The Folsom Prisoners’ Manifesto of Demands and Anti-Repression Platform

This is Folsom Prison, opened in 1880. In 1970, it was one of only a few prisons in California housing about 20,000 prisoners, a low number compared to today’s 120,000, down from a high of 173,000 in 2006. From 1982 to 2000, California’s state prison population increased 500 percent and the state built 23 new prisons. This manifesto shows that despite those dramatic changes, the treatment of prisoners and the demands they make haven’t changed much. – Photo: Stephen Worrell, Flickr

We the imprisoned men of Folsom Prison seek an end to the injustice suffered by all prisoners, regardless of race, creed or color. The preparation and content of this document has been constructed under the unified efforts of all races and social segments of this prison.

We the inmates of Folsom Prison totally and unlimitedly support the California Statewide Prison Strike on Nov. 3, 1970, under the united effort for designated change in administrative prison practice and legislative policy.

It is a matter of documented record and human recognition that the administrators of the California prison system have restructured the institutions which were designed to socially correct men into the fascist concentration camps of modern America.

Due to the conditional fact that Folsom prison is one of the most classic institutions of authoritative inhumanity upon men, the following Manifesto of Demands is being submitted: Nov. 3, 1970.

Man’s right to knowledge and the free use thereof

We the inmates of Folsom Prison have grown to recognize beyond the shadow of a doubt that because of our posture as prisoners and branded characters as alleged criminals, the administrators and prison employees no longer consider or respect us as human beings, but rather as domesticated animals selected to do their bidding in slave labor and furnished as a personal whipping dog for their sadistic, psychopathic hate.

We the inmates of Folsom Prison say to you, the sincere people of society, the prison system which your courts have rendered unto, is without question the authoritative fangs of a coward in power.

Respectfully submitted to the people as a protest to the vile and vicious slavemasters:

  • The California Department of Corrections
  • The California Adult Authority
  • The California State Legislature
  • The California State Courts
  • The United States Courts
  • and those who support this system of injustice.

– California Prisoners Union

* Copies reproduced as originally submitted *

We the inmates of this prison have vested the power of negotiation regarding settlement of the stipulated demands within the judgment and control of these four men of the outside world society:

  • Sal Candelaria, Brown Berets
  • Huey P. Newton, Black Panther Party
  • Charles Garry, Third World Legal Defense Counsel
  • Representative of California Prisoners Union to be designated

All and any negotiation will be conducted by prison and state authorities with these four men. There shall be no convict committees.

At 8:30 a.m., Nov. 3, 1970, all convict labor and assigned activity shall cease to function, with stipulated exceptions of:

  • hospital workers
  • culinary workers

Activity shall not resume until the prison has received directions from the four persons stipulated above by radio, news media or personal appearance.

The contrast between the 1880 tower at “Old” Folsom Prison and the more modern and repressive razor wire and electric fence is striking. – Photo: Lucy Atkins, SF Chronicle

We the men of Folsom Prison have been committed to the state correctional authorities by the people of society for the purpose of correcting what has been deemed as social errors in behavior. Errors which have classified us as socially unacceptable until reprogrammed with new values and more thorough understanding as to our roles and responsibilities as members of the outside community. The Folsom Prison program in its structure and conditions have been enslaved on the pages of this Manifesto of Demands with the blood, sweat and tears of the inmates of this prison.

The programs to which we are submitted under the facade of rehabilitation are relative to the ancient stupidity of pouring water on a drowning man, inasmuch as we are treated for our hostilities by our program administrators with their hostility as a medication.

In our efforts to comprehend on a feeling level an existence contrary to violence, we are confronted by our captors as to what is fair and just; we are victimized by exploitation and the denial of the celebrated due process of law.

In our peaceful efforts to assemble in dissent as provided under this nation’s United States Constitution, we are in turn murdered, brutalized and framed on various criminal charges because we seek the rights and privileges of ALL AMERICAN PEOPLE.

In our efforts to intellectually expand in keeping with the outside world, through all categories of news media, we are systematically restricted and punitively offended to isolation status when we insist on our human right to the wisdom of awareness.

MANIFESTO OF DEMANDS

11/3/70

1) We demand the constitutional right of representation at the time of all Adult Authority hearings, and the protection from the procedures of the Adult Authority whereby they permit no procedural safeguards such as an attorney cross examination of witnesses, witnesses in behalf of the parolee, at parole revocation hearings.

Inside Folsom Prison

2) We demand a change to medical staff and medical policy and procedure. The Folsom Prison Hospital is totally inadequate, understaffed, prejudicial in the treatment of inmates. There are numerous “mistakes” made many times, improper and erroneous medication is given by untrained personnel.

