Monday January 25th: Letter-writing for Kamau Sadiki

from Philly ABC

kamau-sadiki.jpg

This month we are asking that folks write letters of support to former Black Panther, Kamau Sadiki. Kamau has been held in the Augusta State Medical Prison for years and suffered medical neglect. Right now, Kamau is in danger of needing his left foot amputated and needs to see a wound specialist. Before you join us next Monday to write a letter, please take a minute to tweet at @GovKemp & call the Augusta State Medical Prison at (706) 855-4700 to demand he be taken to the wound care clinic ASAP. At the letter-writing event, we will have an update about the medical campaign and send words of solidarity directly to Kamau so that he knows, and the prison knows, this situation is getting wider public attention.

At age 17, Kamau dedicated his life to the service of his people working out of the Jamaica office of the Black Panther Party. Kamau worked in the Free Breakfast Program each morning and then went out into the community to sell the BPP newspaper later in the day. At nineteen, Kamau was a member of the Black Liberation Army (BLA). Several members of the BLA, including Kamau, left New York City and lived in the Atlanta area for a short period of time. On the night of November 3rd 1971, witnesses observed three black males run from a van where a police officer was murdered at a gas station in downtown Atlanta. The witnesses failed to identify Kamau from a photographic line-up and there was no physical evidence that implicated him. In 1971, the Atlanta police department closed the case as unsolved.

In 1999, the FBI in pursuit of collaboration in their attempts to recapture Assata Shakur (the mother of one of Kamau’s daughters), a political exile in Cuba, threatened him with life in prison if he did not assist them. When he did not comply, the FBI convinced Atlanta police to re-open the case and charge Kamau. He was arrested in 2002 in Brooklyn, New York some thirty-one years later after the murder. In 2003, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and ten years to run consecutively for armed robbery. Much of his sentence has been spent in a medical prison because he suffers from Hepatitis C, Cirrhosis of the Liver, and Sarcoidosis. February 19th will be his 68th birthday so send him some birthday love as well!

This event will be held on Jitsi – we’ll post the meet link on social media the day of. You can also message us to get the link beforehand.

If you can’t join us on Monday, send him a message of hope and healing at:

Freddie Hilton #0001150688
Augusta State Medical Prison
3001 Gordon Highway
Grovetown, GA 30813

We also encourage sending birthday cards to political prisoners with February birthdays: Veronza Bowers (the 4th) and Oso Blanco (the 26th).

What it’s like to get COVID-19 from a federal prison

from We Love Lore

Lore Elisabeth is among the hundreds of people who have contracted COVID-19 from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons’ federal detention center in downtown Philadelphia (FDC Philadelphia). She is recovering well and helping others to weather this storm wrought by the cruelty of a few and the incompetence of a great many more. The facility continues to obstruct information and preventative care to those who need it, but you know that’s when people like Lore can help the most 💕

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Lore contracted COVID-19 some time between October 26 and November 6. She was especially ill with flu symptoms for about 10 days but maintained steady breathing throughout. During this time she received no medical attention save for a nasal swab test and a bottle of tylenol. She was not informed of her positive test result.

FDC Philadelphia imposed a strict lockdown on November 1 due to the rampant spread of COVID-19 throughout their building. Lore and others in the women’s unit were let out of their cells weeks later, by which time more than half of them had contracted the virus. Another detainee then informed Lore that a warning sign was hung on her cell door during the lockdown. A staff nurse eventually confirmed to Lore this meant that she’d indeed had the virus. As they continue to get sick, women are now moved into the special housing unit (SHU)—solitary confinement—for weeks at a time, a regular violation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture committed by US federal prisons.

This is infuriating, but it is not surprising. FDC Philadelphia’s inability to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep its detainees healthy has been known since the onset of the global pandemic. FDC Philadelphia’s own staff joined an OSHA complaint against the Bureau of Prisons in March, arguing that their facility constituted an imminent danger to all. A lawsuit filed in April finally succeeded by October to force the facility into at least performing regular COVID-19 tests. The case reports, the complete lockdown, and a communications blackout followed.

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Hundreds of people at FDC Philadelphia have been infected since October, including dozens of staffers and correctional officers. Still, we cannot expect conditions to improve meaningfully in the near term because FDC Philadelphia’s correctional officers continue to flaunt even the most basic COVID-19 protocols, like wearing masks and social distancing. I observed this during the very brief time in October when outside visitations were allowed. COs demanded that I remove my latex gloves before entering, claiming that they attract the virus. They refused repeatedly to maintain even a reasonable distance from our mom, a senior with elevated risks of COVID-19 complications. Even with us in the meeting room, groups of 5-6 gathered closely and maskless to socialize. It is no wonder that they continue to infect people, the majority of whom are simply waiting for their day in court.

