Prison Abolitionism – in the People’s language

Now-by-LeRoy-Clarke-1, Prison Abolitionism – in the People’s language, Behind Enemy Lines News & Views
“Now” is our time! As we seek to break the chains of our minds, bodies and spirits to be our ancestors’ wildest dreams, we represent a multifaceted generation reclaiming a language, reconnecting with ancestral knowledge and rebuilding towards a world without prisons and police, a world where we, the People, come together, put us and the planet before profits, organize, empower and protect each other. Art by LeRoy Clarke, 1970.

by Shaka Shakur

When an entity or organization like the Department of Corrections (DOC) is a law unto itself, there exists no checks and balances and, consequently, no accountability. Thus, it is left up to the people, to the masses, to hold such accountable and to regulate such in whose name the DOC professes to represent, and on whose behalf it proclaims to govern! 

Ego defense mechanisms 

The following three paragraphs are quoted from “Black-on-Black Violence” by Amos Wilson: 

“Denial and distortion are the classical categorical means commonly referred to as ego defense mechanisms, by which an ego complex avoids unpleasant confrontations with reality itself and its own pathological history and current functioning. Through denial and distortion of reality and its concomitant self deception, the collective white american ego complex rationalizes and repressively ignores its origination and sustenance by means of its enslavement, rape, robbery and murder of captive peoples; its ruthless, unconscionable, wasteful and toxic exploitation of the land, labor and resources of other peoples; its unwarranted wars against other nations and cultures, its exploitative instigation of wars among them; its duplicitious diplomacy and propaganda, treachery and deceit, war mongering and invitations to riot; its colonizing, neo-colonizing, terrorizing, starvation, benign and malicious neglect, usurious taxation of captive populations; its segregation, discriminations, dehumanizations, psych manipulations of other peoples and nations in flagrant violation of its own vaunted moral preachments; its closing of its ears to the cries of its victims, sclerotic hardening of its psychic arteries.” (Page 56)

“By means of defensive denial and distortion, self deception and reversal of reality, the collective eurocentric ego complex seeks to resolve itself by creating conflicts and contradictions, to avoid feelings of guilt, shame and anxiety, to neutralize and negate self perceptions, and to protect its material advantages. To these ends its victims must be blamed for their own victimization. Their suffering must be seen as reflections of their own inherent deficiencies, of their servile manifest destiny and of their being short changed by God and Fate.” 

“Societal amnesia, a society’s repression of the memory of the traumatic experiences which created its structure and character, is markedly typical of the collective white american ego complex. The domination of African Americans is made all the more effective and comforting to the collective white american ego if its historical and current dominative processes are kept from its own consciousness and the consciousness of the subordinate African American community. Historically embarrassing behavior, lowly and criminal origins, revelations of social iniquities and their progeny, hidden from consciousness, permits the myth of the inherent moral, social, cultural, intellectual superiority of the white american complex to persist unchallenged and enhances the efficiency of its exploitation of Africans at home and abroad!” 

This is the bubble in which the Amerikan Kriminal Justice system exists and conducts its daily operations. The attempt to isolate and separate the kriminal justice system and “law enforcement” from its historical origins and context doesn’t stand up to mental reasoning or critique. 

Shaka-Shakur, Prison Abolitionism – in the People’s language, Behind Enemy Lines News & Views
Shaka Shakur 2017

Study after study has shown that in most so-called urban, inner city areas, such as various boroughs in New York or various counties throughout the state of Indiana that have a high concentration of Black and Brown people, there are the highest rates of arrest, conviction and incarceration. In contrast, white suspects or people arrested for similar or identical offenses (if arrested at all) do not receive the same treatment or application of the law. 

This isn’t a coincidence and can’t be separated from the historical continuity of colonization and white supremacy that have contaminated and infected the very core of the u.s. and its institutions, as well as its various branches of government, legislative, executive and judicial. 

We have heard politician after politician, academics, think tanks etc. critique the dysfunctionality and racist application of the laws and punishment in this society. It’s interesting that former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, and Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaign, all came out and stated that the Kkkrime Bill, signed by Bill Clinton, had a negative and racial social impact on the New Afrikan community. This bill hampered prisoners’ ability to file civil suits on their behalf, to file habeas corpus appeals challenging their convictions or hold the state and federal governments accountable. 

Yet nothing has been corrected about it other than the window dressing and band aid approach of making up the discrepancy between powder and crack cocaine. What about the thousands upon thousands of generational youth and young New Afrikan men and womyn that were railroaded into the Prison Industrial Complex, especially during the era of the so-called War on Drugs? 

