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Indiana prisoners call for families and supporters to fight back against new mail policy that bans children’s drawings, grandparents’ letters, even greeting cards

July 10, 2017

Rally Friday, Aug. 11, 11 a.m., outside the Indiana Department of Corrections headquarters, 302 W. Washington St. in downtown Indianapolis

by Kwame ‘Beans’ Shakur, NALC

“Prison Lives Matter” and “Amend the 13th: Abolish Legal Slavery in Amerika Movement” are seeking to get the people, i.e., family, friends, inmates and the outside movement, involved in the struggle to raise awareness and fight the cruel and inhuman treatment of prisoners, the daily violations of our human and civil rights, and the economic exploitation of our families. This can only come about if we educate the people to the politics of imprisonment and state repression, then organize and mobilize our families and supporters around these issues.

The 15-year fight to close Marion federal prison, the first “supermax” control unit prison, extended to control units in other states, here against the Maximum Control Complex at Indiana’s Westville Prison on July 11, 1992, the march held in nearby Valparaiso. At Marion, an existing prison had been remodeled into a control unit. The first prison designed and built as a supermax was California’s Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit, or SHU, which opened in December of 1989. Typically, control units feature solitary confinement at least 23 hours a day and no association with other prisoners plus severe mail, phone and visiting restrictions – thus utter isolation – and are considered torture by the U.N.

As we all know, those of us locked in these cages aren’t the only ones being affected – our families and loved ones are also doing time. If we are serious about changing our conditions, then it is fundamental that we take a more progressive stand against the Department of Corrections and the parasite corporations that attach themselves to the prison industrial slave complex to profit from our oppression, including Aramark, Global Tel Link, Evercam, JPay, Union Supply etc.

On April 1, 2017, the Indiana Department of Corrections implemented a new policy that targets our incoming mail: ALL mail must be handwritten on white lined paper in a white envelope. This policy restricts us from receiving any greeting cards on birthdays, Father’s Day, holidays etc., any typed letters or political documents, or any type of drawings from our kids!

As we all know, those of us locked in these cages aren’t the only ones being affected – our families and loved ones are also doing time.

Whether it’s simply more convenient, or out of necessity, our elderly family members with medical conditions like arthritis can’t handwrite their letters, and typing is the only way they can send us mail. With the increase of political education material like this very memo coming into the prisons with the intent to educate, agitate and organize prisoners, this new policy is also aimed to eradicate any such efforts.

This is blatant censorship and repression from the state. In their words, they “are going to see how it goes” from April to October before they actually put the policy into effect permanently. If there is no public outcry and resistance from the people on the outside against this policy, then they will have no reason to retreat: Once it goes into effect across the entire state, there will be little we can do.

The July 11, 1992, march against the Westville Prison control unit was a major story the following day in the Post-Tribune, a subsidiary of the Chicago Tribune that serves readers in Northwest Indiana. Today, prisoners in Indiana once again need strong, determined outside support.

The powers that are over Pendleton Correctional Facility are slowly attempting to turn this prison into a supermax facility, cutting us off completely from the outside world. Aside from the restriction of incoming mail, those of us like me who are housed on the G Cell House lock up unit (administrative disciplinary segregation) have also been stripped of our phone and video visitation the past 10 months. The policy states that we are entitled to phone privileges at least three times a week.

This cell house is only allowed visitors two days out of the week, Monday and Wednesday. With work and school during the week, it is extremely difficult for our loved ones to travel here during visitation hours. Fortunately, we were able to receive video visits on the JPay kiosk with our loved ones in the comfort of their own homes any day of the week – after work hours until 8 p.m.

However, the lieutenant of this cell house – not the facility or the DOC – recently made it to where we can only receive one 30-minute phone call per week. We can only receive video visits once a week, on the same day and time as our phone call.

The powers that are over Pendleton Correctional Facility are slowly attempting to turn this prison into a supermax facility, cutting us off completely from the outside world.

We are locked in cages 24 hours a day. The courts and policy have determined that we are entitled to leave these cells for at least an hour of recreation five days a week; however, on average we may get rec once or twice a week, a direct violation of their own policy and procedure.

We have pushed our pens until the ink runs dry and filed the necessary grievances to seek relief. The same individuals who we file our paperwork on are the SAME individuals who respond to our claims, making the entire grievance process ineffective and contradictory.

Indiana turned out for the Sept. 9 nationwide prison strike – here demonstrating outside Democratic Party headquarters in Bloomington. Students at Indiana University in Bloomington also staged a demonstration, at Sample Gates that evening.

If the policies and court rulings can be so irrelevant to these people, if the process we are told to follow in order to seek relief and correct such violations is ineffective, then where is the justice? Again, we’re being silenced and censored; we are powerless in these cages against the prison politics of prison autocracy.

Nobody is investigating or calling into question the death of an inmate who was excessively sprayed with multiple cans of mace, shot by pepper balls – a paintball gun that shoots paint balls filled with mace – and then left in a cell untreated to die last year!

For far too long, these people have gotten away with their crimes, without any blowback and resistance from the masses. For far too long, they have gotten away with the exploitation of our families through overpriced phone calls, vending machines in the visit room, JPay fees and commissary.

All across the country, we have formulations and prisoner advocacy organizations assisting us in our struggle to expose the prison industrial slave complex and fight for our rights. It is time that we organize and mobilize right here in our own back yard; our captors must come to learn that there will be consequences for their actions, that they will have to answer and face the people here in Indiana as well.

We are calling on our family, friends and comrades to gather in downtown Indianapolis on Friday, Aug. 11, at 11 a.m. outside the Department of Corrections building, 302 W. Washington St. We urge that ALL of us held captive do our collective part by encouraging loved ones to attend this demonstration and that our loved ones do their part by making copies of this memo, the “Prison Lives Matter” and NALC mission statements, spread the word and push the information for this demonstration on social media.

We are calling on our family, friends and comrades to gather in downtown Indianapolis on Friday, Aug. 11, at 11 a.m. outside the Department of Corrections building, 302 W. Washington St.

Contact us on Facebook at New.Afrikan.Liberation.Collective or email us at NALC_shakur@yahoo.com.

On behalf of the Prison Lives Matter campaign and Amend the 13th: Abolish Legal Slavery in Amerika Movement, One Love, One Struggle!

Kwame “Beans” Shakur, co-founder and chairman of the New Afrikan Liberation Collective

Send our brother some love and light: Michael Joyner (Kwame Shakur), 149677, Pendleton CF, 4490 W. Reformatory Rd., Pendleton IN 46064.

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8 thoughts on “Indiana prisoners call for families and supporters to fight back against new mail policy that bans children’s drawings, grandparents’ letters, even greeting cards

    1. marco1969

      The moron that found liquid K was being smuggled into prison on letters and greeting cards. I agree the new mail policy is draconian, but it was a reaction to a legitimate concern.

      Reply
  1. Ngreven

    Any drugs getting into any prison are mostly being smuggled in by guards, so this policy or anything like it is absurd, useless, and just another way to hurt inmates and their families

    Reply
  2. Patrick Bogle

    That's feel a little bit hurtful. Especially when you think about those intimate who have nothing to do with the smuggling thing. and getting banned by receiving these little pieces of love from loved ones is little bit sad. Well hope they find some other ways to take some control on these smuggling things.

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