This didn’t have to happen. Since the virus took hold in the United States, public health experts have clamored for home confinement of pre-trial detainees, compassionate release of medically vulnerable and/or suffering seniors, and other provisions available to prison wardens around the country. Their pleas fall on deaf ears. Wardens have approved fewer than 2% of the compassionate release requests they’ve received. FDC Philadelphia has even less reason to worsen this crisis. The facility is primarily a pre-trial detention facility, wherein people like Lore are confined before they even get to mount a defense. This may be because they cannot buy their freedom through the abominable cash bail system or, like Lore, they are just too useful as political effigies.

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We are lucky to still have Lore. We warned the US Attorney’s office that they weren’t equipped or motivated to protect Lore’s health. They countered first by blocking Lore from signing the HIPAA releases that were necessary to share her heart condition, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) affirms puts her at elevated risk for COVID-19 complications. When that failed, they falsely claimed that FDC Philadelphia could take proper care of her. Lore has been denied her prescription medications for Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) and other conditions since she was taken into custody. I’m relieved that we don’t currently need to call the facility every day, only to be denied any kind of proof-of-life, but we must now focus on the myriad potential near- and long-term effects of COVID-19 that FDC Philadelphia will not treat.

All of this could have been avoided. We begged for the opportunity to care for Lore safely at home until her trial, which still has no foreseeable start date. Sadly, the judge decided that Lore’s charges and treatment in confinement were too obviously political in nature and extent to grant her this safety, lest others take sympathy with her and join the movements for racial justice and against police brutality.

We need to step in for a broken criminal justice system. Lore is just one of the more than 275,000 people who were forced to contract COVID-19 in a prison cell —1 out of every 5 incarcerated people in the United States. I’m very grateful to the Marshall Project for collecting these statistics assiduously throughout the year, providing us some useful perspective on the scale of the crisis, and I encourage you to donate to their efforts. Likewise, the Amistad Law Project, who organize so well on the behalf of people incarcerated by the City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The people incarcerated at FDC Philadelphia and other federal prisons nationwide deserve the same kind of support.

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At the moment, the women’s unit at FDC Philadelphia has Lore to help them 🌈 Since recovering from Covid, she has been absolutely tireless in collecting public health and legal information for them, quickly becoming a kind of unofficial librarian for the group in addition to its de facto therapist 😅 I’m so proud of her! I know you are, too. If you haven’t had a chance recently, please send her your love and let her know that she isn’t forgotten. (We’re using the free Ameelio app to send pics too, and it’s good!). Lore’s wishlist is also up-to-date with reading material to share with the whole unit. And if you’re feeling especially generous, donate to her fund via PayPal or Venmo. With a major fundraising goal met, this money can go to her commissary fund—mostly pre-packaged food to augment the typical meal of an apple and a peanut butter sandwich.

Please hold Lore and FDC Philadelphia’s detainees in the light with us 🙏☮️

Two Missives from a PA Prison, from Comrade Elliot

from Dreaming Freedom, Practicing Abolition

ONE:

What’s so sad now a days these young men would rather fight someone over $5 then peacefully stand up for their rights and what they believe in. I must specify because these devils are crafty that everything I am doing and attempt to do in the future is PEACEFUL so I do not care if they read it or know its from me. I would like to put certain information on these social media sites such as what’s going on in the prison as well as the individual it is occurring with. Sci ***** is EXTREMELY corrupt! They plant drugs and weapons on inmates, the guards bring in phones and drugs. In other facilities when the inmates get caught with these things they’re usually transferred. Not here. They sweep it under the rug and keep it in house because then it will prove the corruptness of this institution. They took away our mail and visits so please explain why and how the drugs are still entering the facility at an all time high after all the jails having NO VISITS for over 8 months!! I was transferred from SCI+++++ for no reason 200 miles away from my family because of grievances and a lawsuit I was filing. They kicked me out and said I was a high ranking gang member calling shots and I was a threat with no misconduct, no proof or anything. Placed me in the hole up here for two weeks telling me welcome to *****. That was September of last year. In this past year I’ve seen staff abuse both physically and verbally, officers lying on misconducts, racism and bigotry at an all time high and basic corruptness. The racism even lies with the officers and their co workers smh. I would appreciate pen pals and any literature you may be able to share. I believe we need a social media site where we can expose not only the institutions but the individual staff as well.

