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Social consciousness, prison struggle and perseverance: a personal account

February 23, 2014

by Larry ‘Key’ Mitchell

It’s been quite some time since I submitted an article to the Bay View paper, and I don’t usually write about personal struggles and experiences in political or socio-economic terms. In fact, Dr. Willie and Mary Ratcliff have been faithfully allowing me a medium to narrate and chronicle political and social views, Black History and accomplishments, as well as issues relative to those of us who are imprisoned – and to a larger extent, the Black Community outside the walls and fences of prison – for the past 16 years.

Larry 'Key' Mitchell 2007
Larry 'Key' Mitchell 2007
The Bay View is not only a significant part of my native community but has always maintained an incomparable level of integrity and unfettered authenticity in the Black press and has always provided a voice for the voiceless behind the walls of prison – a necessary ingredient in the maintenance of the freedom of speech and freedom of the press in exposing some of the corrupt practices within the criminal justice system, post-conviction.

However, for those who have become familiar with me and my previous articles and essays in the Bay View over the years who don’t know, I was validated as a prison gang associate in May of 2011. I have been in the “hole” for the last 33 months behind this ERRONEOUS validation and I am currently in the hole overflow at Pelican Bay State Prison.

While I have retained counsel, a renowned attorney who specializes in prison gang validations and conditions of confinement – though at this point, I’m not too excited about having retained him – to help litigate this bogus validation, I believe it’s my social responsibility to inform those who do know me of a bitter reality: When a prisoner is validated as a prison gang member or associate, the validation itself is the equivalent of being contaminated with a socially contagious virus that exposes other prisoners who are in possession of things like photographs with me or even in possession of my name, including my a.k.a., to being validated themselves.

Nevertheless, I believe now is a better time than any to provide a narrative of my prison experience as an example in order to illustrate how and why prisoners who decriminalize, educate themselves and become socially conscious become not only threats to the pathological hegemony of crime and punishment but within the walls of CDCR are targeted for validation.

In order for me to evince such a connection, I would like to reflect back to an earlier period in my life when I often acted out foolishly and the graduation of my socio-political consciousness that led to me becoming a so-called “threat.”

A retrospective view

Nineteen years ago, I came to prison for attempting to get money by means of force from a corporate enterprise I felt at the time would not only not miss the currency, but somehow “deserved” to be robbed for having robbed consumers via over-priced retail. It wasn’t my first time in prison. In fact, I had come to prison in the summer of 1987 for the first time, for felonious activities I had no significant remorse for committing.

My attitude as a youngster would land me in prison two more times for a range of felonies that would ultimately make me a primary candidate for the notoriously draconian three-strikes law. Did I know the difference between right and wrong? Certainly. Did I have two law abiding parents who did all they could to instill in me good moral principles? Positively.

So I guess a logical question is, Why did I fall into crime and develop, along with many of my peers, a disregard for not only the legitimacy of the American socioeconomic structure, but the politics of a nation that was (supposedly) founded upon a Constitution that recognizes all its citizens as equals? And instituted amendments to its Constitution that (supposedly) guarantee the equal protection of its citizen’s rights, especially those of color.

Well, as an adolescent child of African descent, I possessed, along with many adolescent children of color, a socially intuitive duality of the comforts of love and the anxiety of hate. The companionship of acceptance and the insecurity of rejection.

Unfortunately, as I grew older and came into contact with some of the dominant social institutions of society, my intuition became definitive while the balance of my experiences became lopsided as the definition of my character began to be defined by the color of my skin. For those of “hue,” that can become a powerful motivator in the decisions we make, which ultimately spur too many of us toward crossing the threshold to “The (Prison) Door of No Return.”

Larry 'Key' Mitchell bodybuilder
These are the few photos taken of Larry during his years behind enemy lines.
Entering my teenage years, I not only began rejecting the legitimacy of the social, economic and political institutions of America, I began embracing everything America rejected. At that time in my life, I didn’t understand with any lucidity why I identified with and defined myself as a “ni**a” or why I was such a myrmidon of what amounted to ignorance.