The emergency procedures for serious injury are totally absent in that they have no emergency room whatsoever; no recovery room following surgery, which is performed by practitioners rather than board member surgeons. They are assisted by inmate help neither qualified, licensed nor certified to function in operating rooms.

Several instances have occurred where multiple injuries have happened to a number of inmates at the same time. A random decision was made by the M.D. in charge as to which patient was the most serious and needed the one surgical room available. Results were fatal to one of the men waiting to be operated upon. This is virtually a death sentence to such a man who might have lived otherwise.

3) We demand adequate visiting conditions and facilities for the inmates and families of Folsom prisoners. The visiting facilities at this prison are such as to preclude adequate visiting for the inmates and their families.

As a result, the inmates are permitted two hours two times per month to visit with family and friends, which of course has to be divided between these people. We ask for additional officers to man the visiting room five days per week, so that everyone may have at least four hours visiting per month. The administration has refused to provide or consider this request in prior appeals using the grounds of denial that they cannot afford the cost of the extra officers needed for such change.

However, they have been able to provide 12 new correctional officers, to walk the gun rails of this prison armed with rifles and shotguns during the daytime hours when most of the prison population is at work or attending other assignments. This is a waste of the taxpayers’ money and. a totally unnecessary security precaution.

4) We demand that each man presently held in the Adjustment Center be given a written notice with the signature of the Warden of Custody on it explaining the exact reason for his placement in the severely restrictive confines of the Adjustment Center.

5) We demand immediate end to indeterminate Adjustment Center terms to be replaced by fixed terms with the length of time served being terminated by good conduct and according to the nature of the charges, for which men are presently being warehoused indefinitely without explanation.

6) We demand an end to the segregation of prisoners from the mainline population because of their political beliefs. Some of the men in the Adjustment Center are confined there solely for political reasons and their segregation from other inmates is indefinite.

7) We demand an end to political persecution, racial persecution and the denial of prisoners to subscribe to political papers, books or any other educational and current media chronicles that are forwarded through the United States mail.

In response to calls, not much different from this Manifesto, for support of a hunger strike by prisoners at Old Folsom Prison (what’s known as New Folsom Prison is not far away; both are outside Sacramento), activists demonstrated outside the prison on June 4, 2017.

8) We demand an end to the persecution and punishment of prisoners who practice the constitutional right of peaceful dissent. Prisoners at Folsom and San Quentin Prisons according to the California State Penal Code cannot be compelled to work, as these two prisons were built for the purpose of housing prisoners and there is no mention as to the prisoners being required to work on prison jobs in order to remain on the mainline and/or be considered for release.

Many prisoners believe their labor power is being exploited in order for the state to increase its economic power and continue to expand its correctional industries, which are million dollar complexes, yet do not develop working skills acceptable for employment in the outside society, and which do not pay the prisoner more than the maximum 16 cents per hour wage.

Most prisoners never make more than six or eight cents per hour. Prisoners who refuse to work for the 2 to 16 cents pay rate, or who strike, are punished and segregated without the access to the privileges shared by those who work. This is class legislation, class division, and creates class hostilities within the prison.

9) We demand an end to the teargassing of prisoners who are locked in their cells. Such action led to the death of Willie Powell in Soledad Prison in 1968 and of Fred Billingslea, on Feb. 25, 1970, at San Quentin Prison. It is cruel and unnecessary.

10) We demand the passing of a minimum and maximum term bill which calls for an end to the indeterminate sentences whereby a man can be warehoused indefinitely, rehabilitated or not. That all prisoners have the right be paroled after serving their minimum term instead of the cruel and unusual punishment of being confined beyond his minimum eligibility for parole, and never knowing the reason for the extension of time, nor when time is completed.

The maximum term bill eliminates indefinite lift time imprisonment where it is unnecessary and cruel. Life sentences should not confine a man for longer than 10 years, as seven years is the statute for a considered lifetime out of circulation. And if a man cannot be rehabilitated after a maximum of 10 years of constructive programs, etc., then he belongs in a mental hygiene center, not a prison. Rescind Adult Authority Resolution 171, arbitrary fixing of prison terms.

11) We demand that industries be allowed to enter the institutions and employ inmates to work eight hours a day and fit into the category of workers for scale wages. The working conditions in prisons do not develop working incentives parallel to the money jobs in the outside society, and a paroled prisoner faces many contradictions of the job that add to his difficulty to adjust. Those industries outside who desire to enter prisons should be allowed to enter for the purpose of employment placement.

12) We demand that inmates be allowed to form or join labor unions.