TWO:

CW: Racist, homophobic slurs and violence

There’s this one sergeant who is not only racist, a bigot and disrespectful but also abusive physically, verbally and mentally! His name is Sergeant HATER. The staff below him are intimidated because of his stripes and those above him are intimidated because of the union. He’s assaulted inmates and wrote misconducts stating the inmate assaulted him but once video is reviewed it is seen to be a lie; dusted under the rug. He’s lied on numerous misconducts; dusted under the rug. He’s been assaulted due to his behavior after he was put on suspension and wasn’t allowed to work on any blocks! Dusted under the rug. Now I’ve dealt with racism, belittling sexual context (Mexican cocksucker and I’m not even Mexican!), retaliation for placing numerous grievances and complaints on him and all that happens is grievances are denied and/or rejected. He’s continuously denied me showers, phone calls and the opportunity to clean my cell all on his watch during a pandemic. Continuous racist and derogatory remarks. I’ve had one lieutenant attempt to assist me by the name of [FRIENDLY] but honestly NOTHING has changed it continues to get worst! Today he once again denied me a phone call which I was signed up for as well as a shower and when I asked the other guards who was working with him why I wasn’t allowed the response was “I’m not getting in between you and HATER’s gang war.” Just like in the street when an officer is doing something wrong, instead of his partner or fellow coworkers letting him know he’s doing things wrong they turn a blind eye or condone in his actions. There needs to be a way that we expose these guards and those actions to society and the public. We must let everyone know what goes on even if that means we start a webpage and post all grievances up as well as the answers to the grievances so EVERYONE is held accountable for their actions. I understand the job of a correctional officer but the racist undertone and continuous abuse can not be acceptable! Thank you

Image thanks to Just Seeds, created by Roger Peet, available here: https://justseeds.org/graphic/prison-pandemic-1/

December virtual anarchist discussion: lockdown and isolation

from Viscera

Join us Sunday, December 13th from 1 pm-3 pm EST for our next discussion! With the lockdown upon many of us once again and the pandemic continuing to rage, we figure even hardened anti-social @s might be bouncing off the walls at this point. In that light, we’ve decided to revisit a few texts written at the beginning of the first wave of all this that touch on the subjects of lockdown and social isolation, plus an older one on solitude.

This one’s gonna be online as we anticipate unpleasant sitting outside weather, so we’ll be back on jitsi in room viscerapvd. E-mail us for the password at viscerapvd@gmail.com.

Readings for discussion:

Marcello Tari – Letter to Friends of the Desert
Dabtara – Against Social Distancing
Novatore – Noontime Songs

Free Political Prisoner Russell Maroon Shoatz

from AMW English

Free Political Prisoner Russell Maroon Shoatz

Russell Maroon Shoatz is a founding member of the Black Unity Council, a former member of the Black Panther Party, and a soldier in the Black Liberation Army.

“Police brutality is the reason our people are inside,” says Russell Shoatz III, Maroon’s son. Maroon has been in prison since 1972 because he was a leader in the fight against police in the 1960s and ’70s. He’s an elder of the most powerful movement this country has ever seen.

Maroon was held in solitary confinement for nearly 30 years, after two escape attempts he made over 40 years ago in the tradition of the maroon communities that escaped enslaved Africans created throughout the Americas. In his book, Maroon the Implacable, he makes this history come alive for younger generations. During his almost half-century in prison, he has mentored dozens of fellow prisoners, some of whom have joined the movement on the inside and outside.

As COVID-19 surges through the state and tears through its prisons, loved ones of incarcerated people are asking for the immediate release all elderly and medically vulnerable people in prison, and simply for prison staff to wear face masks and be tested for COVID-19.

Amid the horror that is the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections right now, Black liberation movement political prisoner Russell Maroon Shoatz may be one of the best examples of how that horror is playing out for elderly prisoners and their families. Maroon is 77 years old and has been fighting stage 4 colon cancer for over a year. After testing positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 11, Maroon was held in a gymnasium with 29 other men—and only one toilet to share between them. His urgent surgery for the cancer is being denied.

According to Theresa Shoatz, his daughter, Pennsylvania prisoners have been unable to make phone calls to let people outside know how bad COVID is inside right now.

