by Comrade Malik
“The hypocrisy of American fascism forces it to conceal its attack on political offenders by the legal fiction of conspiracy laws and highly sophisticated frame-ups. The masses must be taught to understand the true function of prisons. Why do they exist in such numbers? What is the real underlying economic motive of crime and the official definition of types of offenders or victims? The people must learn that when one ‘offends’ the totalitarian state it is patently not an offense against the people of that state, but an assault upon the privilege of the privileged few.” – George L. Jackson, “Blood in My Eye,” p.107
Revolutionary greetings, comrades!
As I stare out of my window here at the United States Penitentiary in Pollock, Louisiana, I find myself in a pensive and reflective mood. I see razor wire as well as concertina fencing immediately outside my window. I see the prison yard, the grass, the gun tower and far off in the distance I see trees.
I see a flag on a pole; it is the “stars and stripes.” This flag does not represent freedom to me; it represents oppression, abuse, social control and it represents the hateful legacy of slavery.
I woke up here in Pollock, Louisiana, thinking of Angola 3 member Herman Wallace. I remember the day he died. I was listening to Democracy Now with Amy Goodman, and she played a recording of Comrade Herman describing the garden that he and his comrades were preparing behind the house he was planning to move into.
Once the state of Louisiana finally granted Comrade Herman release, he was on his last legs. The cancer had literally eaten him alive. When I heard the voice of Herman Wallace, with the anticipation of freedom and the hope of seeing a brighter day, I cried. I cried because I was angry, sad and frustrated.
Louisiana had absolutely no love, compassion or care for the Angola 3. What they had for them was racial hatred and decades of abuse. Comrade Robert King and Comrade Albert Woodfox made it out alive. Herman wasn’t so lucky.
So you should know that I fight for the Herman Wallaces of this world! The political prisoners here in America – I fight for them. I fight for my New Afrikan brothers!
We are being told that we will be on lockdown for months after this most recent incident here at USP Pollock.
Lockdown means my cellmate and I will be trapped in our cell 24/7. Every three days we are afforded an opportunity to shower. Our meals are all cold and consist of powdered milk, a piece of fruit, bologna, bread, cheese or peanut butter and jelly. The nutritional value is extremely poor. I have survived years on this paltry diet.
There is no programming on lockdown. So all that talk you have heard about the First Step Act is just that: talk. My cellmate and I are both “short-timers.” He has about 14 months left, and I have about 15 months. He is 33 years old and I am 51. Two Black men. Both of us want to prepare for a successful transition back into society – but how can we?
The Federal Bureau of Prisons is sending us back to our families and to our communities traumatized and scarred emotionally as well as physically.
What rehabilitation is to be had when you are forced to live in a concrete cell for months at a time? Our situation here is not unique. This is the reality for literally thousands of men who have found themselves inside a federal U.S. Penitentiary. USP Beaumont, USP Coleman, USP Victorville, USP McCreary, Big Sandy, Lee County, ALL of them in a continual state of lockdown! This is why I fight.
“The psycho-social dimensions of fascism become quite complex, but they can be simplified by thinking of them as part of a collective bargaining process carried on between all the elites of the particular state with the regime acting as arbitrator. The regime’s interests are subject to those of the ruling class. Labor is a partner in this arrangement. At the head of any labor organization in the fascist state, there is an elite which is tied to the interests of the regime — and consequently tied also to the economic status quo.” – George L. Jackson, “Blood in My Eye,” p. 157
In this environment, and I am talking about high-security prisons in Amerika, the prison warden is the “elite” who represents the interests of the regime.
Let me be clear. Here at USP Pollock, the complex warden is named Mr. McConnell. Mr. McConnell is an extension of the Trump administration. Now, I want to break down exactly what justice looks like here inside USP Pollock.
Recently, there have been U.S. Supreme Court cases, such as U.S. vs. Johnson, U.S. vs. Davis, which have the potential of granting relief to thousands of federal prisoners. That means that many prisoners who were charged with gun charges under 924(c), 922(g) and those with Hobbs Act robberies may receive reductions in their sentence or possibly even go home if they qualify and file the proper legal motions and writs of habeas corpus.
The ongoing lockdowns at USP Pollock as well as all USPs across the United Snakes of Amerikkka have resulted in a mass denial of our access to the courts. USP Pollock is an egregious violator of our access to courts. Allow me to explain.