It was only later in my life – after sincere introspection, cathartic transformation and systematic erudition – did I discover that I had developed a pathological rejection of authority based on unresolved issues with abusive authority figures in society. Also, as apolitical as I was a youngster, representing myself as a “ni**a” and embracing what I didn’t comprehend was basically my way – unbeknownst to me at the time – of actually assuming a political disposition by rejecting an institution of politics that my experience convinced me had rejected me.

You see, no matter how ignominious, the attitude of a “ni**a” is the embodiment of a political disposition largely due to existential anxiety toward systemic class and racial oppression, which is evidenced in part by an emerging use of the word “ni**a” being expressed as a so-called “term of endearment” amongst a large percent of the impoverished and oppressed “underclass” and other ethnic groups, besides those of Afrikan descent, even though Blacks remain on the top rung of the social ladder when it comes to racist subjugation.

Racial oppression, which is predominately exercised through economic exclusion, discriminatory jurisprudence and political inefficiency, often contributes to the manifestation of and obfuscated identity crisis and in many cases leads subtly to self-hatred. Consequently things like law, education, social responsibility, taking care of family and community, or earning a living “legitimately” etc. are societal norms that I had – based on my attitude and actions – dumped all into one category of rejection and diametrically opposed.

Ironically, the attitude that was the foundation of my endearment to my disposition as a “ni**a” didn’t protect or empower me in any fashion – political or otherwise. It not only exposed me to and prepared me for a judicial apparatus that – according to the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution – would literally (re)enslave me, but it kept me entrenched in criminal activity that was deleterious to my family, my community and other unguided, misdirected and frustrated brothas like myself.

The young and marginalized often mistakenly respond to discriminatory and biased policies by engaging in crime or assuming the roles of “ni**as” who are not only politically ineffective but, as a consequence, voluntarily surrender ourselves over to a system that uses our own ignorance to grind us into social fertilizer to nourish the seeds of the next generation in order to continue producing expendable bodies to feed this political beast, to keep its financial belly full.

When I was sentenced to 35 years to life 19 years ago under the three-strikes law for what I felt at the time was more of an “expropriation” of finances from a corporate enterprise than a robbery, I wasn’t shocked to receive such a harsh sentence for committing what amounted to a petty crime in the scheme of illegal financial gain. In retrospect, I interpreted being locked up solely as a by-product of my skin color and not necessarily for breaking the law. And although my mentality would keep me on a path of recidivism, my attitude was facilitated by a manifold of discriminatory politics orchestrated to ensure I remained on a beltway to incarceration.

I interpreted being locked up solely as a by-product of my skin color and not necessarily for breaking the law.

It would take me almost a decade from when I came to prison for the first time to realize that changing the trajectory of my dysfunctional, self-annihilating behavior, on my own terms, without the ineffective assistance of prisoncrats, was an affront to the California Department of (Needs) Corrections. An “offense” that would surreptitiously put me in the cross-hairs of some vile intentions by both prisoncrats and some recreant prisoners as well.

A cognitive social emergence

When I entered the prison system for the first time, in the 1980s, the social panoramic landscape was entirely different from what exists today. Because of my experiences with street violence, I entered the prison system with a warrior-like mentality – more a “prisoner of politics” than a “political prisoner” with respect to those who are held captive today for acts that were predicated upon politically conscious ideology.

Those of my generation and within my social circle had come to prison from neighborhoods and conditions that were poised to murder us in a myriad of ways. And bullet holes and scars – not tattoos – were our chevrons to show our combat service in the streets.

We were young and full of angst but we were also signifying an urban Black message to other and older prisoners that we were also Warriors! Evolving from boyhood, we were young men in a state of rebellion, living on the coattails of arrested development, who had grappled with the abuses and elements of poverty, survived violence and had a hard time respecting those in leadership roles who demonstrate more caricature than character.

You see, in the ‘80s I was familiar with quite a few brothas I had run into in prison who had reputations while on the streets as notorious gangstas or dope fiends – and in some instances a combination of both – but were now masquerading as revolutionary erudites with criminally predatory mentalities whose revolutionary efforts were more nugatory than effective.

