In the thick of the 2018 prison strike we published a notice in the San Francisco Bay View — the extraordinary monthly Black newspaper which circulates through hundreds of prisons and other centers of detention in the United States — asking those on the inside to write to us with their immediate reflections on the prison strike. Specifically: how recent prison strike actions advanced the politics of abolition. In this episode we present a few of the extraordinary report backs and analyses from inside — some written in the infinitely long and lonely hours of solitary confinement.
As noted in the episode, you can write to Kevin Inge at:
Kevin Inge #HW6757
Smart Communications/PA DOC
SCI Coal Township
PO Box 33028
St. Petersburg, Florida 33733
Image credit: 2016 Halsey Exhibition of Correspondence Art
Click here to display the episode transcript
a María: Welcome to Rustbelt Abolition Radio, my name is a María. In the thick of the 2018 prison strike, we published a notice in the San Francisco Bay View — the extraordinary monthly Black newspaper which circulates through hundreds of prisons and other centers of detention in the United States — asking those on the inside to write to us with their immediate reflections on the prison strike. Specifically: how recent prison strike actions advanced the politics of abolition. We received letters from folks imprisoned in a dozen different states, and in this episode we present these extraordinary report backs and analyses from inside — some written in the infinitely long and lonely hours of solitary confinement.
But before we begin, here’s Kaif Syed with some movement news you have missed…
On January 13th, a local organization in Columbus, Georgia, called Indivisible Columbus, organized a rally in protest of living conditions in the Stewart Detention Center. The detention center, located in Lumpkin, Georgia, is private prison operated by Corrections Corporation of America that is under contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold immigrant detainees. According to Indivisible Columbus, detainees are being held in inhumane conditions, including being forced to sleep in very cold rooms with thin mattresses, overcrowding, inadequate medical care, and not being allowed to have physical contact with family members.
On January 15th, federal jail inmates in New York launched a hunger strike in protest of inadequate medical care and cancellation of family visits, stemming from the partial federal government shutdown. A group of inmates in Metropolitan Correctional Center sparked the hunger strike after the jail cancelled family visitations for the second week straight. Other effects of the shutdown which are being protested are the reduction in recreation time and increased difficulty for inmates seeking legal counsel.
Since January 9th, approximately 250 prisoners have been on hunger strike within California State Prison – Corcoran’s 3C facility in response to indefinite lockdown. Two units within the 3C facility have been deprived of visitation, canteens, packages, educational and rehab programs, and yard time for the past three and a half months. Representatives of the units have made the following demands:
- Lift Lock-Down.
- Allow Visits.
- Allow Us To Attend Educational Vocational & Rehabilitation Programs That We’re Enrolled In
- Allow us to Receive Commissary & Packages
- That We Be Given Our Weekly 10 hrs Mandated Of Outdoor Exercise Yard
- That We Are Treated Fairly
You can find more information on this hunger strike and how to support it at incarceratedworkers.org
LETTERS FROM INSIDE
Alejo: I am Alejo Stark, here with Kaif Syed and you’re listening to Rustbelt Abolition Radio. An abolitionist media and movement building project based in Detroit, Michigan. In this episode, we feature the letters of six imprisoned rebels that were written in the wake of the 2018 prison strike. These letters reflect upon the conditions inside and its relation to the Abolitionist movement. They come to us from various geographies in the United States — including the states of Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, California, Texas, and Pennsylvania. Some were written from solitary confinement. This first letter comes from a writer that is held captive in the state of Texas.
Kaif: Yeah, this letter from an anonymous writer from Texas and it’s dated as being written in October, 2018. Here it is.
ANONYMOUS WRITER, TEXAS:
Salutation! I am shouting out from general prison population responding to your inquiries and also honoring the throes of birth pains signaled from Abolitionists contemplating covertly [de]employing [Deploying and Employing] inside prisons for direct action.
Moreover, this direct action could produce documentaries creating supplemental income and funds for other purposes.
We think this birth giving weighty consideration to our suggestive advance level of support is attributed to drastic changes in political opinions favoring prisoners as a result of the latest National Prisoner Actions.
Texas Department of Corrections is an ideal environment for the growth and maturity of Abolitionists to rotate through prison doors, which will embolden prison activists and quickly strengthen our position ushering in a world without prisons. Corrupt prison authorities will prove ineffective attempting to continue performing what was illustrated by Prisoner Strike Organizer, Amani Sawari – [QUOTE] “the efforts by authorities to disrupt communication between prisoner organizers and outside support also interfere with and impede communication between prisons by inside organizers. [END QUOTE]”
Further, I think particularly our 2016 strike actions garnered political sentiments for prison abolitionists due to prison authorities had illegally brutalized and isolated prisoner activists for organizing peaceful protest methods; which Amani Sawari indicated may have also occurred to deter widespread participation for current National Prisoners Actions, and she exhorted outside supporters to be aggressive in their response to the retaliation.