At USP Pollock we see a special problem. On most USP units, we have access to a computer terminal which is exclusively set up for the law library. That means we could access legal cases which could aid in obtaining our freedom.
Because of the numerous lockdowns, we cannot make copies of case law. It would help us immensely if we had a printer on our housing units, since the prison administration here has fallen in love with the reactionary practice of the lockdown strategy.
The ongoing lockdowns at USP Pollock as well as all USPs across the US have resulted in a mass denial of our access to the courts.
While en route to USP Pollock, I was in the Federal Transition Center in Oklahoma City. There on the housing unit was a computer terminal strictly for law library use and another terminal which was used to print documents, both legal documents and emails from our CorrLinks email accounts.
From my stance as a freedom fighter and jailhouse lawyer, I state for the record that prisoners held at USP Pollock are similarly situated as prisoners who are housed at the Federal Transition Center in Oklahoma and should be afforded the same access to the courts as prisoners there.
What is happening at USP Pollock is a blatant violation of the Equal Protection Clause, as well as our constitutional right to have access to the courts. There are men here who have excellent arguments that could free them from federal custody, but the BOP has created a culture of incarceration which traps mostly Black, Brown and poor whites inside these slave kamps and gulags.
I mentioned earlier in this essay that we were on lockdown here at USP Pollock. What I did not mention is that some prisoners here on Unit A-3 did resist being forced back into their cells. They had good reason to resist, and after another quote from Comrade George Jackson, I will explain.
“As victims of one of history’s most brutal contradictions, as the poorest of the poor, as blacks, it is quite justifiable and completely possible for us to destroy this country as a modern nation-state, to attack it with a totally destructive counter-sweep of frustrated retaliatory rage; that is not our purpose. As revolutionaries, it is our objective to move ourselves and the people into actions that will culminate in the seizure of state power. Our real purpose is to redeem not merely ourselves but the whole nation and the whole community of nations from colonial-community economic repression.” – George L. Jackson, “Blood in My Eye,” pgs. 133-134
On Dec. 31, 2019, an incident here at USP Pollock resulted in the warden calling for an institutional lockdown.
On Unit A-3 is a group of prisoners who have jobs and are involved in rehabilitative programs. A Unit is considered the “good side” of the penitentiary, the side where the allegedly peaceful and “well-adjusted” prisoners are housed.
However, the prisoners on A-3 Unit were not afforded the opportunity to go to the commissary. Their lockers were empty! Some of these men have active and pending litigation. There has been a palpable “frustrated retaliatory rage” building.
It took rubber bullets, shock grenades, batons and chemical agents to force the “good guys” into their cells on Unit A-3 here at USP Pollock.
You see, comrades, something is very wrong here and at many other federal pens across the U.S. Deceptions and lies are being told about the so-called rehabilitation and re-entry programming made available to Amerikan prisoners.
Question: If you make your living off of incarcerating poor Black, Latinx and white human beings, why in the world would you be interested in turning out whole human beings from these slave kamps? It is not in their interest to help us!
We are being sent back in worse shape than we came in! And then, when we fail, the oppressor profiles us on Good Morning America and highlights the worst of us, while ignoring the best of us!
Do you think I will be invited to be interviewed on GMA once I successfully assume my position as editor of the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper? Probably not.
I vow to fight for those I leave behind. But what about now? What shall we do to address the current conditions of our confinement?
A violent and brutal response will not serve our interests. We must set in motion a thoughtful and well-put-together plan which must be embraced by all federal prisoners in the USP. Violence only plays into the strategy the oppressor has in store for us.
Remember, comrades, there will be no programming, no visits, no phone calls and no business transactions while we are on these lockdowns.
It’s time for the shot callers of all street tribes and organizations to communicate with one another now. Exposing the conditions which exist is one part of “the plan.” As the weeks turn into months, I will be offering more ideas and suggestions that may improve our conditions, but I am only one man. I’ll need some ideas, suggestions, help and cooperation from the good men who are trapped inside these razor-wire plantations.
This is just a glimpse; more will follow. Will you be ready?
Dare to struggle, dare to win, all power to the people!
Keith “Malik” Washington is assistant editor of the Bay View, studying and preparing to serve as editor after his release in 2021. He is also co-founder and chief spokesperson for the End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement, a proud member of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee and an activist in the Fight Toxic Prisons campaign. Visit his website at ComradeMalik.com. Send our brother some love and light: Keith “Malik” Washington, 34481-037, USP Pollock, P.O. Box 2099, Pollock LA 71467.