This is why We believe in Prison Abolition. We do not believe that the Prison Industrial Complex, especially as a billion dollar industry, can be reformed. Just as We don’t believe that kapitalism as a socio-economic system can be reformed so that it can be just in its application to all peoples of society.

The powers that be want Us divided so that We can’t unify and focus on them.

People hear Us speak about Prison Abolition or Defunding the Police and have a certain perception or image that isn’t always accurate. 

For those of Us, specifically those who are of an oppressed class or an oppressed Nation of people, We believe in and envision a society where there neither exists nor is a need for prisons – a society where there is not a need to cage people primarily as a result of the unequal distribution of wealth or equal access to resources. We envision a society where there doesn’t exist a class structure, where the lower classes get dumped on by the higher classes or ruling elites and/or privilege or institutionalized racism and neo colonialism is used to both rationalize and/or justify such. 

Tailoring the message 

We believe that activists, revolutionaries and prison abolitionists must tailor this message to fit into the social reality of the ghetto colonies of amerika if We are in fact trying to politicize, organize and help facilitate the empowering of these communities. 

What does prison abolition mean in real time to someone who lives in a community where there exists rampant krime, daily sex offenses, murders, warlordism and reactionary violence? They aren’t trying to hear nothing about Prison Abolition or defunding the police! The concept doesn’t have a positive impact on their/Our lives or alter Our daily reality. 

We can’t suggest to grandma not to call the police when her home is robbed by the local addict, or whatever, if you’re not willing to go into that community and organize where 1) there is no need for anyone to rob grandma or 2) organize the community where they can come up with their own rules, laws, policies and enforcement/accountability – a community organized, taught and trained to defend itself against those reactionary elements within and against oppressive government forces from without. 

We don’t always have to use language that has been so stigmatized by the power structure where people instantly have a negative reaction if they hear words like anarchy, socialism, communalism etc. Sometimes it helps to break it down as far as the actual benefits, practice and nature of such. 

Sometimes it’s not just about screaming racism, although that might actually be what it is. Sometimes it’s about showing people concretely how this or that impacts, why and how We can change it. It’s about explaining that prisons haven’t always existed, who actually socially/economically benefits from prisons, and the origins and intended social role of so-called Amerikan law enforcement. More importantly, it’s about showing how the people can empower themselves to govern themselves. 

For example, during a lot of natural disasters or at the height of the Covid pandemic people came together, organized and helped thy neighbor. People who ordinarily might not even speak to one another found ways to connect with each other in solidarity. The powers that be want Us divided so that We can’t unify and focus on them. 

Human rights violations

Contrary to popular propaganda, Amerika isn’t this beacon of light on the hill that doesn’t house Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War or Political Dissenters within its prisons. It is just like any other empire; it interns and kriminalizes and incarcerates its critics and revolutionaries that the government deems are a threat to its power base or status quo. The U.S. government routinely violates the Standard Minimum Rules of the Treatment of Prisoners aka The Mandela Rules, as defined by the United Nations. 

The U.S. prison system and its prisoncrats routinely target, torture, abuse and occasionally murder those Political Prisoners of War (PPOWs), Prison Activists and Jailhouse Lawyers, either murder outright or through years of medical neglect or misdiagnosis. Again, in violation of the U.N. Charter on Human Rights, We are routinely held in supermax prisons or solitary confinement where We are confined to a cell for 23 hours a day. This is often with having exemplary prison conduct records, often not engaging in acts of violence unless necessary (and sometimes it is necessary to defend ourselves or beat back the rabid dogs that kill and maim us under the color of law). 

Don’t say you believe in God but sanction and turn a blind eye to the work of the devil.

We are targeted for being politically active. Within the Prison Industrial Complex, you can lose your life for fighting for your rights, for educating and/or organizing other prisoners. For such, the thought police will attack you, outsource your demise to more reactionary and less woke elements, isolate you and extend your prison sentence or ship you off to a different state into domestic exile. 

I appeal to the common person who says they believe in the rule of law. Do you believe in supporting unjust laws or the unjust or unequal application of such? I appeal to those who say they support human rights. I appeal to those who criticize China, Iran, Cuba and other countries for alleged human rights abuses but say and do nothing about the abuses taking place in the prisons in your state, city or neighborhood. 