Kaif: Now there is a concluding section that is titled “Advanced Politics of Abolition,”
ADVANCED POLITICS OF ABOLITION
Overall it appears 2016 and 2018 actions helped advance our abolitionist struggle by generating more media attention and a foundation for “[QUOTE IN QUOTE] sustained” future strikes to not end until demands are met. Finally as for the would be abolitionists [de] employing behind enemy lines, “Whistle Blowers Act” could be utilized as protection when reporting state corruption. Although I advocate this entire message herein, if it is broadcasted I am requesting my name be omitted to avoid becoming an easy target.
LETTER: KEVIN INGE
Alejo: The next one is from a prisoner in Pennsylvania — where drastic changes in the mail policies were implemented in the fall of 2018. It is a letter from Kevin Inge and it has a Florida return address. Because of the policy changes implemented in Pennsylvania, all mail must be processed through a “secured” facility in Florida.
December 4, 2018
Dear Rustbelt Abolition Radio,
Hello, I am writing you today to send you a submission about how the 2016 and 2018 prison strike actions advanced the politics of Abolition. Well, I can speak firsthand for the prisoners in Pennsylvania. Right now [December 4], Pennsylvania prisoners are not standing up at all to the Injustice being done to us behind these walls. As of August, all mail and books/magazines are not allowed into any Pennsylvania prison. Instead our family/friends must mail our letters/books to a secure location in Florida to be checked for contraband (see attached article). So right now, when you would think Pennsylvania prisoners are going to stand up and strike, no one is doing nothing. Mail to prisoners is not a privilege, it is a right! So I don’t under-stand why there is not more work strikes or sit-ins. The staff now is even making copies of our legal maik that is being sent to us from our lawyers. It is being said that there may be contraband in our legal mail from our lawyers? Whatever happened to attorney-client privilege? This is just some of the Injustice being done to us behind these walls in Pennsylvania State Prisons.
Alejo: Kevin also wanted us to share his information so that listeners can get in touch with him about the mail policy situation in Pennsylvania prisons. You can find his information by reading the transcript of this episode on our website.
Kevin Inge #HW6757
Smart Communications/PA DOC
SCI Coal Township
PO Box 33028
St. Petersburg, Florida 33733
Kaif: This next letter is from Joshua Perkins, who is writing from solitary confinement in South Central Correctional Center in Missouri.
LETTER: JOSHUA PERKINS
October 22, 2018
To whom it may concern,
My name is Joshua Perkins #1234230 and I currently reside in solitary confinement in South Central Correctional Center. Prior to my living arrangement I currently reside in, convicts, myself included, decided to stand up for our civil rights.
Housing Unit 2 segregation was overcrowded. The administration were forcing inmates to live with people whom they knew didn’t get along with one another and were incompatible. Convicts then started declaring protective custody to get away from hostile living conditions; myself included on August 17, 2018.
We were then punished by being handcuffed to an iron bench, with our hands behind our backs, attached to the bench and legs shackled to the bench. We were denied food and were given bathroom breaks during the Corrutopionel (sic) Officers (CO) convenience. Despite our differences (nationality, religion, politics, etc.) we rode those benches for 6 days until August 23, 2018. We laughed and joked, did everything we could to keep one another strong and in a positive frame of mind. The cops hated it. Oh well.
During our 6 day stretch, sprinklers popped due to the fact that maintenance does not do their job and toilets overflowed sewage water. One CO named Karr was threatening and taunting inmates belligerently. After screaming and yelling at one inmate on the bench. He was so heated he slipped in flooded sewage water and busted his ass. I blame maintenance. I’d never seen so many convicts at peace in such fire circumstances.
Other convicts in fear of their cellies [that is, cellmates] decided to start coming out and a lot were pepper sprayed for declaring PC [protective custody]. The CO’s then had to start placing convicts in shower stalls due to the overcrowding. Convicts whose disciplinary segregation had long ended were released to General Population. Convicts under investigation were released to GP [general population] as well. Other convicts were transferred to other institutions.
The cops were sick of our solidarity. On August 23, 2018, the Correctional Emergency Response Team (C.E.R.T.) came in by the hundred and started brutally assaulting inmates.