Nugatory efforts that I would discover a decade and a half later amounted to nothing more than ornamental sentiments that attracted prison investigative security units, who began targeting essentially an entire generation, or sector, of sincerely conscious prisoners for removal from CDCR prison mainlines, resulting in a dramatic deterioration of social awareness and respect amongst California prisoners as a whole. Like a lot of young men who come to prison, I was searching for an identity and looking for structure.

We were young and full of angst but we were also signifying an urban Black message to other and older prisoners that we were also Warriors! Young men in a state of rebellion, living on the coattails of arrested development, who had grappled with the abuses and elements of poverty, survived violence and had a hard time respecting those in leadership roles who demonstrate more caricature than character.

I was born and raised in the Bay Area – in particular, San Francisco – and those of my generation were essentially the offspring of the Black Power movement, primarily the Black Panther Party. As a consequence, we had a rudimentary esprit de corps of Black Power and unity. Survivors of the war staged against Black activist groups during the 1960s and ‘70s by government and law enforcement operations like the Counter Intelligence Program (referred to as COINTELPRO) under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover were still present in prison in the 1980s.

Some of the first reading material I encountered upon entering prison was radical and revolutionary and provided me with a sense of pride, because I identified with those who confronted bigoted “Americrats” and fought back against the forces of racism. I was introduced to the philosophies, ideologies and some of the politically charged literature about the BPP (Black Panther Party) the BLA (Black Liberation Army), the PGRNA (Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika), RAM (Revolutionary Action Movement), NAPO (New Afrikan Peoples Organization), AM-31st (Amistad, March 31st), SNCC (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee), NOI (Nation of Islam), MST (Moorish Science Temple), the Knights of Liberty and the Afrikan Blood Brotherhood, to name but only a few.

Larry MitchellI didn’t view these groups and organizations as gangs or criminal enterprises, as the government tried castigating them as. In fact, within the scope of some of the historically government sanctioned lethal tactics used to suppress and murder Black activists, I view some of them as freedom fighters and unsung s/heroes in the canon of Black history.

But due to the way I was internalizing the material I was reading and learning, the rage substratum to my hostility toward the nation state-complicit racism reinforced my sense of being only a victim, which not only allowed me to justify criminal activity but would also compound a host of social problems that would only be in service to the continued elimination – via incarceration – of society’s “undesirables.”

I can vividly recall the first time I met Huey P. Newton in the late 1980s at San Quentin. Me and a few brothas were on the weight pile, pumping iron, trying to get as big as we possibly could, while he and a few other brothas walked over to where we were stationed. The first thing I noticed about him as we introduced ourselves was his eye contact and the strength of his handshake, which I reciprocated.

Although some of us were bigger than Huey, we were noticeably younger, as he gave us a few tips on developing strength which, he emphasized, had as much to do with learning and reading material related to the plight of our ancestors and the conditions of our communities as lifting weights. Quite a few years would come to pass before I would truly grasp the significance of his advice.

Although some of us were bigger than Huey, we were noticeably younger, as he gave us a few tips on developing strength which, he emphasized, had as much to do with learning and reading material related to the plight of our ancestors and the conditions of our communities as lifting weights.

It was a brief encounter, and a short time later, Huey would be found shot dead on the streets of Oakland, IN the Black community, which was an experience coupled with a few others that created in me a little cognitive dissonance toward revolutionary rhetoric. But I never lost the conscious understanding of a historical fact: that a tensely strained bow of oppression ultimately takes a revolutionary aim at the power of the oppressor.

A tensely strained bow of oppression ultimately takes a revolutionary aim at the power of the oppressor.

A street-to-prison correlative

Twenty-five years ago, as many may recall, the immediate Bay Area had only one area code, which was 415, and many of us entering the prison system from the San Francisco Bay Area during that time identified ourselves with our regional area code. Those of my generation who ended up in prison came in during the crack pandemic that swept into the Bay Area like the flu, and the tales of Too-$hort, Cougnut, Chunk, 4-Tay, Askari X, Mac Dre, Mac Mall, 415, RBL, JT the Fig and a host of other Bay Area artists provided a musical backdrop to what it was like for youngsters in the Bay Area – from San Ho’ to the Valley Joe’ – who were navigating through the perils of poverty, pain, paper-chasing and prison.

