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I had to write on brown paper bags when these rogues came and confiscated everybody’s writing paper

November 28, 2015

by Shyheim Deen El-Mu’min

Part 1: Introduction

Editor’s note: At the Bay View, we call this the “paper bag story” because much of it was written on brown paper bags after the guards at SECC, the Southeast Correctional Center in Missouri, confiscated everyone’s writing paper. Shyheim also says he had to write in the dark. The entire story is one of the longest we’ve ever received – over 10,000 words that filled 14 single-spaced pages when transcribed, so we’ll be presenting it in parts. This is the introduction, addressed to Bay View publisher Dr. Willie Ratcliff.

This is the story that Missouri prisoner Shyheim Deen El-Mu’min wrote on paper bags when guards confiscated the writing paper from him and all the prisoners in his solitary confinement unit. – Photo: Jamie Weinstein, who also transcribed the story

This is the story that Missouri prisoner Shyheim Deen El-Mu’min wrote on paper bags when guards confiscated the writing paper from him and all the prisoners in his solitary confinement unit. – Photo: Jamie Weinstein, who also transcribed the story

I have reasons to believe that my outgoing and incoming mail is being tampered with. You see, I’ve been a target at this institution for a long time – well, all throughout this state – and they’ll do anything to prevent me from reporting or reaching out to society.

A lot has been going on here of late and I’m sure they wouldn’t want it to get out. The brothers out there in Cali is my greatest inspiration. They fuel my fire to keep standing against the oppressors here and to continue to organize and mobilize. No matter what, I’m a hold it down in this state – regardless of when or what, whether I’m 10 strong or 100.

I’ll rather have 10 solid, strong warriors by my side than a thousand weak cowards. Brother, real solid stand-up souljahs in this state are few and far between. It seems like dudes are afraid to sacrifice.

Revolutionaries are not selfish. Revolution is an act, not an idea. A lot of these fools romanticize about Malcolm, Huey, Tookie, Larry, Jeff, Jerry Lewis, Beyi, Clarence 13 X (Allah). All these organizations – or dis-organizations – down here is not political at all; therefore, they are not a threat to this administration whatsoever.

They’re more a threat to themselves because they allow all unwholesome things and people to lay amongst them, infiltrate and stagnate the movement and report to our overseers. So most of the time I find myself alone. I cross paths with kindred spirits, but they try to keep us separated and isolated.

Dudes need to wake up! If it’s not now, then when? If it’s not us, then who? I’m talking to all you so-called Moors, Lords, Folks, LoCs, Damus, Muslims, Christians, FVs, Vatos, who are really sincere about that. Get away from that gang mentality and politicize yourselves. Learn how to defend yourselves. Learn your rights because if you know your rights you’ll know when your rights are being violated.

I have reasons to believe that my outgoing and incoming mail is being tampered with. They’ll do anything to prevent me from reporting or reaching out to society.

Stand up and be accounted for and stop accepting anyone and anything just because. Start judging these guys and people in general by their words, acts and their deeds. Cease allowing these screws to approach you as if you’re a child.

I’ve seen a lot of fools take on the role of a child in a child-like parental type of relationship with the pigs. I can only take it as if they’re cowards or they lack the confidence in themselves due to lack of knowledge of self. If they knew better, they’ll do better.

Knowledge is power! Enlightenment brings about confidence. Like the late great Tupac Shakur stated, “If you can’t find something to live for, find something to die for.” I’ll rather die standing on my feet than bowing down on my knees!

On some real shit, I believe a lot of these dudes are scared to die. I’ve conquered death, so what in the hell is there alive I shall be afraid of? They are not going to change these laws nor the penal code unless we make them.

There are people out there who are willing to help us – if we are willing to help ourselves. We got to educate ourselves in law and politics, so we can educate and inform our families and loved ones on how to cast their votes. It’s time for you old vultures to get out of the way and stop trying to prey on these youngsters.

These young brothers coming up in here are being misled by creeps, booty bandits and perverts. All these dudes are literally jacking their time off. These young brothers was not behind them walls with us at MSP. (Missouri State Prison, opened in 1836, built by prisoners with bricks they made themselves, was closed in 2004 – ed.).