Don’t say you believe in God but sanction and turn a blind eye to the work of the devil. Don’t protest and attack someone who might have been convicted of a sex offense or murder, who has served his/her sentence, and you run them out of your community just because you can do so, but you will allow a prison guard who beats and tortures handcuffed prisoners, who spits in prisoners’ food, who might belong to a white supremacist organization, who will search Our cells and out of spite will destroy personal photos of Our children. You will allow this person to live freely in your community without fear of either criticism, ridicule or accountability. You will allow this person to coach little leagues, teach your children and live a “normal” existence when in fact everything about their personality and social behavior is abnormal. The height and epitome of hypocrisy! 

If someone worked in a Nazi death kamp and had been killing, exterminating people all day, wouldn’t you consider it abnormal for this person to be able to immerse himself back into a community, have dinner with his/her family, play with their children, “Hi honey, I’m home!” and then shuck it off as just another day at the office! Ahh, “I left that at work. I don’t bring my job home with me.” Really? 

On Dec. 21, 2021, following my transfer from Green Rock Correctional Center by Sgt. B.L. Towler – against whom I had a pending grievance and kriminal complaint – I was the victim of a hate Kkkrime upon my arrival at River North Correctional Center. From the very point of being snatched out of the transport vehicle and escorted to the Restrictive Housing Unit (RHU), I was being verbally and physically assaulted with racial epithets of “Boy” (in this context), “You must not know where you’re at,” “nigger” etc. as the chain linking the shackles were repeatedly stomped on causing shackle burns on my naked skin, breaking the skin and in fact causing deep gouges into my ankles and achilles leaving the area to look like raw bloody meat. Picture the image of a runaway slave who has run for miles in shackles. 

I was then taken into a corridor with approximately seven guards who had their faces covered with scarf-type masks with patriotic symbols on them and I was beaten while handcuffed in trip gear of black box, a waist chain, shackles, etc.. I was kicked, punched, kneed, causing gouges in my head, a separated left shoulder, AC and other injuries. 

The cover up

What I discovered is that this isn’t an unusual occurrence or out of the norm. I discovered that it is the norm and represents a culture that targets all prisoners in general, but New Afrikan/Black prisoners in particular. In fact, I knew during the actual beating and perpetration of this hate kkkrime that they had done this before. The signals given between the perpetrators, the body strikes and blows, where and how they were placed, the alert that “We have blood” when my head wound started to bleed and the immediate stopping of the assault. Then came the attempt to intimidate me into silence and denial of medical treatment. It was obvious that this had been done many times before and as I recovered in the hole/segregation, I would see this culture up close and personal. 

“I love beating your ass.”

Terrorizing and torturing prisoners with mental health issues is common – like Jabri Brown, whose toilet would be turned off for days and weeks, who sometimes wouldn’t be fed, or he’d be provoked so that he could be cell extracted and beaten. Once he was told by c.o. Brenegen, “I love beating your ass.” The provoking and then punishing of those who react is also common – the “ghost-traying,” i.e. not feeding you, claiming that you refused; spitting in and tampering with food; and just blatantly violating your human rights, all with the wink wink and laughter of ranking officers and the administration. 

An internal investigation was launched and I filed grievances where the response from the warden and the findings of the prison investigation stated that my allegations of being beaten were “indeterminate.” How, within a high-tech prison with cameras everywhere, can allegations of a hate krime/assault be ruled to be “indeterminate?” It either happened or it didn’t! 

Then it was pushed up to the main office, the Special Investigation Unit (SIU), where an official finding was supposedly to be turned over to the director of the Virginia DOC, Harold Clarke, and to the attorney general’s office. I was informed by investigators that “they” said: “You started to run your head into the wall and that you were frustrated and said you couldn’t take this shit anymore.” “You were acting suicidal.” 

You know it’s in Black folks’ DNA where Our heads just attack billy clubs, press Our necks against knees and intentionally slip Our heads through hanging nooses! If I was banging my head into walls, acting suicidal or as if I was trying to harm myself, what were the guards doing while escorting me, while holding onto me? 

Why wasn’t I placed on suicide watch and placed into a camera observation cell? Why weren’t my clothes taken and why wasn’t I issued a “suicide prevention smock?” Why wasn’t a mental health officer contacted? So either self-harm and suicide are promoted, encouraged and allowed or it never happened. 

Any time you can beat, kill, maim or destroy other human beings without fear of accountability – that is too much power.

I was later told by one of the primary investigators that his findings had been turned over to the local district attorney’s office. I’ve seen no evidence of that or anything in writing on this. In fact, this same investigator came to the prison weeks later and called my former cellmate out for an interview. The person, Demarcus Gravely, was allegedly asked during this interview, which was supposedly recorded, if I ever stated to him that I was a Black Panther member or identified myself as a New Afrikan. What would my politics or nationality or national identity have to do with being beaten while handcuffed and shackled? Out of fear of retaliation he has refused to give me a statement/affidavit on this matter.

