Response to SNY critic article published in the July/August 2010 ULK, #15, p.5
As is typical, I have ruffled some feathers on the SNY yard when I pointed out my personal sentiments regarding the SNY/general population issue. I criticized both SNY/GP as a matter of fact and the SNY cat asked what have I personally done. He would have to look up this history of John Q. Convict, an aka I have written under in various publications and prison news letters. I have blisters on my fingers from doing others' legal work and appeals as well as writing about what I experience and see. I am again on my way back to the SHU till I am paroled since I am not nor have I ever been one to be a passive submissive sheep nor am I in competition with anyone, I just keep it real.
It's ironic but I have had five CDCR numbers and I have experienced a lot. Maybe I am crazy to rather go to the SHU than exist on an SNY yard but I started doing time in the 70s and prisoners were a lot different then. The misconception I see in the term "active" as that is a prisoncrat designation of gang members (prison/street). Read the regulations of the CDCR and you know. I have never been one to tell on myself yet I see prisoners do it all the time enhancing CDCR/California Department of Justice investigatorial files that exist, yet we will never access, as one can other confidential files via court order.
Do not get me mixed up, I am not "active," I am "General Population" and I have seen how the California prisoner culture has succumbed to the tyranny of the prisoncrats with a whisper. Yes some get frightened and are keen to become SNY and bow to a perceived necessity in what I believe to be a misguided belief that such necessity forces conformity and that conformity allows for stability in which some can enjoy the "privileges" of visiting, canteen, telephones, packages. They are not rights that are guaranteed by the constitution. I elect to not conform in this prison environment.
I am a dissident who stands out and I am easily branded and locked back down but they always got to let me back out. I do not get visits or have money sent to me by choice, it's so I do not subject my family to the harassment that visiting presents, and the CDCR does not collect 55% of every dollar my family sends to me. I tried to point out that we prisoners are all victims of picklesuit tyranny, and yes I feel like those who volunteer to go to SNY have abandoned the struggle to a certain extent. I see the victims of the picklesuits assume the face of the tyrants, be they GP/SNY self-righteous and intransigent, while assisting the picklesuits instigate conflicts.
There is not a lockdown situation in the state of California that I have not experienced, and I do not confuse unity with conformity. I have always believed that prisoners should unite around principals. I have recently been labeled a "terrorist" I am an activist and it is frustrating as hell to try and pull the coats of those in these prisons who have submitted knowingly and unknowingly.
I see that there is the need for the mending of broken spirits on both sides of the California prison divide which is no easy task since it will require the prison population to reshape itself and refuse the gratuitous gifts and reject the privileges used to co-op prisoners as well as the elimination of it being all about self. Prisons use prisoners working in the kitchen or selling out for a fix/hit of dope, utilizing that instinctual will to survive. I do not believe in leaders as they become the focus of compulsive collaboration with the opposition once they are identified, and they are not infallible and such leads to eventual disaster. Yet I have known that principled individuals avoid the natural vices such as greed, betrayal, and the misguided notion that one has to compete without exception as if it's a healthy attribute. Such is and always has been, in my mind, a sad path to self-esteem, an illusion built upon putting ones foot on the neck of another which is what the pickesuits do, and it's not lasting since when they fail to physically and emotionally break my will they become fearful and envious because I have endured what they themselves know they could not. Yes I have on several occasions learned to make due with nothing, making myself mentally and emotionally strong and I survive.
Kudos to any successful SNY litigator. I read Prison Legal News (PLN) each month for the past six years, noting all the successes published there, rarely seeing an instance in which a California prisoner received millions. Even though the state has deep pockets, that 12.2 million eludes my perusal. You should send the decision to PLN so they can publish it as your work.
I also want to point out a simple truth even though our comrades at MIM(Prisons) disagree. In my years of doing time, always General Population, I have learned to read people and I am rarely in error. I can and do note agent provocateurs and quislings as well as those who think they are well hidden and can not be spotted. It's the nature of such individuals to expose themselves. I have never gone to the hole for harming another prisoner over the years I have served. It has always been an issue with the real enemy who has hoodwinked and bamboozled, coerced, pressured or otherwise manipulated the greedy and the weak; of which I am neither.
