes upset or overworked without pay and the line is disturbed.

The way for us to build on each others' experiences is to share them, and be honest. Often times we prisoners want to exaggerate the circumstances, putting it on thick. Keep it 100%. Act like you want somebody to understand what you are sharing so that they can go apply your technique and move the struggle in a forward direction.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade shares some useful tactical approaches and philosophies for building united front across differing groups and individuals. On the ideological level Rastafari does have some congruence with our own work, in particular in the realm of pan-Africanism and African liberation. But these characteristics are a product of the oppressed people who developed the movement rather than the ability of its religious principles to address the material needs of the oppressed. Similar to other religious movements founded by the oppressed, Rastafari shifts the focus from immaterial religious characters to leaders of their own people and to themselves. In these ways these ideologies make a move towards materialism. But Maoism takes it farther, dismissing the lineages and prophecies of the past in favor of studying the material forces that exist within each thing today that will determine its future development. Part of historical materialism is looking at movements of the past, and taking lessons of what works and doesn't work to apply to shaping a better world today. At the same time we seek out where we agree with those of different ideologies to forge united fronts that can push the forces of history forward faster.

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[Organizing] [Theory] [ULK Issue 36]
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Resistance From Within

I recently received the level 2 study group. One question it asks is "Does MIM(Prisons) recruit members from prison? Why or why not? Do you agree? Explain." My answer, in part, was "As prisoners we need MIM(Prisons) to not be subjected to our oppression, which helps to protect the integrity and Third World viewpoint of the MIM." I realized that what I was referring to was resistance to what I once read a comrade call "bourgeois brainwashing." I then set about to understand the psycho-social dynamics of this bourgeois brainwashing and how we must form resistance from within. I also examined the role played by MIM(Prisons) and the tie to how we view the Third World.

Bourgeois brainwashing uses the psychological phenomenon of dehumanization to facilitate the deconstruction of our value systems. Used as a defense against painful or overwhelming emotions, dehumanization entails a decrease in a person's sense of his own individuality and in his perception of the humanness of others. This dehumanization of others allows for their maltreatment to be acquiesced in with relative freedom from the restraints of conscience or feelings of comradeship.

Dehumanization has two interrelated processes: self-directed dehumanization, which relates to self-image and denotes the deterioration of an individual's sense of his own humanness, and object-directed dehumanization, which refers to one's perceiving others as lacking in those attributes that are considered to be most human. These two forms of dehumanization are mutually reinforcing: reduction in the fullness of one's feelings for other human beings diminishes one's own sense of self; any reduction of the humanness of one's self-image limits that person's capacity for relating to others.

You see, the first step is for the pigs to beat down our self-worth and self-respect. Once we lose sight of our own humanness, we cannot see it in others. We then have complacence, even to the point of being helpful, while the U.$. empire oppresses, occupies and exploits the Third World nations. Why should I care? The Third World proletariat are less than human anyway. I didn't put them in the situation they are in, they put themselves there, therefore, they deserve it!

Thus, oppression necessarily rests upon dehumanization, which diminishes and morphs our value system. We can resist dehumanization by holding on to our self-worth and self-respect, and our communistic value system that brought us to participate in the MIM. This takes resistance from within; from within the prison and from within our own selves.

There is a process of resistance called counter-socialization. To keep our values insulated from the conformist bourgeois values shoved down our throats while incarcerated is no easy task. It requires a stabilizing point of reference and behavior patterns that harmonize, to some degree, with our own values. These are two distinct aspects: a supportive reference system or group, and behavior patterns that offer protection against dehumanization of self and others. Our values or attitudes may not be consistent with the behavior expected or even forced upon us, which makes us vulnerable to a deep psychological discord with accompanying stress and pull toward equilibrium to reduce this mental discord and stress. Unless we are careful, our values may subtly change to match our behavior, and the brainwashing has begun.

For us to keep our communistic values from dying or fading away, it helps (it may even be essential) to have value sharers to whom we can refer for guidance and support. This reference group or individual can be other persons within the prison — a formal or informal counter-group. Such a reference system has the advantage of being accessible, relevant (everyone in the same location), and standing out in its interpretive scheme. Our counter-values can also be sustained through contact with or reference to people outside of the prison system. This support has the advantage of not being caught up in the same dehumanizing process as us and, therefore, may be more objective. Furthermore, their existence does not depend on the prison system — a very important point if the going gets rough and the pigs set about to silence our dissension.