They don’t know about the “convict code” anytime they will fear or respect a rat. Man, these young brothers don’t have anything to balance it out with, so they think this is the way it’s supposed to be.

I’m tired of hearing, “Man, these young dudes fucking up the game” or “got this prison messed up.” Cut it out. Because it was like this before they got here.

There are people out there who are willing to help us – if we are willing to help ourselves. We got to educate ourselves in law and politics, so we can educate and inform our families and loved ones on how to cast their votes.

A big responsibility falls in the laps of us older brothers who been here for a while. Shit, we left them out there to fend for themselves. So they grew up not knowing the pros and cons and the ins and outs of the streets or life in general; they’ve been led astray.

We abandoned our posts! We didn’t put enough security on what we were supposed to have loved. We fell in love with them streets, drugs and other things that had us off balance.

The cycle goes as far back as to the ‘60s and ‘70s. All and all, we got to get on point and stay on point. Period! There is no excuses. Man UP and be accountable. Hell with “remember how it was behind them walls.”

Well, news flash: Ain’t no more walls. We allowed the level of respect to fall because guys stopped respecting themselves, especially in these ad-seg RHUs (administrative segregation Restricted Housing Units are solitary confinement units, similar to SHUs in California).

These screws can hit any range or walk and hear guys tearing each other down, disrespecting each other. This gives approval for these pigs to do it. And they use it as a tool to divide and conquer us. They even initiate dissent amongst us. Man, we’ll never gain no ground if we don’t put that lame shit in check.

Man, I trip off of how they got the comrade Bomani Shakur jammed up in the poor part slave plantation of Ohio on the row over what had transpired back in the ‘90s, an innocent man fighting for his life.

I think about the comrade Kevin “Rashid” Johnson. I used to write back in ‘04, ‘05 when he was in Red Onion (a Virginia prison). I wonder if he remembers me. If so, I want the comrade to know I’m still pushing down here in this miserable state and I will not stop until my casket drops!

I think about the comrade Mumia. I’ve seen how he’s withering after decades of fighting. We need to save this brother’s life. He’s been facing death a long time without flinching.

Moving on – head on – I think about the comrade Hugo “Yogi Bear” Pinell. He stood strong 40 years in the hole. They couldn’t break him. This is what I let these guys around me know. If he can do that, why are you afraid of a little hole time? A year or two?

Hell, he’s been in the hole longer than I’ve been alive. Then them cowards did what they did. He’ll never die. He lives on in my heart and in the hearts of all the souljahs he has touched throughout the years. I say this to all the older brothers who been in these joints for the past 30 years or so. What legacy do you want to leave behind? What have you sacrificed? How do you want to go out?

I’m telling you, in this conservative state they is not trying to let us go. What are you standing on? What are you fighting for? Nothing! Because if you were, you would not be falling for anything.

Where are our vanguards in this state? Stand up! Where are our teachers? our warriors? the real OGs? Stand up and be accounted for. Man, ain’t nobody, it seems like – only a few is propagating the faith, trying to create a movement. Man, if only those of you who is reading this knew.

It’s like this all over the state. It’s time for all you older brothers who is stagnating these “organizations” that’s disorganized and unpoliticized to step aside and allow the youth to take charge. And if you’re not willing, then justice must and will take its course.

Where are our vanguards in this state? Stand up! Where are our teachers? our warriors? the real OGs? Stand up and be accounted for.

We need men of thought, men of good character in the forefront, because reflection is the business of man. Dudes who is out of law cast a bad reflection on the movement, which only discourages the youth. This is one of the reasons there is nothing happening.

I got to extend my appreciation to the comrade Keith Brown-El of the Missouri Cure, who taught me a lot in my youth on how to navigate this system, how to politicize myself and advocate for my rights. He did 37 years on fire, and I feel him wholeheartedly when he said that if he would’ve let his fire die out, he would have never made it home.

This is why I stay on fire because I’m the same way. So when that plastic stuff gets close to me, it’ll melt.

I will like to extend my love, appreciation and salute to them brothers up there in Cali who has been great help and inspiration to me and helping me to create an end to all hostilities here in this state. The brothers Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa and Arturo Guillen and all those who rolled with them in support of their cause to make it happen, you all definitely set an example for all of us who is paying attention across this country.