Maroon must attain freedom. In an act of solidarity, while suffering in innumerable ways, Maroon himself told his daughter to advocate for the other 29 guys left in the gym.

You can donate to support Maroon’s Global Network here: https://russellmaroonshoats.wordpress.com/donate/

Dwayne “BIM” Staats on Psychological Torture at S.C.I. Albion

from AMW English

“The job is never over; it simply changes from one task to the next. What I’m looking for, I suppose, is balance, and that is a moving target. Balance is not a passive resting place – it takes work, balancing the giving and the taking, the raking out and the putting in.”

-Robin Wall Kimmer

Peace & greetings!

The administration at S.C.I. Albion has empowered corrections officers and the psychologist who works in the RHU (Restricted Housing Unit) to deny our meals, showers, recreation and mail as a means of punishment, retaliation, and psychological torture.

Back in April/May 2020, my neighbor Rufus Davis committed suicide, and in July, another one of my neighbors Phillip Root attempted suicide, but was saved by a C/O named Nolan. Sadly, Nolan was chastised in front of the whole pod by Captain Campbell who said, “Don’t go in there saving nobody. If they want to hang, let them hang!” That statement underscores the total disregard for the lives of RHU inmates at S.C.I. Albion. The same tactics used on Rufus, Phillip and countless others who’d rather kill themselves instead of facing the mental torment, are still in place. It’s upsetting to see how desensitized guards have become towards denying prisoners meals, showers, recreation and mail. The RHU psychologist condones their behavior, the grievance system is useless, and once again, it’s looking like we’ll have to take matters into our own hands (which comes as no surprise).

The reality is we “the incarcerated” are unable to capture footage of excessive force, abuse of discretion, physical, psychological and emotional abuses, cruel and unusual punishment and any other acts of immorality committed by civilian staff, officers, and administrators inside these facilities. Therefore, the dissemination of our truths must be conveyed through word of mouth, writing, communiqués, articles, protesting and uprising.

Power is the people,

BIM

#Vaughn17

Phone Zap for Maroon and Elderly Prisoners

from Instagram

COVID-19 poses a great threat to the lives of prisoners. We all know that the elderly are more at risk when it comes to COVID-19. Russell Shoatz who is 77 years of age has colon cancer and is COVID-19 positive. He’s being confined to a cubicle inside of a gymnasium with 30 other COVID-19 positive prisoners containing only 1 toilet for all of them to use. Maroon is being denied an urgent surgery to aid his colon cancer. Please call @governortomwolf now and demand his unconditional release, along with ALL elder prisoners with COVID-19 — (717) 787-2500.

[Video Here]

Philly’s Federal Prison has a COVID-19 outbreak

from We Love Lore

No one has heard from Lore nor any other person incarcerated at FDC Philadelphia since Thursday, November 5. They are locked down for at least two weeks at the time of writing and cannot even communicate with their lawyers. This is happening because of a COVID-19 outbreak that the facility has yet to acknowledge publicly. I will do my best to keep this page updated as we learn more.

What we know:

  • An outbreak of COVID-19 among men incarcerated on the fourth floor of the facility was discovered at some point during the week of October 26.

  • All visits to the facility have been cancelled without explanation since November 1.

  • There has been no communication out of the facility since November 5.

What we don’t know:

  • Who or how many people are infected.

  • Lore’s health status.

  • What if any precautions staff are taking as they work in and commute to/from the facility.

This summer, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania’s prosecutors and judge brushed off the notion that Lore’s family could keep her safer than the FDC could. Now here we are.

Philly Starbucks Worker Delivers NLRB Unfair Labor Practice Complaint

from Unicorn Riot

Philadelphia, PA – An employee of the Starbucks at 1900 Market St. delivered a National Labor Relations Board form stating she’d been retaliated against for ‘Protected Concerted Activity’. The worker filing the complaint alleges she was punished via a reduction in hours for organizing a strike and told not to discuss working conditions with her coworkers.

The worker filing the NLRB paperwork told Unicorn Riot she “filed an Unfair Labor Practice with the [NLRB] regarding retaliation for union activity and protected concerted activity… I organized a sick-in strike with some coworkers – following that I was punished and told not to talk about workplace conditions w my coworkers on the floor” and experienced a serious reduction in working hours, threatening her income and access to healthcare.

A copy of the NLRB complaint delivered to the Philly Starbucks location on October 15, 2020.