To stay on guard, we should occasionally test the limits of the pigs' tolerance for deviant behavior. If we have too much fear of disciplinary action or retaliation we may too narrowly define the boundaries of freedom and may mentally discard alternatives of action that could be advantageously pursued. We can be guided by the experience of others, but more can be gained from personal testing. Personal testing reaffirms a commitment to resistance and nudges us out of complacency. It also gives us a sense of freedom of action, thereby revitalizing our self-determination. To keep from absorbing a new dehumanized value system, we may find it useful from time to time to gut-react with automatic responses. If we always think about consequences before we express our true feelings, the feelings themselves may imperceptibly change. Just as the pigs limit what they will tolerate by way of opposition, we must also limit what we will tolerate by way of co-optation.

One of the most intriguing questions from both a theoretical and practical standpoint is: how long and under what conditions can a person maintain dehumanizing conditions and discordant values without support of any kind from others? Can internal fortitude based on some seemingly distant reference system keep one's brain from being washed, and if so, how? One important aspect of value preservation under conditions of deprivation and debasement is a sense of self-worth. We must hold on to self-respect by preserving some fragment of the truth about ourselves that we respect. Maintaining our integrity under repressive conditions may also require some mental separation of the self from the conditions the pigs force upon us. When we invoke the scientific stance of the observer, in effect, we refuse to be co-opted into the machinery of self-debasement. The preservation of the psyche is also facilitated by exercising freedom of action, however restrictive the limits. This may be as simple as the exercise of anticipating what is going to happen and having predictions validated by future events. Pro-action, as opposed to reaction, also gives us back some sense of control.

MIM(Prisons) offers the supportive reference system outside of the prison system and strongly encourages us to start our own localized study groups to support each other. They also offer support through the formal group United Struggle from Within. This support is imperative in combating the bourgeois brainwashing by allowing us to keep our communistic values front and center by giving us a criticism/self-criticism forum and correcting us when our values begin to morph. MIM(Prisons) also supports us in action. They give us support in testing the limits, in the grievance process, in organizing, and in letting our voices be heard.

Comrades, we must not fall prey to the pigs' dehumanization efforts, communistic value diminishment, and subsequent bourgeois brainwashing. It takes more than passively reading an article or book and agreeing with the content — it takes action! When we start to think that our oppression is our own fault, then we start to justify the oppression of the Third World nations, by the U.$. empire, with some backward bourgeois thought process. We must resist, and this must be resistance from within!

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[Security] [First World Lumpen]
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Secure Communications is Key to Organizing the Lumpen

In response to the May 2013 article Rats Undermine United Front Unity, as a brother of the struggle, originally from Texas, I send mine to all you brothers and sisters back home.

As leaders, we have to be serious about our roles in the movement, accepting responsibility for any personal miscalculation made while representing our units, party, cell, etc.

Period. No cut on it.

Communication is key when organizing the lumpen to unite. And most times having a safe and secure line of communication can be just as important, if not more important, than what is actually being said. Because what is a line of communication if it is always being disturbed, interfered and disrupted? I don't know, but it isn't effective communication I tell you that.

So often we hear prisoners commenting on how great the power of snitches and provocateurs are, and it bothers me that we are able to concentrate so much energy on them instead of on the tactics of countering their elementary crosses, and their state.

Sometimes we revolutionaries have to accept the consequences of our miscalculation so that we can learn an experience that allows us to identify the signs of the problem when it approaches again, instead of being so quick to place blame or responsibility on another person.

I personally was caught slipping while in the possession of a wire regarding economical development involving a select few. The flashlight turtles ran up at an unexpected time to my assigned quarters. With the choice of catching a narcotics possession/distribution charge or dropping my line in order to dispose, I took the latter option and became guilty of losing an important wire. I didn't agree with the charge by my peers or the penalty, but I did take responsibility for the wire being lost. It is very likely that someone very close to me set the authorities to get with my program, but the point is it was my responsibility to safe guard the wire. I lost a lot due to one miscalculation - like a comrade at arms on the battlefield - from great allies who can never again support my campaigns, to resources of a collective committee with it's tentacles reaching into places all across the seas. But on the other hand I learned that the ability to secure and stabilize a line of communication with very important factions behind the wire from state to state is very powerful. But for most it's a learned ability.