And to all my young’uns, ya got to hit them law libraries. They is not going to let you go unless you make them. Lay off that basketball court some. Try to get back into them courts and win in them supreme courts.

As you see, these prisoncrats here in Missouri do not want to let us go, nor do they want us to educate ourselves. You see how they closed all the schools down in these Level 5s. Why? They think because a lot of these dudes got all day, they don’t need to be rehabilitated?

Shit, what about all these short timers they send up in here to fill up these new joints? These guys got like four, five, six years until they touch down. Most don’t have a GED, a trade nor any type of life skills. A cocktail for recidivism. Job security for them.

Man! They just came in Black August and stripped those of us in this Ad-seg – now called restrictive housing unit – of everything. We NO longer can have dictionaries, religious materials, reading books, pants, wash clothes, dry towels, adequate hygiene products – no soap, lotion, just toothpaste, toothbrush, a comb, no picks, only a hotel bar of soap which do not last a week.

Shower is only two times a week. We get one roll of toilet paper, which we have to use to dry our hands. So that don’t last. Some guys are using old newspapers – not the Bay View though :).

They are forcing us to walk across the yard in our boxer shorts, exposing us to the elements. On Oct. 25, 2015, we had to go outside in our boxers or be denied our rec.

They just came in Black August and stripped those of us in this Ad-seg – now called restrictive housing unit – of everything. We NO longer can have dictionaries, religious materials, reading books, pants, wash clothes, dry towels, adequate hygiene products – no soap, lotion, just toothpaste, toothbrush, a comb, no picks, only a hotel bar of soap which do not last a week.

Hell, I ain’t been outside in damn near two months due to the assaults I caught in Black August, on Aug. 29, 2015, when I had to correct a couple of screws who tried to come for me – so I had to properly defend myself. When it was all over, I was the only one left standing. I stay in training because there is no telling when I’ll have to defend myself.

I try to encourage these brothers around me to stay on point mentally, physically and spiritually. Word to comrade GEORGE! I’m not promoting violence; I’m promoting self-defense.

Anyway, we had to stand outside in 50 degree weather in our T-shirts and boxers, because since they started this stupid practice of having everyone wear and share the same clothes, things has been so inconsistent that they’ve been running out of clothing daily.

This is why they’re escorting guys across the yard only in their boxer shorts, exposing them to the elements. Also since they started this ridiculous practice, guys has been exposed to scabies, mites and has often had to put back on the same clothes after they’ve showered due to the fact that they’ve run out of clothes or sizes. We can’t have washcloths or dry towels.

This stuff has been so inconsistent since these idiots Warden Ian Wallace, Paula Phillips, Reed Omar Clark, Bill Stang, Major Terry White etc. implicated this crap as a means to “modify” the prisoners’ behavior. Per orders of Lt. Gregory Hancock, we had to either go out like that or stay in. I stayed warm by keeping it moving – me and the young’un Guerrilla Bad – by exercising the whole rec period.

We tried to get the rest of them guys to join us, but they were so distracted by this female screw – leaving them cold and shivering (LOL). I just laughed and kept it moving.

I got to wrap this up. We can only have one writing tablet, one ink pen, five envelopes and five stamps. So I got to use what paper I have left to contact the courts.

I’m trying all I can to get these dudes to file and write letters, take some type of stance. Hell, I had to write on some brown paper bags. As you can see, Mr. Ratcliff, I had to make an envelope.

We really need help down here. I’m going to do everything in my power to push this back. I’m going to need some support in the form of emails, letters, phone calls etc. They refuse to allow us any type of reading books, dictionaries etc.

If anyone out there can, please photocopy me a dictionary. I need one bad. If you do, send it in sections. I’m going to need material with some substance to share with the guys on my range.

I’m trying to start a study group. I share the USA Today and the Bay View. We don’t have anything else. They don’t allow us magazines with staples because some clown swallowed some about five years ago – an isolated incident – so we can’t have anything with staples. So do not staple anything you send.

We really need help down here. I’m going to do everything in my power to push this back. I’m going to need some support in the form of emails, letters, phone calls etc.