The strike was also brought on in part by baristas’ concerns for coworkers living with weakened immune systems due to conditions like asthma, the worker told Unicorn Riot. Starbucks management’s insistence on reopening indoor cafe seating was reportedly “the straw that broke the camel’s back”, with the location’s staff becoming frustrated enough to agree to strike together by calling in sick.

“We’ve had hour cuts, we’ve lost our hazard pay even though the [COVID] numbers in Pennsylvania have still been going up… When i brought my concerns up with my manager, I was told that this was going to happen eventually, we knew this at the beginning that Starbucks was eventually going to reopen the indoor seating, and that they’re a company and they need to make money…It just doesn’t feel like they care about us at all and it’s all security theater type stuff.”

She also mentioned added job stresses due to the COVID-19 pandemic such as more intensive cleaning and dealing with customers who don’t want to wear masks.

See Unicorn Riot’s full livestream of the delivery of the NLRB complaint and the short protest outside this Starbucks location (14 mins):

[Video Here]

Earlier this year, baristas at a different Philly Starbucks at Broad and Washington successfully demanded a manager’s resignation over “discriminatory practices” and issues involving “schedules and paid sick leave”, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In 2019, another local Starbucks location (at 18th and Spruce) because embroiled in national controversy after a manager called the police two Black men were sitting and waiting for a colleague for a business meeting, leading to their arrests.

Judge Ruling Permits City to Evict Tent Encampments

from Twitter

Philadelphia, PA: A federal judge just ruled *against* a requested injunction filed by lawyers representing homeless city residents fighting @PhillyMayor Jim Kenney’s plan to send in police to evict tent encampments. The judge reportedly requires the city to give 72 hours notice.

Here at the James Talib Dean memorial encampment on the Ben Franklin parkway, things are fairly calm and dozens of tents are still up along with hand washing and service stations. Some police are nearby but no plans for raids seem imminent today, although camp residents are wary.

Prisoners’ Lives Matter: Dwayne Staats on Hunger Strike in SCI Albion

from AMW English

Prisoners' Lives Matter: Dwayne Staats on Hunger Strike in SCI Albion

Prisoners Lives Matter

by Dwayne “Bim” Staats

-On Wednesday July 8th, Michael Discenko #ME3162 (inmate at S.C.I. Albion, residing in the restrictive housing unit) was tested for COVID-19 because he was due to be released soon (July 15th).

-Sunday July 12th, medical staff (dressed in hazardous suits) went to Michael’s cell to inform him that he’d tested positive for COVID-19, and that another test would be arranged soon.

-Sunday night, a group of us held a meeting to discuss the circumstances. Our conclusion was that the administration was going to quarantine the whole tier without giving the rest of us testing or removing Michael. To counter the inevitable, ten of us decided to go on hunger strike in protest of them leaving Michael on the tier and not giving us testing.

-Monday morning, July 13th, 6:15 am, corrections officer does count and announces that the tier will be quarantined for 14 days… 7:30 am, the ten of us refused our breakfast… 8:00 am, captain and lieutenant come on the tier to investigate why we didn’t eat. They stated that exceptions would be made for us to take showers (which I consider a death trap)… 12:30 pm, inmates from an adjacent tier were brought over to use our showers while we’re “quarantined.”

-Tuesday July 14th, the tier was notified that outside recreation will be available (pretty sure this concession was only offered with hopes that we would start taking trays).

-Wednesday July 15th, 4:30 am, Michael is notified that he won’t be getting tested, and to pack up because they’re releasing him at 6:30 am… 8:00 am, Michael is made aware that they’re (D.O.C.) not putting him on a van. Instead, they’re driving him directly to his house (they never let him warn his family). Michael’s cell was beneath mine, which enabled us to communicate through the vent in our rooms. He expressed that he was a-symptomatic, and like the rest of us in solitary confinement, hasn’t come in close proximity with no one but prison staff. I told him don’t put his family at risk, and when he pulls up to the house, immediately tell his loved ones, “don’t come near me- call the ambulance- I’ve tested positive for COVID-19!”… 1:00 pm, two deputy superintendents and a psychologist came on the tier for a brief moment, then left.