I was standing in a holding cage under PC when some CO’s told me Jefferson City correctional center (JCCC) had something for me. ( [sidenote] I was convicted for first Degree Assault on a Correctional Officer in Cole county: received 20 years). Next thing you know CO Talent “AKA Bull” came to my cage and hit me with 3 small cans and 2 big cans of pepper spray. Cops opened my cage, took me to the ground and brutally assaulted me. I was stomped, kicked, punched and elbowed mostly in the head and face. Fingers twisted and choked. There were 10 or more CO’s assaulting me. I was “hogtied” and carried from 2C to 2A and thrown on the ground by Cell 106. The inmates were pulled out, I was picked up and thrown in onto the concrete floor. (The whole wing and cell was flooded). I was then beat again and my face was held under water. The CO’s were screaming “Don’t **** with JCCC.” I was then left in a pool of bloody sewage water.
Others were brutally assaulted as well. Nobody was given any form of medical attention and no conduct violations were written. I believe a lot of inmates were frightened and a lot of others wanted their showers, regular trays ( we were issued paper bags) and canteen. Some were complaining that they wanted to watch the institutional movie. (3 T.V.’s are in each wing to brainwash and pacify the [QUOTE IN QUOTE] “offenders.” The same movie is played over and over all day long: which usually consists of the imperialists oppressing and conquering the proletariat.)The inmates then laid back.
Then, on August 21, 2018, a few convicts requested PC and were issued conduct violations for organized discordance (which as far as I know were dismissed). I was taken to the bathroom and slammed of the ground by a fat CO named Calhoun. Everybody who declared PC ended up going back to their cells feeling defeated. I was still in fear of my life.
On September 1, 2018, I was taken to housing unit 1 solitary for 2 alleged guard assaults. CO’s allege I slipped my cuff and bathroom break and attacked CO Karr and Sergeant Herndon “Short Dog” by striking them in the face and body with closed fists and knees. In actual reality I was assaulted by them for not returning to my cell and CO Riggs was striking me in the face with his fists.
Despite all the oppression (Special Security Orders, Meat loaf, retaliation, etc.) I keep my head up and train for Armageddon/Ragnarok.
I believe resistance has improved since I’ve been in prison (3 years first bid, 4 years this bid). I believe this incident educated a lot of the youth, myself included about solidarity and the imperative to resist tyranny/oppression. I used to be a prejudiced closed-minded bigot and this experience has opened my eyes to the fact that all us low class prisoners/ “citizens” are slaves to the imperialists. We are all in this oppressive struggle together. The 13th Amendment of the United States constitution constitutes prisoners abroad to slavery.
As for a world without prisons, I do not see that happening until the return of Yoshua the Messiah. Sadly I feel that there will always be a sort of prison for us individuals and we can only resist that through our Higher Powers.
Joshua Perkins #1234230
SCCC 255 W Hwy 32
Licking, MO 65542
Alejo: Joshua also sent us a poem to share with you all as well. Kaif, do you wanna read it for us?
Kaif: Yes, here’s his poem..
“Swords, swords have been sharpened
Swords, swords have been burnished:
To work slaughter have they been sharpened
To flash lightning have they been burnished
Why now should we withdraw them?
The oppressors have dodged the law and deserve eradication!
I have given them over to my comrades
That they may hold them in their hand
Swords sharpened and burnished
To be put in the hands of slayers.
Cry out and wail, oppressors
For you shall soon meet your doom:
The righteous have united in wrath
And they have raised their swords high
Therefore, slap your thigh, oppressor
For the sword has been tested:
And why should it not be so?
As for you comrades, prepare yourself for battle!
While the swords are doubled and tripled
These swords of slaughter
These mighty swords of slaughter
Which threaten all around
That every pig may tremble;
For many will be fallen
Everywhere they go
I have appointed the swords for slaughter
Fashioned to flash lightning
Burnished for slaughter
Cleave to the right. Destroy!
Alejo: This next one is from Shaka Shakur who is currently imprisoned in an Indiana prison. It is titled “An Honest Conversation and Self Critique.”
LETTER: SHAKA SHAKUR
There can be no honest conversation as to whether Black Lives Matter (BLM) without including in that conversation the voice of the hundreds of thousands of Black Men and Women behind the iron curtain of the prison walls. There can be no honest conversation about BLM without an honest critique of the civil wars, i.e. gang wars, black on black violence/murder rate that is out of control in our community. While we reject the right wing conservative and generally backwards apologist position who try to use black on black violence as a justification or rationalization for state sanctioned violence at the hands of its security forces, i.e. police or privileged white males who has a license to kill and murder black folks based on their skin privilege as being identified as white. Nevertheless there has to be an honest assessment, analysis and solution oriented approach.