We didn’t have a political agenda against the system or a revolutionary ideology or even a collective criminal strategy. Our primary goal was to get out of prison, intact. But until we paroled, we were determined to keep our chin in, chest out and our boots tied tight in order to secure ourselves in conditions and situations where prisoncrats not only failed to protect us but typically left it up to prisoners to fend for themselves.

We had yet to crystalize an understanding of how capitalism is the driving force behind classism and how classism is the principle impetus of competition, fueling crime, violence and other components of social division we experienced in our own communities. What we did understand is that we were Black, from the Bay Area, and behind the walls of most California prisons, Bay Area cats were heavily out-numbered, so social cohesion became our basic focus.

Due to observing the rivalry in prison between Bloods and Crips, which were predominantly Los Angeles-based street tribes at that time and were known to war against each other, an ethos serendipitously evolved that resulted in distinguishing a social attitude against allowing those divisive dynamics and entities to enter and establish themselves in the immediate Bay Area so as to prevent our communities from falling into warfare based on “colors.” Although we were successful in maintaining a social rampart against the demarcation of our communities along the lines of color, which still holds to this day, communities within the immediate Bay Area were still divided and fell into murderous rivalry that continues to escalate each year without interruption.

We had yet to crystalize an understanding of how capitalism is the driving force behind classism and how classism is the principle impetus of competition, fueling crime, violence and other components of social division we experienced in our own communities.

As I began to read and study more fervently about the social dynamics in urban America, it became apparent that the same elements of oppression in society that produced Bloods and Crips and any other street tribe or gang – from New York to California and all urban ‘hoods in between – produced us. The same kind of homicide, fratricide and parricide that was happening in one urban community was happening in ALL urban communities, resulting in nothing short of genocide. Now it occurs in a lot of rural ‘hoods as well.

As I was in and out of prison a few times during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, I began noticing the growing effects of what I refer to as hand-me-down oppression: They oppress us, so we, in turn, oppress each other. As a consequence, the phenomena of SNY (sensitive needs yards) would rapidly grow into what they have become today: villainous bastions, housing so many alienated prisoners that the prison population as a whole has essentially become polarized into opposing factions.

One accuses the other as apostates, snitches, sellouts and turncoats, while prisoncrats manipulate this social dichotomy they designed to keep SHU (Security Housing Unit) beds full. Unfortunately, the prison class – as a collective – has yet to construct any ideological formula in order to counter the forever growing sensitive needs yard population or to discredit the need for a sensitive “needs” yard, despite the prison population being full of “social scientists.” I believe that is due to philosophical anachronism, i.e., an outdated philosophy about doing time.

An investment toward liberation

Nevertheless, in 1994, I would be arrested, tried, convicted and, in 1996, sentenced to 35 years to life under Three Strikes. While in the county jail, I got involved in a program that was modeled after the nationally recognized Delancey Street Foundation, which is where I met some passionately dedicated counselors, some of whom had been in and out of prison, involved in violence and on drugs themselves and would eventually become friends of mine, helping me to deal with and confront some of the core issues I had that derailed my life.

At one point, I was asked to speak to some at-risk teenagers about drugs, crime, violence, prison and all the negative decisions I made in my life that had undermined some of my positive choices. I agreed to speak with the at-risk teens. As a consequence, I would eventually end up speaking on a regular basis to youth from various high schools, community groups, teachers and other stakeholders involved in education.

Larry 'Key' Mitchell, 'CDC Prisoner'
Note this photo predates CDC adding R for Rehabilitation to its name.
These events catapulted to the headlines of some mainstream Bay Area newspapers and would eventually make the news on NBC on a special news segment. In short, in 1997, while housed at Pelican Bay State Prison, I would be called back to court, and the 35-years-to-life sentence I had been given would be reduced to 23 years, with no life sentence attached because of the work I had done with youth and my involvement with recovery.

When I returned to Pelican Bay Prison in 1998 after being resentenced to a significantly reduced term, the attitude that was displayed towards me because of the reduced sentence was nothing short of hostile by prison officials in my initial classification committee. That hostility would eventually manifest into direct action being taken to remove me from general population.