-Thursday morning, July 16th, being that we’ve surpassed 9 consecutive meals, a nurse came on the tier to announce that “those on hunger strike will be charged $5 a day for medical service.” What she failed to mention was, under policy and protocol, the ninth meal signifies that we will be placed in P.O.C. (prisoner observation cells) and monitored by medical and psychologists multiple times throughout the day. True to their nature, policy or protocol wasn’t adhered to. This negligence discouraged a lot of guys from continuing their hunger strike. We were kept in our cells instead of being taken to P.O.C… 11:00 am, medical staff came around to talk to those who remained on hunger strike (Dwayne Staats #NT000, Reuben Henry #HJ3797, Ramon Sanchez #FH7056 and Deshawn Nelson #MN2187). He stated, “Pennsylvania’s governor Tom Wolfe is the only person who can authorize COVID testing for prisoners.” This far, the testing has only been reserved for prisoners who are transferring or getting released. Even those who’ve shown symptoms or have pre-existing conditions are refused testing… 1:00 pm, regional deputies take a tour of the prison. They came to our building, but never step foot on our tier.

-Friday, July 17th, still not put under medical/psychological observation… Guys in hazardous suit spray something in Michael’s old cell. Later on, another inmate is placed inside (yes, we’re still “quarantined”).

-Saturday, July 18th, 11:00 am, medical staff came on the tier, asking to take our vitals (which we all refused) and brag about charging us $5 like it was going into her pocket.

-Sunday, July 19th, 12:30 am, we’re at 18 consecutively missed meals. The guard came around for count and stopped at Reuben’s cell. He kept yelling his name and tapping on the window. This made me get up to see what was going on. Reuben was unresponsive, which caused the guard to alert medical and other officers. A few nurses and guards rushed on the tier. They opened Reuben’s cell and I seen him sprawled out on the floor. Once medical verified “signs of life,” they took him off the tier on a stretcher. About 20 minutes later, he walks back on the tier and the guards secure him back in the cell. Medical said he passed out because of dehydration and low sugar levels… 1:00 am, Reuben is brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (but still not put under observation). 6:00 pm, medical personnel finally follows up on Reuben (who still refused trays) and the rest of us who was on hunger strike… To be continued.

In closing, there is a total disregard for prisoners lives that needs immediate attention. Furthermore, all the guys who ended their hunger strikes are now being retaliated against by the prison staff or administration for having the audacity to protest. Until next time, be easy and take care!

Power is the people!

-Bim

Dwayne Staats #NT0000

S.C.I. Albion

P.O. Box 33028

St. Petersburg, FL 33733

P.S. I ain’t on no suicide mission and I ain’t gone let these people get the satisfaction of killing me!

A Letter From Safear

from Dreaming Freedom Practicing Abolition

Imprisoned Abolitionist Stephen Wilson was taken to the hole (RHU) today (8/10/2020). His crime? Voicing a concern to the block’s unit manager. The problem was simple enough. We are locked in our cells for 19 1/2 hours most days. When it is time for our recreational periods the guards let us out late and lock us in early. Stevie simply wanted to know why they keep taking time from us. However prisoners are not expected to use their voices during a pandemic. Hours later the guards came to Stevie’s cell, cuffed him, and marched him away. Prison officials allege abusive or threatening language. Really they just wanted to silence him. This act is just the latest in a series of oppressive misconducts against prisoners. Stevie is just the most recent target.

For weeks the guards have been writing people up on bogus charges in an attempt to suppress potential resistance. Others have been given misconducts for actions such as walking up the stairs to ones cell (unauthorized area). Carrying extra prison food (contraband). And now Stevie for using his voice. The prison superintendents voice was broadcast over our TVs just a few days ago. “We want to remind everyone that this is not a punishment. This is for your own safety” he said. Not a punishment? From my cell it sure felt like punishment. No doubt the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the lives of everyone inside and out. Free world people sheltered in place. They ordered food on Grubhub, clothes on MTailor, and everything else on Amazon. Families took socially distanced walks in the park. Or they just went for a drive when they felt like getting out of the house.

Those of us in prison got locked down. In PA we spent 23 hours and 15 minutes in the cell each day. For 45 minutes we were let out of our small box into a larger box. Weeks passed like that.Finally they gave us the “privilege” to be locked in the cell for 19 1/2 hours a day. We are isolated into groups of 40 people on the block. They created short incremental recreational periods. Then they let us out late and watch us fight each other over who gets to use the phone.

Stevie got tired of it. We are all tired of it. Not tired of protecting ourselves from COVID. Tired of being pitted against each other. Tired of the the guards’ oppression. Our only physical visits are from COs searching our cells. But I’m supposed to smile and be grateful for them “protecting me”? Fuck that. Let’s be clear – the only way a prisoner is going to catch the virus is if the guards or staff bring it in. And I do not believe that taking temperatures at the door is going to keep the virus out. Haven’t they heard of the term Asymptomatic by now? Don’t they know that it can take multiple days before a person starts showing symptoms? We don’t want to be in here when one of them brings the virus in. We have to continue the progress that has been made releasing people from jails and prisons.

