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Prison Stories

Sleep deprived prisoners’ supporters protested outside the headquarters of the California Department of Corrections in Sacramento on Nov. 30, 2015. – Photo: Liberated Lens

PHSS Committee to End Sleep Deprivation asks for letters about the ‘security/welfare checks’

May 26, 2016

Guards have been jarringly waking prisoners every 30 minutes on death row at the Central California Women’s Facility since May 2014, and in the Pelican Bay SHU since Aug. 2, 2015, for so-called “security/welfare checks.” This is serious, ongoing sleep deprivation which is torture. These checks may also be harming people in other prisons; PB SHU and CCWF death row is where we have heard the most complaints.

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Jose Villarreal 2005

Coordinated offensive on STG kickouts

May 25, 2016

Having been one of the many who have been let out of the control units (SHU), I can say that there is some victory in this development, but there is much work to be done outside the SHU and still a ways to go before victory is complete. This accomplishment of opening the gates of SHU for many simply means we face new forms of oppression; it changes in form but not in essence.

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This is Abdul Olugbala Shakur’s tattoo. When CDCr or the courts ask him what it means, he says, “Don’t eat pork.”

George Jackson University – a statement from its founder

May 25, 2016

Within the California Department of Corrections (CDCr), the name George Jackson evokes both fear and hate among prison guards. His very name represents resistance – the epitome of our Black manhood – and this explains in part why the CDCr has spent the last 44 years attempting to censor the name George L. Jackson from within its prisons.

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Artist Javier Torres writes: “The art piece that I put together expresses the effects of long term solitary confinement. The man in the drawing is made of stone – not that long term solitary confinement turns you into stone, but it’s something that it does to you internally and mentally. I’ve been in solitary confinement for only a short time and I can say that it’s not a good place. These torture chambers need to be shut down.” He calls this artwork “Solitaire.” – Art: Javier Torres

Terrible Tier II: We are fighting for our lives

May 24, 2016

I’m writing this on behalf of myself and the Goodfellas, which the Georgia Department of Corrections has validated as a security threat group. We are being held indefinitely in the very restrictive and oppressive Tier II: Behavior Modification Program, which is identical to the severe conditions of the SHU in California and any supermax long term program across the nation. We are being held based on affiliation alone or have been falsely validated because of association.

The time has come to totally abolish slavery in the U.S., where, especially in the South, prisoners are still forced to work for free.

Amend 13!

May 22, 2016

This is a public notice to all freedom fighters, activists and community leaders: SLAVERY IS NOT DEAD! Did the 13th Amendment abolish slavery? Ask anyone in the United States this question and they will answer most emphatically: Yes, of course it did. If you, the person reading this article and call to action, believe this as well, please allow me to inform you: You are wrong! Slavery is not dead! Rather than abolish slavery, the 13th Amendment LEGALIZED it!

Alabama prisons are the most overcrowded in the country. This is Elmore Correctional Facility in Elmore, Alabama. – Photo: Brynn Anderson, AP

Prison labor strike in Alabama: ‘We will no longer contribute to our own oppression’

May 13, 2016

Despite being held in solitary confinement for years, men known as Kinetik, Dhati and Brother M, primary leaders of the Free Alabama Movement, have been instrumental in organizing a statewide prison work stoppage in Alabama that began on Sunday, May 1. Alabama prisoners who have been on strike over unpaid labor and prison conditions are accusing officials of retaliating against their protest by starving them.

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A rally at High Desert State Prison on July 14, 2013, a week after the 2013 hunger strike began, when thousands throughout the state were still participating, encourages those starving themselves inside. The 2013 strike had been preceded by two in 2011, the first drawing 6,600 participants and the second 12,000. Changes since the California strikes are happening in prisons and legislatures around the country.

Court rules no punishment for California prison hunger striker

May 3, 2016

In the early days of the 2013 Prisoner Hunger Strike, Jorge Gomez refused up to 12 consecutive meals. The California Department of Corrections struck back by issuing him a Rules Violation Report. The same fate befell untold numbers of other prisoners who’d starved themselves to peacefully call attention to their torture. In an opinion filed on March 25, 2016, the California Court of Appeals ruled that Gomez was guilty of no rules violation for refusing meals during the strike.

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Two legends of the California Prison Movement, Khatari Gaulden and Hugo “Yogi” Pinell, sit in the sunshine in the San Quentin yard in 1976. – Photo courtesy Kiilu Nyasha

My brotha Yogi – two comrades with long memories

April 30, 2016

I had the pleasure of meeting and learning from my brotha Yogi and the honor of having him call me his “mwenzi” (Swahili for “comrade”). They hated my brotha Yogi because they were unable to break him after years of trying. What I know and hold to be true continues to afford all people a better way of improving their way of life and also our day for justice!

CHOOSE1 logo

CHOOSE1 Three Strikes Reform Act needs 365,880 signatures by June 1: Volunteer today!

April 29, 2016

For more than two decades, California’s Three Strikes Law has been criticized for being unfair, excessively punitive and in many ways strikingly irrational. There have been several measures implemented by Californians to fix this law, but it still remains unfair and excessive. Now, California voters have a chance to bring fairness to criminal justice policy along with making some common sense investments towards our future with The Three Strikes Reform Act of 2016.

Organizing to End Prison Slavery in Texas at the Coffield Unit are David “Chino” Martinez, far left, Keith “Malik” Washington in front and other comrades.

Exposing toxic work conditions inside Texas Prisons

April 28, 2016

Environmental injustices are forced upon people of color and disadvantaged minorities. This is a fact and not a subjective feeling or statement. Prison officials and ACA inspectors attempt to cover up and downplay the fact that numerous Texas prisons have contaminated water supplies and Texas Correctional Industries employees force pri­soners to work in toxic environments. Does anyone think the U.S. government will intercede on our behalf?