I suggest to all comrades that we learn to say who did it less, and practice doing it more. Securing and stabilizing lines of communication is a great place to start.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We've written extensively about the importance of secure communications both behind the bars and on the streets. This is a critical element of self-defense for the revolutionary movement. As the state expands it's tactics of infiltration and information gathering, we must expand our defenses.

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[Rhymes/Poetry]
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Revolutionary Mind State

Revolutionary state of mind has a place in all ages.
I was born too late for the 60's so I found mine in these pages
of Assata, Angela, Huey Newton and George.
They really opened up my mind and made me pick up the sword.

Because this whole damn country is caught up and in turmoil.
And if you truly wanna know why too much African blood in the soil,
These people kidnapped us, raped us, stole our religion and heritage.
And ask why I'm so mad, nigga ain't that a bitch!

So I keep my mind focused on the correct political line,
Cause with the right tactics and strategies these suckas won't be getting mine.
The urban guerrilla front was built to last long.
We're starting from the bottom so the cadre's strong.
A revolutionary state of mind is what the people need.
To stop the imperialism, and the capitalist greed.

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[Rhymes/Poetry] [U.S. Imperialism] [ULK Issue 36]
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Bullets Not Food

walls of water
smashing the wooden lives
rotted from the inside
mourning the dead
jealous of their escape
from a life too hard in a third world hell

the imperial machines
bring bullets not food
bullets not food
combat boots and cold steel
bullets not food
bullets not food
bullets not food

imperial profits
hungrier than a starving child
the belly of the beast is never full
gluttonous greed knows no bounds

protect the profits
bullets not food
bullets not food
hand grenades and war machines
bullets not food

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[Organizing] [Education]
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Education Countering U.$. Government Propaganda is Essential

In considering the art of warfare and conflict resolution, many miss the significance of how much an effect of one's party winning on the battlefield of propaganda has on that party's victory in the war. Throughout history, effective information distribution has been a major factor in a nation or group gaining/obtaining power. It is essential in the United $tate's retention of its global position today. So one cannot stress enough the importance of the efforts at educating people about injustice.

One of the main ways in which the U.$.government, and the various governments under its jurisdiction, are able to brazenly contradict their stated laws, purpose, and principles, is by ensuring the effectiveness of its personal propaganda machine - the corporate media. For instance, it is well documented and basically established that the CIA is responsible for the introduction of crack cocaine into the streets of South Central Los Angeles, with knowledge and possible complicity from the Executive Branch. Yet in this "war on drugs" none of those mid-to-top level responsible CIA/Executive Branch officials were ever made to face "justice."

On the other side of that, the average Tyrone, in any hood U$A, is given decades to life in prison for selling a minuscule fraction of what the CIA introduced into his community. And by the media, Tyrone is portrayed as the violent dangerous criminal, while George H.W. Bush, and the Clintons are labeled as heroes. It's an irreconcilable contradiction, yet it is accepted as reasonable by the general public, which is mainly due to its well-documented public opinion manipulation tactics.

And with the Amerikan public being so bombarded with pro-establishment garbage, some people don't have any exposure to any info other than what the corporate media presents, and the U.$. establishment's response to the rise of Wikileaks shows that this is by design. Anyone who stands against corruption, repression, oppression, social imbalance, and the other vile things that this nation's ruling class works to promote, must put much focus on a counter-propaganda campaign to show the people precisely what the effects of their support for the antisocial U.$. establishment's policies and actions are in real life circumstances.

This used to be an uphill battle due to the Establishment's exclusive hold on the corporate media, coupled with there being no real alternative means of info distribution. But one of the advantages to this information age is social media, which can give one access to a whole world of people. Now people don't have to rely on the corporate media as their sole means of obtaining info on current events. The establishment has lost its grip on info control and the opportunity for you and most anyone else to be heard is at hand.