To those who cage us: You want to protect us? Then let us out of this damn petri dish you call a prison. Let Stephen Wilson out of the hole for expressing a legitimate concern. Stop putting on this hollow performance of safety and security. Open up these gates! To our Allies, Comrades, and Accomplices: Dis-Organize this prison. Call SCI Fayette and give us a voice. Be a voice for Stephen Wilson and tell the administration to let him out of the RHU. Let them know that we have your support.

In Solidarity,

Safear

Hunger Strike at SCI Albion

from Twitter

Dwayne Staats of the #Vaughn17 went on a hunger strike with his comrades at SCI Albion. Call Now until their demands are met !

The Fight Against Criminalization and Repression under the Guise of COVID-19

from Dreaming Freedom Practicing Abolition

Due to COVID19, the prison has us coming out for phones, showers, kiosks, meals and recreation in cohorts of 21 or 22 cells (roughly 38 prisoners per cohort). Initially, we were in cohorts of 5 cells with 45 minutes per cohort. Now we are in phase two. The problem is that while the cohort size has more than quadrupled, the time out of cells hasn’t. We have eight phones on the block. Staying in touch with family and friends is of the utmost important to us. So phone time is priority.

We get two day room periods (phone, shower, kiosk time) per day for 1 hour each period. Do the math. Everyone cannot use the phones. This creates hostility between prisoners. Everyone wants to call home and check on their loved ones. We have had to negotiate phone time so there are no fights. Everyday, there is an incident. But we know we have to work together.

The incident last night was an attempt by an officer to stoke hostilities between us. Burning us for day room time and telling us to blame certain prisoners was a divide tactic. We don’t need this stuff, especially right now. We are stressed and worried we will be back on lockdown due to the uptick in infections. Some people have never developed a cooperative attitude until now. Because they have to. Our peace is fragile.

The administration is aware of the problems over the phones. It is prison wide. People have written to the Superintendent and the Deputies about the problem. They need to reign in these officers who create problems and difficulties for prisoners. The administration has asked us to be patient and work with them during this crisis. All we want is the same cooperation and patience. Some officers want us to fight each other to justify their creating a more oppressive environment than what we already have. Some officers wish we were locked down completely with no communication to the outside world. We cannot let that happen.

BreakOut: Dispatches on Resistance to the Pandemic Inside Prison Walls #4

from It’s Going Down

As prison abolitionists, many of us have been fighting in solidarity with and alongside imprisoned comrades for many years. But in the post-outbreak world, the COVID-19 pandemic has birthed new and increasingly complicated challenges, as the virus spreads like wildfire and the State locks prisoners down, moves them, and we become increasingly cut off from those we are in direct contact with.

Despite this, we have seen some of the most inspiring organizing on both sides of the prison walls in the past few months as thousands have taken to the streets across the so-called US to demand #FreeThemAll and prisoners have launched uprisings and hunger-strikes. Now, as COVID-19 cases again pick up steam and the rebellion enters into its second month, moving forward we want to take stock of existing strategies and tactics; discussing what has worked, and what needs work.

Towards that end, we reached out to folks involved in Oakland Abolition and Solidarity (formally Oakland IWOC) and the Philadelphia chapter of the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement to find out what’s been working in their regions and how we can build off of these lessons.

IGD: In some states, economies are beginning to re-open. How do you see this impacting what will happen inside prisons? Are prisoners a part of any of the phased re-opening plans in your state (if they have any), and what do you expect to happen to the small amount who have been furloughed from their sentences? 

Oakland Abolition and Solidarity: Transfers between prisons are restarting, they were suspended for approximately 2 months. Some facilities never really instituted plans that allowed for social distancing. One has had 3 confirmed CO cases, though we suspect more. Others have had larger outbreaks and a number of deaths. Very little else was done system wide other than cancel all visitation. Some measures like removing every other phone in order to create more distance are experimental and end up further limiting people’s access to resources and connections without alternatives. Other measures have been instituted like staggered meal times. Public Information Officers are also not answering their phones or returning calls.

CA released a smaller number of people relative to the size of its population, and there’s reason to believe that the Governor of California has exaggerated the amount of people released during the crisis.