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In addition to all his other accomplishments, Luis Rodriguez was also an extraordinary artist. This is a self-portrait.

Political prisoner Luis V. Rodriguez: Aztlan warrior passes to the spirit world

April 27, 2016

Luis Valenzuela Rodriguez left this mortal world on Thursday April 14, 2016, at 7:28 p.m., surrounded by his family and friends. He was 60 years old. Songs and prayers were offered to honor him from the four directions. Luis was innocent. He fought with determination to prove his innocence for 37 years. Lies were told about him; in the media, in the courtroom. Many let him down and betrayed him, but many more loved him and stood by him.

“Texas” – Art: Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, 1859887, Clements Unit, 9601 Spur 591, Amarillo TX 79107

Tipping point in Texas prison strikes? The history of slavery is at stake

April 16, 2016

Since April 4, prisoners in at least four Texas prisons have been on strike for better conditions and an end to slavery and human rights abuses. This strike is but the latest in a nationwide mass movement inside prisons for dignity and freedom. “Go outside the nearest prison and make enough noise that those inside know the free world is with them. The history of slavery in the United States is at stake,” says Brianna Peril of IWOC.

Full restraints, handcuffed hands, waist chain, chain to shackled feet

Urgent: Call to support tortured hunger-striking prisoners in Louisiana

April 15, 2016

At David Wade Correctional Center in Homer, Louisiana, at David Wade Correctional Center, several prisoners began a hunger strike on April 9. They are in full restraints, shackles and handcuffs attached to a waist chain, for days at a time, dressed only in a paper gown. Just now, they sprayed a prisoner while he was on his knees and struck him several times. They also sprayed and beat another prisoner who is mentally ill and has been on strip cell for over a year. He has also been on food loaf for a long time. Please call – just a phone call will spook them.

Mutulu Is Welcome Here graphic

Stiff resistance is a human right! Malcolm X Grassroots Movement statement on Dr. Mutulu Shakur

April 14, 2016

On April 7, 2016, the U.S. Federal Parole Board continued its blatant violation of the human rights of Dr. Mutulu Shakur by refusing to release him from federal captivity after 30 years of time served, even though he is up for “mandatory parole release” based on the guidelines under which he was sentenced. We must stand and defend our political prisoners and POWs and declare them to the world without submitting to the state’s intimidation!

'Abolish all prisons, Rikers, Attica, Marion, Pelican Bay, Guantanamo' graphic

Abolish ALL prisons, private and public

April 11, 2016

As momentum continues to grow against the colossal U.S. imprisonment system, the need for strategic targets is crucial, yet we are seeing an overbearing focus on private prisons. We are in a moment when reforms that appear to be “progressive” can actually entrench the violence of policing, imprisonment and surveillance even further.

Prisoners are “driven” to the fields by a guard on horseback in a scene reminiscent of plantation slavery on a Texas plantation-turned-prison known as the Ellis Unit, the photo taken in 1978. – Photo courtesy of the Marshall Project

Prisoners in multiple states call for strikes to protest forced labor

April 8, 2016

Prison inmates around the country have called for a series of strikes against forced labor, demanding reforms of parole systems and prison policies, as well as more humane living conditions, a reduced use of solitary confinement and better health care. The strike’s organizers remain anonymous but have circulated fliers listing a series of grievances and demands and a letter articulating the reasons for the strike.

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Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa – Photo: Michael Richardson

Mondo mourned

April 4, 2016

He was born David Rice and, in his youth, he joined an offshoot of the Black Panther Party, a decision that would change his life’s trajectory. For, when he and another young man, Edward Poindexter, joined the National Committee to Combat Fascism (NCCF), they walked into the crosshairs of the state. Political prisoner Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa died March 11 at the maximum-security Nebraska State Penitentiary.

Hugo Pinell, who survived over 45 years of solitary confinement torture, was not allowed a contact visit with his daughter, Allegra, until days before his assassination. This photo was taken Aug. 2, 2015. He was murdered on Aug. 12.

Our hero has not been forgotten

April 3, 2016

Many times conscious prisoners become lost in their own image and forget the representation of the people as a whole. Our loss came with the death of Hugo Pinell. His introduction is not needed. He helped bring life to a generation that had not – and some still to this day still have not – forgotten the bigger picture. As conscious prisoners and political prisoners behind enemy lines, we as a community cannot forget to reach out to his daughter.

“Parole Board: Two jobs” – Art: Marcus Bedford Jr., K-00220, DVI J-325L, P.O. Box 600, Tracy CA 95378

Gov. Brown’s parole initiative could free 30-40,000

April 2, 2016

The California State Supreme Court has re-affirmed its decision allowing Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed initiative for changing California’s parole system to begin gathering signatures for the November ballot. The March 9 decision was the second time the court kept Brown’s crime initiative alive by rejecting a request by state prosecutors to halt signature-gathering for the measure.

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Women in a Gatesville, Texas, prison shake hands with volunteers from Operation Starting Line who held an Easter Outreach event there April 10-11, 2004. Editor’s note: We also need photos of life in Texas’ women’s prisons. This is the only one I could find. A few stories and photos report on county jails in Texas, which we know are bad after what happened to Sandra Bland. The prisons must be worse.

The movement inside Texas prisons will not be complete until the sisters join

April 1, 2016

I spend countless hours reading and scanning alternative newspapers, journals and magazines that provide a platform for prisoners who write. I don’t see many revolutionary essays or articles being written by female Texas prisoners. I know you all can’t be content with the conditions you are being housed under, and I know for a fact you are not being given the dignity and respect you deserve. So I must ask: “Why aren’t we hearing from you?”

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