This is an attempt to discredit, character assassinate and distract. No one has been held accountable and I’m still held on the kkkrime scene, at the same facility where all kinds of attempts are made to either provoke me or neutralize my ability to be active. This is why We push prison abolition. This is too much power without any real checks and balances. Any time you can beat, kill, maim or destroy other human beings without fear of accountability – that is too much power. 

In the mountains of Virginia where a type of patriarchal white nationalism dominates, the cultural insensitivity and reactionary violence permeates these prisons in this southwestern region of the commonwealth. To not get involved, to not demand accountability is to also say you do not mind when we return back to society as damaged individuals full of rage and anger or suffering psychological trauma. It is to say you endorse the cycle of catch and release, either because you’re a direct beneficiary of the Prison Industrial Complex or, in spite of all your claims of morals and values, you have lost touch with your own sense of humanity and common decency of what is right and just! 

It is a self-fulfilling prophecy when you allow the power structure, the government agencies and their proxies to go into poor communities, oppressed ghetto kolonies and so called inner cities and tear down affordable housing and housing projects, close down schools and hospitals.

T. Platt writes in “Black-on-Black Violence,” on page 13: “[Prison] reform proposals are invariably formulated within the framework of corporate capitalism and are designed to shape new adjustments to existing political and economic conditions … that establishment reform proposals are formulated and practically designed to shape Afrikan people’s adjustments to existing and ongoing eurocentric political and economic conditions … to the conditions of White Supremacy … [This reformism] has helped to create probation and parole, the juvenile court system, reformatories and halfway houses, the indeterminate sentence, adjustment and diagnostic centers, public defenders, youth services bureaus … which has served to strengthen the power of the state over the poor Third World communities and youth. As the American Friends Service Committee has observed, ‘The legacy of a century of reform effort is an increasingly repressive penal system and our corrupt courts dispensing assembly line justice.’” 

It is a self-fulfilling prophecy when you allow the power structure, the government agencies and their proxies to go into poor communities, oppressed ghetto kolonies and so called inner cities and tear down affordable housing and housing projects, close down schools and hospitals while allowing the police, law enforcement to soften up the natives by terrorizing the youth and the block, making it “soft” for further gentrification euphemistically called redevelopment. 

This forces migration and refugees from these cities and areas to relocate to other areas, sometimes where civil wars of reactionary violence have been going on for generations, where people are forced to survive off of the underground economy or drug economy who are now fighting over markets and hostile takeovers – a ghetto kolony hostile takeover of a “hood”/community where the market is lucrative for the latest escape/coping mechanism drug. These same elements are now forced into consolidated schools as more weapons magically appear. 

And as that self-fulfilling prophecy comes to life, then there come the talking heads and opportunistic politicians talking about the increase in violence, the need for tougher laws, the expansion of the PIC. Here is the government and its racist institutions seeking to capitalize off of, exploit and save the day while feeding more ghetto human commodities into the Prison Industrial Complex. It’s a win-win all around for the state while tolerating the collateral damage of a baby or young child hit by a stray bullet here or there, while a mass shooting or wave of overdoses might sweep through. 

Yet, these politicians in D.C. and Biden have the audacity to talk about war krimes in Ukraine and genocide. But it’s not a war krime when you chokehold or taser Us to death, or while handcuffed? It’s not a war krime to be beat and stomped while being called “nigger” and “boy” by so-called correctional officers or your military veterans? 

When we say defund the police, We are saying that the money that is going to the Prison Industrial Complex and police agencies can instead be funneled back into these communities and the infrastructure of such. We are saying that New Afrikans alone contribute trillions of dollars in purchasing power to the U.S. economy while probably 5% or 10% makes it back into Our communities in the form of tax breaks, bank loans, infrastructure development, housing etc. If it were circling back into the ghetto kolonies of amerika, We wouldn’t have the conditions, unemployment, violence and other social ills that We do, and the PIC wouldn’t continue to consume Black and Brown bodies, and poor white folks who are finally getting a dose of reality that kapitalism doesn’t give a f#@k about you! 

Defund the police, stop these imperialist meddling wars and stop sending billions to Ukraine to fight proxy wars against Russia. And New Afrikan folks in amerika need reparations! 

Shaka Shakur

Send our brother some love and light: Shaka Shakur, 1996207, River North CC, 329 Dellbrook, Independence VA 24348, or at shakashakur1996207@jpay.com or shakashakur@protonmail.com