13) We demand that inmates be granted the right to support their own families. At present, thousands of welfare recipients have to divide their checks to support their imprisoned relatives who, without the outside support, could not even buy toilet articles or food. Men working on scale wages could support themselves and families while in prison.

14) We demand that correctional officers be prosecuted as a matter of law for shooting inmates, around inmates, or any act of cruel and unusual punishment where it is not a matter of life or death.

Nube Brown of California Prison Focus protests outside Old Folsom Prison on June 4, 2017, to support a hunger strike inside.

15) We demand that all institutions who use inmate labor be made to conform with the state and federal minimum wage laws.

16) We demand that all condemned prisoners, avowed revolutionaries and prisoners of war be granted political asylum in the countries under the Free World Revolutionary Solidarity Pact, such as Algeria, Russia, Cuba, Latin America, North Korea, North Vietnam etc. and that prisoners confined for political reasons in this country, until they can be exchanged for prisoners of war held by America, be treated in accord with the 1954 Geneva Convention, that they, their personal property be respected, and allowed in their possession, and that they not be manacled.

17) We demand an end to trials being held on the premises of San Quentin Prison or any other prison without the jury, as stated in the U.S. Constitution as being picked from the country of the trial proceedings and of the peers of the accused – that being in this case other prisoners as the selected jurors.

18) We demand an end to the escalating practice of physical brutality being perpetrated upon the inmates of California State Prisons at San Quentin, Folsom and Soledad Prison in particular.

19) We demand that such celebrated and prominent political prisoners as Reis Tijerina, Ahmad Evans, Bobby Seale, Chip Fitzgerald, Los Siete, David Harris and the Soledad Brothers be given political asylum outside this country, as the outrageous slandering of the mass media has made it impossible either for a fair trial or for a safe term to be served in case of conviction, as the forces of reaction and repression will be forever submitting them to threats of cruel and unusual punishment and death wherever they are confined and throughout the length of their confinement.

20) We demand appointment of three lawyers from the California Bar Association for fulltime positions to provide legal assistance for inmates seeking post-conviction relief, and to act as liaison between the administration and inmates for bringing inmate complaints to the attention of the administration.

21) We demand update of industry working conditions to standards as provided for under California law.

22) We demand establishment of inmate workers insurance plan to provide compensation for work related accidents.

23) We demand establishment of unionized vocational training program comparable to that of the federal prison system, which provides for union instructions, union pay scale and union membership upon completion of the vocational training course.

24) We demand annual accounting of Inmate Welfare Fund and formulation of inmate committee to give inmates a voice as to how such funds are used.

Before disbursing, protesters gathered for a group picture. Bato Talamantez of the San Quentin 6 is front and center with his sign, “Defend prison rebels.”

25) We demand that the Adult Authority Board appointed by the governor be eradicated and replaced by a parole board elected by popular vote of the people. In a world where many crimes are punished by indeterminate sentences and where authority acts in secrecy and in its discretion, giving heavy weight to accusations by prison employees against inmates, inmates feel trapped unless they are willing to abandon their desire to be independent men.

26) We demand that the state prison authorities conform to Recommendation No. 1 of the “Soledad Caucus Report,” to wit, “That the State Legislature create a fulltime salaried board of overseers for the state prisons. The board would be responsible for evaluating allegations made by inmates, their families, friends and lawyers against employees charged with acting inhumanely, illegally or unreasonably. The board should include people nominated by a psychological or psychiatric association, by the State Bar Association or by the Public Defenders Association, and by groups of concerned, involved laymen.

27) We demand that prison authorities conform to the conditional requirements and needs as described in the recently released Manifesto from the Folsom Adjustment Center.

28) We demand an immediate end to the agitation of race relations by the prison administration of this state.

29) We demand that the California Prison System furnish Folsom Prison with the services of ethnic counselors for the needed special services to the Brown and Black population of this prison.

30) We demand an end to the discrimination in the judgment and quota of parole for Black and Brown people.

31) We demand that all prisoners be present at the time that their cells and property are being searched by the correctional officers of state prisons.

– Distributed by CONNECTIONS, 330 Ellis St., S.F.

A copy of his historic document in its original form was sent to Bay View arts editor Wanda Sabir by Kumasi, a Los Angeles-based prison movement scholar and central leader of the Black August Organizing Committee who was a close comrade to George Jackson. Wanda and Kumasi had met at the Black Panther Party’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2016. Kumasi was reminded of this Manifesto when he learned of the National Prison Strike that began in Black August 2018 and believed Bay View readers would value the opportunity to witness prison movement evolution.

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