While we know the street level violence is a direct result of state level violence, the policies of the government (regardless of the “party” in power or the administration), the inequality in the distribution of resources to communities of color and urban areas; disproportionate representation of over-incarceration, saturation policing (for all the good it does), lack of jobs, etc. is a direct contributor towards that violence. What is raging in our communities are often civil wars driven by the drug economy and economics. It is a vicious cycle motivated and sponsored by state and racist sanctioned genocide.
You cannot close schools, hospitals, clinics and have no jobs and not expect or anticipate the explosion of violence. You cannot put rats in a cage in a controlled environment of behavioral modification, reward and punishment and overall environmental manipulation and eventually they will begin to feed upon one another. While we are far from rodents to be exterminated at the hands of the state and its governmental policies we have to seize our own destiny and dictate and give guidance for future generations.
When forgiving our proven enemies becomes more important and more of a priority than demanding justice and organizing for real freedom-we have a flawed and defective stereotype. When it becomes more important than organizing ourselves from the bottom up to defend and protect ourselves from those that ravish and murder us from outside our community, as well as those backward elements (of which I used to be one of) within our community and amongst us, then we have to reassess our strategy for survival. We are one of the only people on the planet who can be lynched, mass murdered, mass incarcerated and be subjected to apartheid type policies and governing and still bend over backwards to forgive and try to make peace. Fuck that! It is not a crime to organize to protect yourselves, to survive. Armed self-defense isn’t a crime. To patrol and control your own community isn’t a crime. To fight for human survival is a human right. Singing “We shall overcome” while being marched into ovens or prisons is ludicrous/insane!!!
Does anyone have a problem with white males patrolling (and exercising white privilege) in the streets of Ferguson with semi-automatic weapons and tactical gear? I’m talking about so called white “civilians”/citizens. They were not only patrolling but freely interacting with the state security forces (police) and engaging in coordinated tactical maneuvers. Why isn’t anyone talking about this? Where is the outrage? This was being done under the guise of so called “Oath Keepers” protecting the people from the state. Can you imagine Black men walking not only the streets of Ferguson with semi-automatic rifles or let alone a predominantly white area and it not be an armed confrontation with the police or some other settler armed agent? It isn’t even safe for us the legally walk around armed in an open carry state let alone an open warzone. Open apartheid in occupied Azania (South Africa) isn’t that long ago.
The civil wars that broke out in the Former Yugoslavia also in Bosnia, Herzegovina, Kosovo, Rwanda and Burundi isn’t that long ago. Civil wars being dictated by racial and religious hatred manipulated and controlled by the state and government forces.
While we know and overstand the BLM movement was created to focus on white KKKops killing black people and exposing such, we also recognize that the movement isn’t monolithic. Some groups are also using the strategy and tactic of leaderless resistance. Can genocidal oppression truly be reformed?
Yeah Black Lives Matter but while demanding that you recognize such one has to overstand that wars are raging in this country called low intensity warfare and it is imperative that we organize for survival. We have people not only walking into our churches and killing our people but burning them down!!!
Whatever God (or not) that you believe in, when you’re not even safe in a house of worship or sacred space them people don’t see you as human. How can we forgive and/or rationalize with such sickness and hatred?
This isn’t about good kop or bad kop. Our people all over Amerikkka and our community has a distinctive and oppressive relationship to the state and its security forces i.e. police.
The Police represents an institution and an organization based upon an ideology and operating procedures. This relationship has always been oppressive both historically and up until one second ago.
These people and institutions have never represented us or our collective interest. It doesn’t matter if you have a “black” president or attorney general. How is that in most of our communities which more heavily patrolled than any other; how is it that we can every alphabet you can think of eg FBI, DEA, ATF, JTTF, etc and one can’t stop the murder rate, can’t and or facilitate the removal and replacing the drug economy in our neighborhoods? Why are they really there? And, more importantly, whose interest are they operating in because it damn show ain’t our interest. This is why we can’t depend on them or the government. With us utilizing the practice and concept of dual power, it allows us to operate utilizing our own resources to build and create our own institutions.