The experience with working with youth and other community based organizations invigorated me to further advance myself in reading, studying and learning as well as writing articles, primarily about the conditions in prison, many of which were featured in the Bay View newspaper. I was also pushing to establish what CDCR refers to as inmate activity groups in order to create venues in which prisoners come together to produce reformative curricula that would result in bridging some of the socially divisive practices that end in racial warfare. Prisoncrats use that unnecessary violence to seduce legislators to allocate more taxpayers’ dollars and punitive measures to an imperialist prison system.

After finally getting the approval for an inmate activity group in 2002, which was only approved as a result of the prison receiving some bad press. A major riot had occurred two years prior, in which 16 prisoners were shot – one fatally – that was followed by a two-year lock-down.

We established an inmate activity group called Choices. At the outset, the group set up a two-pronged approach to social reform. One approach was dealing with some of the core issues that lead to things like the division amongst ourselves, the results of a criminal mentality, the importance of education – also sharing dialogue about self-improvement and having constructive debates about current world events etc.

The other approach was selecting a committee of prisoners knowledgeable in law and departmental rules and regulations, who put together lists of uniform complaints regarding institutional conditions and would meet with staff once a week to seek resolution. As is to be expected, prisoncrats made several attempts at undermining the group – canceling group meetings for ridiculous reasons or conducting unnecessary strip searches or referring to prisoners who attended the group as “whiners” in order to discourage attendance.

At one point, B-facility staff, I believe, tried to provoke an ignorant reaction from prisoners when they unnecessarily decided to take the kitchen jobs from general population prisoners working in the dining hall and replace them with THU (Transitional Housing Unit) inmates – those undergoing debriefing from prison gangs – to feed general population prisoners, which was unacceptable due to suspicion the food would be sabotaged.

Many prisoners wanted to sit down on the yard, refusing to return to our cells at yard recall to protest the situation – as if prison officials would pitch us tents and let us stay on the yard overnight. Needless to say, that would have been a bad idea, so we had an impromptu meeting in Choices and decided to stage a hunger strike to protest THU inmates preparing general population meals, which would be participated in only by those housed in 4-block, who were the only general population prisoners affected. We didn’t want to give prison officials “manipulative ammo” to claim that “prison gangs” were coercing other prisoners to participate.

The hunger strike lasted for only three days before the facility captain called for a Choices ad-hoc committee meeting, and negotiations resulted in the general population prisoners who had lost their jobs due to being replaced by THU inmates being reassigned to their former job positions.

Recriminating redemption

Because I facilitated most of the Choices meetings, wrote articles about prison conditions and generally engaged in diplomatic dialogue with other ethnic groups and prisoners about sustaining peace amongst ourselves, I began noticing some of the overt tactics certain prison officials began to exercise in order to shut me down. They even went so far as manipulating other prisoners into displaying confrontational attitudes towards me without provocation.

But I continued to forge ahead because for one, I’m impassioned with the belief that The Most High has my back and that something of profound significance can emerge from those of us who have been thrown into society’s waste baskets of retribution. Besides, when it comes to combat, whether in some ignorant riot or in a mutually combative engagement, I’m undisputed in my 26 years of prison experience. Nor have I EVER betrayed another, including those who I KNOW betrayed me, which cuts deeper than any physical wound ever could.

In 2003, prisoncrats would put me in the hole pending an investigation into my involvement with a “conspiracy to murder correctional staff” at Pelican Bay Prison, which was a complete and total fabrication. I remained in the hole for a year and was eventually cleared from the bogus conspiracy, but before actually being cleared from the hole, I would be served another lock-up notice order, mandating I be retained in the hole pending another investigation into my association with a prison gang that CDCR had yet to designate as a prison gang.

I’m impassioned with the belief that The Most High has my back and that something of profound significance can emerge from those of us who have been thrown into society’s waste baskets of retribution.

It would be close to another year before I was released from the hole back to the prison’s mainline. By the time I returned to B-facility general population, the inmate activity group that I personally wrote up the proposal for and named Choices had been scaled back to that of an AA or NA (Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous) group with no semblance of its former efficacy, including its name, which had been changed to Choices for a Common Ground, denoting its former intent.