My view is that SNY prisoners who volunteered to go that route are their own worst enemy and the stigma attached is something that they will have to deal with, as those who dropped out, originally dropped in, when it was fashionable for you, and you were on the hooligan end claiming to be a gang member, telling the pig that you are a gang member, proud to be a gang member till the pack turns on you and then you don't want to be a member any more or you find yourself in a position in which you are facing time and you choose to purchase leniency by telling on your sworn homeboys. But wait, not all SNYs have been snitches, but many have "debriefed" so I must say that the percentages speak for themselves in terms of those who allowed themselves to be used and manipulated to self-detriment. There are still some in GP hiding in the wings.
I was brought up believing that it takes a lot of balls to stand up to adversity and not compromise one's principals. I am constantly educating myself in a variety of subjects. Yet I do not tell others who, what or how they should believe, we all make choices and some ultimately lead to some becoming SNY. I want to be quite clear that I am not any better or worse than any other human being on this earth. We all have faults yet the struggle has never died, it has been altered and manipulated towards personal gain. I am presenting my personal perspective from my years of experience. Though it is true I've never lived on an SNY/PC yard, they do put SNYs on the tier with GP in the ASU/SHU, to my dismay. I am an equal opportunity criticizer since while some focused on SNY, I spoke of both sides of the fence.
I noted years ago that the most illuminating and dangerous place in the prison was the law library as knowledge was power. Yet the time of spending 8 hours a day in the law library has been effectively reduced to one hour and thirty minutes a week if you are lucky and are PLU. I am not here to brag on myself but there are people on the streets thanks to me and new life was breathed into others whose cases were on the ropes.
So since I was asked what I have done, well helping others and standing up to abusive prison staff and officials has resulted in my doing 100% of my term due to my concern for the similarly situated prisoner. Ethnicity never mattered, all came to me. Yet when I think about it I wonder if my sacrifices have been all for naught, as those who instilled the fortitude, stubborn tenacity, and courage to fight back in the 60s and 70s are flip-flopping in their graves about the conditions and backwards steps in California prisons. The ladies put up better fights and they as a result still get stuff that we don't. Some of the prison population put privileges before rights so you enjoy your privileges while they keep chipping away your rights.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This letter is part of an ongoing discussion, started in ULK13, of the controversial issue of the potential for prisoners in Special Needs Yards (SNY) to participate in the anti-imperialist struggle. It is MIM(Prisons)' position that prisoners in all situations can be induced to sell out and serve the needs of the system. And while we recognize the harm done by prisoners debriefing, going to SNY can sometimes involve less cooperation with the pigs than staying in an LO. We can't condemn people for mistakes they made as youth trying to find a place. We need to unite with all who demonstrate, in practice, that they are on the side of the anti-imperialist struggle.
This comrade says he can read people, and is rarely in error. And to an extent we agree. We "read" people by applying work and line standards to our potential comrades. By judging how one completes their work and upholds their line we can judge them as a comrade. The error comes in when you think you know when someone is a cop or snitch or not. You trust people you shouldn't and attack your friends. Even if these errors are rare, they tend to be the most serious. This is why general policies are superior ways to "read" people than looking at individual cases.
This comrade comments that s/he does not "believe in leaders." We agree that security and hero worship are weaknesses of having leaders, and we should work to minimize both of them. However, we also must be materialists and recognize that leaders, including the writer, exist and that leadership is important. A leaderless movement ends up without clear direction and can waste the resources and energy of the masses. Leaderless movements (also known as anarchist) generally end up with de facto leaders - people who are not formally put in positions of leadership but who just take up the lead because of experience or line or a desire for power. These de facto leaders are far more dangerous than elected leaders because there is no mechanism to remove them from power. And this also limits the people's input into the direction of a movement. For these reasons we affirm the communist principle of clear and formal leadership of the revolutionary movement and its organizations, while we work towards a society where no groups of people have power over others.