The contradictions and dialectics we see playing out in society also manifest itself inside of Amerikkkas prisons-behind the iron curtain of barbed wire, surveillance gear, gun towers and genocide under the guise of corrections. What the X*X* are they correcting when all they are doing is warehousing us and brutalizing us? Wholesale manufacturing of psych-sociopaths that are released upon our community. Creating people full of rage, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) issues. You torture and abuse and then cut funding and remove mental health services in our community!!! A hidden agenda…
You do not “correct’ by cutting all the programs in prison. You don’t correct by removing all the vocational trades and training to the point that there are no real jobs for us, no real mental health intervention-only locked in caged for hours on end, where solitary confinement has become a solution to lack of bed space. So again whose interest are the places serving while private prisons and investment in such is booming-just ask Michael Jordan!
If Black Lives Matter they matter on all fronts. We are a nation of people. You can call it Black America or whatever but we are nation with a separate and distinct relationship to Amerikkka and its settler agents/representatives. We are of you and shall at some point will return to you. We must be a part of the BLM conversation and its transitioning.
The New Afrikan Liberation collective in Indiana represent only one aspect/strain in that/this conversation. Political prisoners and social conscious prisoners seizing the time and opportunity to not only organize amongst ourselves but to be heard. From a whisper to a shout, to a scream that our lives matter too!
From one generation to the next on behalf of the New Afrikan Liberation Collective, N.A.L.C.
Kaif: We also got two shorter letters — one of them is from a writer in Kentucky prison and another one from a writer in Corcoran State prison in California. The first one is from Timothy Brown who’s incarcerated in a prison in Kentucky and it’s dated September 28, 2018.
LETTER: TIMOTHY BROWN
I hope that the prison movement brings some much needed unity. I have been fighting the judicial/prison system a long time by myself. The root problem is that we are not united. We have no common goal. Some seek immediate prison abolishment, some jobs, some housing, some an end to police murders, etc etc. We must understand that all problems plaguing our community come from a single source, and until we solve the ROOT issue, we can only accomplish small victories that will soon be reversed. Proof: all the victories of the past have been reversed. Once we decide to work together, truly work as one, then we will be able to compete with our lifelong enemy. The enemy works together, 200+ million of them just in this country alone. No way a few of us at a time will defeat them; they have a plan, we do not; they work together, we do not; they control finance, we do not; they control production/jobs, we do not, etc etc. We must implement a unified plan and work it as one, unless we want lose all these little battles and the war! In a war, as this is, why would the enemy help the opponent? They won’t. Stop asking them to and start working for self determination. A slave’s will can never be done! Let’s stop thinking like slaves and start thinking like a community. A community is a group of individuals that function as one for their mutual benefit and protection. I have written a book that has a partial plan. Let’s come together and put forth a world wide plan. That’s when we will have a MOVEMENT!
Alejo: This last one is from Mwalimu, a New Afrikan that is being held captive within Corcoran State Prison in the state of California.
LETTER FROM MWALIMU:
September 21, 2018.
My name is Mwalimu Shakur, and I’m an inside the walls activist, who has been challenging unjust conditions in prison for over 20 years. I was a SHU inmate who participated in all 3 hunger strikes [in California] to shed light on our long term isolation, in which us New Afrikans who study the works of Comrade George Lestor Jackson, Huey P. Newton, Fred Hampton, Amilcar Cabral and the rest of the revolutionaries who came before us, and left a path to be followed were placed for 20, 30, and some 40 years to curb the educating of the young fertile minds of our youth, so they’ll learn about the fascist oppressors practices with their capitalist system, and learn how to combat it.
Since our release back into the general population we’ve been waging a successful war with the imperialist and winning some of our rights, but since our work stoppage boycotts, and sit ins here in Corcoran we are dealing with repercussions. Such as: the loss of jobs, our education department and a few people went to Administrative Segregation (“Ad Seg” or “The Hole”) but this only strengthens us to keep going until we win.
I believe as more people in the communities come to realize we have come from the same communities, and instead of tearing them down as we once did by selling drugs, pimpin’ and other forms of criminal behavior, we’re now attempting to rebuild through education and creating self-sufficiency programs which are alternative solution to our conditions. We believe in unity and solidarity, and with our oppressed communities, working with us to accomplish our goals, we can have a better world. We rightfully deserve this, as well as a world without prisons.
Mwalimu of Corcoran State Prison in California
Kaif Syed: Thanks for tuning in. You can listen to past episodes or read their transcripts on our website at www.rustbeltradio.org. This show was co-produced by the Rustbelt Abolition Radio crew: a Maria, Kaif Syed, and Alejo Stark. Original music by Bad Infinity.