One year later after being in Pelican Bay for almost 11 years, I would finally be transferred to Folsom State Prison, where I continued to engage in prison activist work on a grassroots level, from facilitating pre-release classes and other self-help groups to negotiating truces between rivals. And prisoncrats would continue finding unsubstantiated allegations to place me in the hole. The fact is, the last five times I have been placed in the hole, I ultimately was released without being found guilty of any disciplinary infractions.

In 2007, while at Folsom State Prison, I wrote an article titled “Live from Old Folsom,” published in the Bay View newspaper. The article in its first part was pertaining to a Positive Vibration Day Conference at Folsom amongst prisoners, encouraging conciliation and positive social engagement. In Part 2 of the article, I wrote about a project called Positive Action Committee for Communities in Transition, or PACCT-10.

Larry 'Key' Mitchell
This is Larry’s most recent photo.
I wrote the articles of incorporation for PACCT-10 for the purposes of establishing a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that could potentially play a key role not only in reducing the murder rate throughout the Bay Area but contribute to helping indigent prisoners take college courses, order TVs and books and provide other material support to positively help them through their time as well as helping newly released parolees reintegrate into their respective communities by providing them with some basic support upon parole.

Although the article didn’t provide a mission statement of PACCT-10 or ideological format, the executive summary and charter of PACCT-10 succinctly delineated its design, purpose, function and goal, encompassing its ideology. It clearly stipulated that those involved in encouraging violence, crime and drugs would be prohibited from participation.

One of the principles conveyed in PACCT-10 was encouraging prisoners to educate themselves about things such as substance abuse, alternatives to violence, becoming employable upon release and developing safeguards against criminal life-styles and behaviors, and utilizing that knowledge toward initiating and establishing inmate activity groups, under the guidelines of CCR (California Code of Regulations) Title 15, Section 3234-3240, which allows inmate activity groups to conduct fundraising campaigns “by soliciting inmate donations or selling approved products, commodities or services to general population prisoners,” such as food sales, and donating some of those funds to nonprofit charities. PACCT-10 fundamentally allowing prisoners to invest in their own collective benefit.

However, prison officials not only recognized the potential of such a legitimate proactive endeavor to empower the prison class, but disregarded the PACCT-10 tenets and utilized the published article, “Live from Old Folsom” and the PACCT-10 charter to validate me as a “disruptive group member” in 2008, which, according to CDCR’s code of regulations, doesn’t result in segregated or security unit housing.

The very fact that I was investing in efforts to help decriminalize and educate others and continue to do so even after I was validated as a disruptive group member was obviously unacceptable to prison officials, so they moved forward in 2010 to process me for validation as a “prison gang associate.” The evidence used to do so consisted of a picture – over 40 years old – of George Jackson in a newspaper article, a quote from a book he authored and a statement from some weasel of an inmate who debriefed from a prison gang – literally lying to prisoncrats, alleging that I’m a prison gang associate, which is insidiously arbitrary considering that informants and inmates who debrief are not required to verify under penalty of perjury that the information they provide is true, accurate or correct.

Race, cultural mores and poverty are used as social class indicators that are encased within a social caste system that lawfully targets those of a certain caste and gears them for a street-to-prison-pipeline and are the same class indicators used by prison officials to sustain a general population-to-SHU pipeline for prisoners.

Race, cultural mores and poverty are used as social class indicators that are encased within a social caste system that lawfully targets those of a certain caste and gears them for a street-to-prison-pipeline and are the same class indicators used by prison officials to sustain a general population-to-SHU pipeline for prisoners.

SHUs are nothing more than concrete tombs with flushing toilets, running water and electricity, along with some minimal privileges that not only soften the psychological blow to one’s natural cravings for physical freedom and social interaction, but diminish the exigency of how long term isolation deteriorates human sanity. They are a cunningly subtle way of dampening resistance – and accountability for austere, inhumane forms of solitary confinement – by improving the appearance of human rights and compassion with amenities for those in the hole or SHU. These are seductive attempts to nullify evidentiary proof of cruel and unusual punishment.

Empirical evidence and qualitative research disturbingly reveal that CDCR’s gang management policies as they exist in practice are abusively exploitive and are not chiefly about security, safety or the containment of violence, any more than political demagoguery sensationalizing crime is about public safety.