And with the daily displays of official lawlessness recently transpiring, and with the corruption adversely affecting more and more people, that's more people with an ear open to your message. Knowledge is power and education is essential to knowledge.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree on the value of alternative news and the need to have media around which to build a movement. This is the reason MIM(Prisons) prioritizes Under Lock & Key, both in print and on the web, as a key responsibility of our organization. However, we do not think, as this writer implies, that the Amerikan people are so mis-educated that they only go along with the government corruption because they don't know otherwise. In reality the Wikileaks exposure has not led to any new uprisings by Amerikan citizens. The government fear about information release is mostly related to international exposure. Within this country they do have to worry about the youth in prisons and universities where there is much broader political consciousness and interest in the real news about what's going on. Amerikans overall are complacent because they are bought off by their government, paid to enjoy a petty bourgeois life at the expense of the international proletariat. And so Amerikans generally are happy to believe the lies fed to them by their government. With Under Lock & Key we hope to reach those at the margins who do not enjoy the Amerikan dream, or who have not yet bought into it. Having a materialist understanding of the social forces in this country will allow us to have a greater impact with our limited resources.

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[Campaigns] [Political Repression] [Texas] [ULK Issue 36]
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Pigs in Texas Make Power Move to Silence Revolutionary Prisoner Voices

Background on Campaign to Resist Restrictions on Indigent Correspondence

In a move that caught some of us off guard, the Texas Board of Criminal Injustice has issued an order to drastically change the indigent mail policy within the Texas Department of Criminal Injustice, which runs over 111 Texas state prisons. In August 2013 the board convened and decided that starting October 1, 2013, indigent prisoners will only be allowed to mail 5 general correspondence letters per month! Indigent prisoners were previously allotted 5 letters per week. The primary reason cited for the drastic cut is the financial costs involved in providing postage for the tens of thousands of indigent prisoners housed in Texas prisons. However, there is a very real attack being aimed at the growing number of revolutionary voices that are popping up around Texas to expose the barbaric treatment and inhumane conditions that exist in Texas. It is validation to many of us that our voices are being heard by outside supporters, and this new policy is definitely a retaliatory reactionary response to our activism.

Just this year alone has exposed so many major problems in Texas:

  1. Texas surpassed 500 executions of human beings on June 26 2013.
  2. A wrongful death lawsuit was lodged against Texas in regards to the extreme heat (and the pigs joined the prisoners!)
  3. Texas leads the nation in prison sexual assault and abuse cases

Rashid of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party - Prison Chapter was moved to Texas from Oregon and the internet is buzzing with his detailed report of the mistreatment and abuse he has incurred since arriving in Texas.

Comrades, the U.S. Department of Injustice doesn't give a shit about us. In order to actuate change for ourselves we must unite in solidarity, get active with USW and MIM(Prisons), link up with sincere activists and media outlets who are sympathetic to our cause and "mash the gas" on these oppressors. Texas hates media coverage, so now we are forced to really make our correspondence count. Drop all the letters to organizations that are only offering lip service with no action and get with this movement! Share Under Lock & Key, increase your political study, stand up to the pigs. Don't let the comrades in California be the only true revolutionary soldiers.

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[Campaigns] [Civil Liberties] [California] [ULK Issue 36]
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Update on CA Grievance Lawsuits

I have filed a petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court on the inadequacy of the grievance procedure in California prisons. I've also written letters to the California Attorney General's Office, the LA County District Attorney Office, the Governor's office and various media outlets in order to seek their assistance in forcing the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) staff to honor their own policies and regulations. All of my above efforts were to no avail.

The LA County Superior Court ordered an informal response when I filed my petition. The California Attorney General's office assumed the position of respondent to my petition and asked for an extension of time to reply to my petition, and then they failed to meet even that deadline. Before the Attorney General replied, the court denied my petition stating that I was not in compliance with the grievance procedure, despite being unable to cite a single grievance regulation that I hadn't complied with. This judicial abdication of CDCR staff lawlessness is routine in California state-level courts.