I’ll like to extend a special thanks to the Kansas City, Missouri, branch of the IWW (International Workers of the World). They’ve been good support. I’m trying to do all I can with the support they’re trying to provide with what bodies I have to work with.

I’m trying to reach the youth, because new wine in an old skin will bust. You cannot fix a broken man, but you can mold a child. Caveat emptor! Cast out the dead carcass!

I need people to contact the following officials and prompt an administrative director’s inquiry, either from the director or inspector general officer or the state representatives or senators.

  • Director George Lombard, 573-526-6607
  • Deputy Director Matt Briesacher, 573-526-6607
  • General Counsel David Rost, 573-522-1634
  • Constituent and Legislative Services Ian Dunlap, 573-526-2695, and Lisa Jones, 573-526-6530
  • Director of the Division of Adult Institutions Dave Dormire, 573-526-6524
  • Deputy Director Dwayne Kempker, 573-522-1926
  • SECC (Southeast Corruptional Center) Warden Ian Wallace, 573-683-4409
  • Missouri Sens. Jamilah Nasheed and Doug Libla, 573-751-3824, and Rep. Holly Rehder, 573-751-5471 – all at the mailing address 201 W. Capitol Ave., Jefferson City, MO 65101
  • Missouri Department of Corrections, P.O. Box 236, Jefferson City, MO 65102

Please inquire about why is the warden creating standard operating procedures that violate the Missouri Penal Code RSMO 217, regarding them using clothing as a form of punishment. They are prohibited from doing so.

Inquire about them depriving us of adequate hygiene products, washcloths in the cells. This is not a privilege; this is a human basic need.

Inquire about us being exposed to the elements by having to go outside to rec without any pants or coat or head gear – as well as being sent to other units walking across the yard in our boxers. We’re having to wear the same dirty clothing  since they took our standard issues, which is three pants, three pairs of socks, three T-shirts, three boxers, two sheets, two blankets and one pillow.

They even took our pillows as a form of punishment. I think they want to see what these guys will do, since the warden, Ian Wallace, and Major White are about to retire soon.

Bring to their attention that we are being denied of our legal materials, books, dictionaries, stamps as well as adequate access to classification and the law library.

The classification staff, FUM (Functional Unit Manager) Donna Wigfall and CCM (Community Corrections Manager) Timothy Seabaugh, deliberately neglect to make rounds so that we cannot receive IRRs (informal resolution request forms) or law library request forms. They’re supposed to make rounds every day.

Well, we don’t see them for weeks at a time. It’s been three weeks as of this writing, on Oct. 27, 2015, since I’ve last seen them. This is a delay tactic, because if we don’t file our IRRs within 15 working days, our complaints will automatically be denied.

We are being denied our legal materials, books, dictionaries, stamps as well as adequate access to classification and the law library.

I write to Latoya Young, the grievance officer; she’s in cahoots. She will not provide us grievance forms, which policy dictates when we are being denied IRRs. She refused to send us reprisal grievances.

All this I’m expressing now is afterthoughts, which I need for you all to know. My property, legal and all, was taken from me on Aug. 26, 2015, and I’ve yet to receive my property back, legal or otherwise.

Now that I had to correct these pigs, they are really going to withhold my property. And if there is any legal entity out there who is willing to allow me to write to them, sending important mail out to them with postage and a request for it to be forwarded elsewhere, I’ll appreciate it, because I have reasons to believe my outgoing and incoming personal mail is being tampered with. Now legal mail has to be registered.

Shyheim D El-Mu’min (James Lenoir) in a photo posted online by the Missouri Department of Corrections

Shyheim D El-Mu’min (James Lenoir) in a photo posted online by the Missouri Department of Corrections

I close with the words of comrade Bomani Shakur, “My life is the sum total of all the thoughts and feelings that reside inside my mind, and they can never touch that.”

All power to all people! Shields up!

In love and solidarity,

Shyheim Deen El-Mu’min

Send our brother some love and light: Shyheim Deen El-Mu’min , 509071, SECC, 300 E. Pedro Simmons Dr., Charleston, MO 63834. Shyheim also suggests, since he believes his mail is being tampered with, that anyone who wants to help can set up a free email account by logging into accesscorrections.com.

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