CDCR’s gang management policies are abusively exploitive and are not chiefly about security, safety or the containment of violence, any more than political demagoguery sensationalizing crime is about public safety.

Milking taxpayers to fulfill a bureaucratic financial demand to employ and expand an extremely huge work force used to manage so-called “dangerous prison gangs,” holes and maximum security housing units has become the primary interest. The secondary interest, which threatens the first, is to prevent the development of social consciousness and prisoners employing humane, peaceful strategies in order to liberate ourselves from corruptive abuses. That runs counter to penological interests.

In conclusion

One of the reasons I’ve narrated the details of my personal experience is because much of it is hardly unique. There are hundreds of prisoners who have been falsely validated as members or associates of prison gangs that can viscerally relate to my experience, from living life as an outlaw in society to being prosecuted and convicted to prison, only to be persecuted while in prison, fundamentally for educating oneself by trying to heighten one’s sense of cultural and social awareness.

I salute those of you who have decriminalized your mentalities, educated yourselves and learned the letter of the law in order to challenge and change the arbitrary and capricious mechanisms used to bury prisoners alive in dungeons designed like mausoleums, based on ideologies that counter those of the status quo. As important as court rulings in favor of prisoners’ rights are, legal cases alone won’t change the vagarious denial of our human rights and our being treated as if we are subhuman.

Our efforts have to also coincide with and change the skewed public consensus about incarceration and the conditions of confinement. Those outside of the walls of prison who tirelessly support and advocate for the rights and welfare of prisoners – whom we can’t thank enough – are the oxygen keeping our spirits alive. So we have to be mindful of engaging in practices that legitimate indefinite SHU terms and dubious gang management policies by vanguarding the struggle against complacent ignorance, criminal contamination and counterproductive “isms” that lead to schisms.

Developing a creative synthesis from theoretical polarities that extend further than ethnic demarcation is illustrated best when prisoners can come together in peaceful protest and work together to end racial hostilities. Despite our ideological differences, pigmentation, individual struggles, personal opinions, background or geographical origins or how much time we have done or have left, we are all chained to an assembly line of injustice.

Prisoners can come together in peaceful protest and work together to end racial hostilities. Despite our ideological differences, pigmentation, individual struggles, personal opinions, background or geographical origins or how much time we have done or have left, we are all chained to an assembly line of injustice.

We are intrinsically related to the family of oppressed people worldwide, whose liberation lies in the bond of our human consonance. The best social weapon we have at dismantling the pillars of CDCR’s tyranny is the demonstration of our humanity.

Governing ourselves individually with the principles of self-respect, dignity and respect for others consolidates the consciousness of unified struggle. Let America discern that when law is no longer sustained by the reasoning of justice but is enforced by the sword alone, then shall society descend into revolution.

I believe it’s only befitting for me to end with the same caveat I used to end my last article, “Live from Old Folsom”:

“Just keep in mind that prisoncrats will attempt to sabotage our collective strength and our independent efforts at educating and positively empowering ourselves and our communities. Stay solid.” – L. Key Mitchell, Nov. 14, 2007. That’s what’s up!

Send our brother some love and light: Larry ‘Key’ Mitchell, D-63937, P.O. Box 3130, Delano, CA 93216.

 

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3 thoughts on “Social consciousness, prison struggle and perseverance: a personal account

  1. yogiyo

    This is an excellently written article that portrays what is happening in the US prisons daily. A prisoner's punishment is to be away from society for x number of years, not to be punished repeatedly at the whim of some uneducated C. O. because they choose to do so. Prisoner's are human being's that have made a mistake as we all do. They should be treated with respect and dignity not as sub humans because they are currently incarcerated. The family of the inmate also suffers greatly to see that their loved one is being wrongly treated. Children of inmates are also in pain waiting for their loved ones to come home.

    Reply
  2. T.Smith

    to all the brothers enduring the struggle keep your heads held high. I speak from experience and as a black sister I will continue to uplift my man Larry P Mitchell and as a couple we will continue to rally against the ingest of the penal system. I would like to add for those of you who may have a loved one doing time to please take a moment and say a quick prayer for them and there families, many are isolated and often times alone we are all human who have made mistakes but no one should ever be treated the way these inmates are being subjected to. T. Smith

    Reply

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