I had tried addressing the inadequate grievance procedure in the federal courts, by way of a federal civil suit that I filed against California State Prison - Corcoran. The ruling on this was that the CDCR's violation of their grievance procedure does not create a federal constitutional violation, basically saying that the due process clause is meaningless. The case is now pending in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, case number 12-17419.

My "take-away" from my efforts so far is that in dealing with these government types (da pigs, bureaucrats, politicians, government, attorneys, etc.) in general, you're up against brazenly socioeconomically biased, unreasonable, spiteful, hypocritical, out-of-touch, legitimized sociopaths. They work together to justify clearly unlawful behavior, and are adverse to a system of legitimate checks and balances. They see barely disguised partiality, in the disposition of their duties, as reasonable and good. We see evidence of this daily. I mean, the recently exposed NSA spy program is beyond any reasonable dispute a violation of the Fourth Amendment, yet they go on unapologetically violating the same constitution that they claim to cherish, absolutely Orwellian with the "double-think."

What irritates me even more is the public's complacency in the face of this brazen tyranny by this nation's power elite. The Declaration of Independence states that it is not only a right, but a duty for the people to replace a lawless government. When will we honor that duty?

Thank you for your time, consideration, and your work performed on behalf of the people.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this comrade's conclusions, and of course, we harbored no real expectations of action from the bureaucrats' offices and courts going into this campaign. This is why we constantly stress the need to organize people around these demands. The pigs are not usually going to do something just because it's right. They are more likely do something when they are pressured to do it. And pressure can only be applied when prisoners are organized for their common interests.

This is class struggle of the imprisoned lumpen against the bourgeois classes. When this struggle does not exist, our so-called "rights" under bourgeois democracy disappear, demonstrating that they never really existed in their own right. That is why we don't hesitate to report this comrade's failures, because they underline that important lesson. They also allow us to highlight the real victory in the grievance campaign, which is prisoners across many states acting in unison, sharing information and strategizing. Our strategies around this campaign need to keep the big picture of the balance of power in mind so that we do not get lost in an endless cycle of give and take with the pigs.

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[Gender] [Abuse] [Kern Valley State Prison] [California]
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Retaliation for Grieving Sexual Harassment at KVSP

We are currently [5 November 2013] on lockdown since 29 October 2013 and each housing facility on D facility is being thoroughly searched due to an isolated "threat to staff" and weapon being found here on the SNY yard.

Contrary to the report in ULK 27, July/August 2012, Appeals to Sacramento Politicians Lead to Improvements at KVSP, I have continued to experience retaliation for utilizing the CDCR 22 and CDCR 602 process.

On 26 June 2013, while being interviewed by Lieutenant C. Waddle concerning the improper cross-gender and group strip searches of transgender inmates, Lt. Waddle fabricated a spurious disciplinary charge of "illegal sex acts" with my cellmate, which Sergeant M. Jones wrote in a falsified report. Two days later I was placed in ASU [isolation] and given an additional RVR for simply notifying Lt. Waddle of specific transgender housing and safety concerns by her intentionally rehousing me with a homophobic inmate!

Black & Pink has led an advocacy campaign, with letters of protest to Warden M.D. Biter and CDCR Secretary Jeffery Beard, concerning the sexual harassment and retaliation I have experienced at Kern Valley State Prison.

When I filed a property appeal for items lost during the above incidents, I was subjected to more retaliation, a punitive cell search and RVR disciplinary action for "Falsifying records and documents," by Sergeant D. Williams and Correctional Officer Walinga. This also was witnessed by my cellmate.

I believe that things may improve in the immediate future as a result of my appeals, but I have suffered irreparable harm in my struggle for equality and liberation. 602 appeals are currently pending in Sacramento.


MIM(Prisons) adds: While all prisoners (both male and female) are in a position of subjugation that leads to gender oppression while they are locked up, gay, lesbian and transgender prisoners face additional harassment, abuse, and oppression. As we discussed in our review of The Anti-Exploits of Men Against Sexism, fighting gender oppression in prison is part of the battle against imperialism in general. We have seen some recent examples of growing awareness and unity around this struggle, and we will continue to publicize these battles and educate prisoners on gender oppression in general. For more reading on gender, write to us to request a copy of MIM Theory 2/3.

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