Beyond that, people have widely expressed the really intense psychological effects of just knowing that the COs are going in and out everyday with little or no screening, and that they are the only vectors for exposure. So it’s up to the care and discretion of guards to what extent prisoners are exposed. This is cause for extreme concern, even maddening.

Philly RAM: As state economies re-open there will be a higher demand for goods produced via prison labor; the conditions in which that labor takes place further increases the likelihood the already-vulnerable will contract the virus. Even in Pennsylvania (which is slowly easing up in the southwest) prisoners are being made to manufacture masks, antibacterial soap, medical gowns, and disinfectant.

IGD: For those of us on the outside, we’ve been experimenting with different tactics while also trying to maintain social distancing. The car blocs and caravans were an ingenious work around to that dilemma for the current moment. But what comes next? How do we create opportunities for mass pressure campaigns that work beyond just a honk-in or call-in?

Philly RAM: COVID-19 makes organization and action even harder than before. We believe that we can make progress using small IRL demonstrations and things such as lock-ins in addition to call-in campaigns and caravans. But what’s even more important is getting as much info and resources as possible inside the prisons.

IGD: A critique we have heard from people inside, is that our struggles in their eyes have at times reinforced the idea of there being good/bad prisoners – this playing out through the process of demanding and petitioning for selective release. How do we as abolitionists move forward with a demand to “free them all” without ultimately relying on piecemeal concessions? 

Oakland Abolition and Solidarity: One of our points of unity reads, “We reject labels given by the State such as ‘guilty,”criminal,’ or ‘gang member.’ We do not choose who we work with based on these or other simple moralistic designations.” We would certainly add “violent/non-violent” “safe/dangerous,” and any other such designation to this list. It is built into our practices and language to ignore the myriad ways that the State pits prisoners and all people against each other. We reject all reforms or policies that reinforce these or further entrench these hierarchies. Free them all is and has always been our cry. Prioritizing older and more compromised/ vulnerable folks may be acceptable in this time, but never give an inch to the narrative that some prisoners are “safe” and others “dangerous” recognizing that these narratives ultimately redound to the benefit of the carceral system.

Philly RAM: A concept we’ve discussed in the effort to counter hierarchical tendencies is that the carceral state and its culture criminalizes so many aspects of our lives (whether we’re inside a physical cage or not). That the capitalist State designates who is within its bounds and worthy of moral consideration. This is a point of solidarity we share with those inside the prisons – to differing extents we all find ourselves against the US carceral system.

IGD: As the pandemic drags on, Black and Brown communities are shouldering the majority of the deaths and the heartache – this is most clear in rural communities where epicenters have been inside prisons, jails, detention centers, meat and produce packaging plants and warehouse style working conditions. These spaces all share the reality of being largely hidden from “the public.” How do we help keep these struggles connected to each other and in the forefront of the minds of people that are already overly inundated with media? 

Oakland Abolition and Solidarity: Collaborative, real time, and engaged content. Seeking and building active collaborations that are rooted in a recognition of the connection between struggles. Example, looking for and seeking to support mutual aid structures that are popping up in “prison towns.” Fusing a meaningful, material backbone for ongoing conversations and collaborations.

Philly RAM: Keep communication open with comrades on the front-lines, then plug in to fulfill the needs of the people. Some good examples we’ve seen are medical fund campaigns, supporting striking workers, and gathering clothes/tools necessary for folks exiting prisons right now (among others).

IGD: Based on what you have seen either in your own organizing or those of comrades, what have abolitionists done in the past few months that has had the most impact and generated the best results? Also, what walls or limits, either in terms of the State refusing to budge or our own capacity, have we run up against in our organizing that we must now figure out how to get over and move beyond?

Oakland Solidarity and Abolition: It feels like the State is winning right now and setting the tempo, but our job remains unchanged. However, success can’t only be measured in whether or not the State bends to the will of the people. People building frequent, reliable, and solid relationships and communication channels with people in our county jails over the last few months has been extremely impactful. People inside having access to a larger media platform to have their stories heard, taken seriously, and acted upon creates empowerment, and greater collaborations that can be built on.

One weakness that we’re observing though is the need to be more creative with taking care, providing support, thinking strategically, and supporting accountability in our collective organizing. There are fewer built in chances to see, check-in with, and support each other. There’s more isolation, both inside and out. We need to be more vigilant about filling those gaps, and it takes more intention. Moreover, the landscape is shifting really rapidly, and it can easily overwhelm people’s personal capacity.

We must continue fostering collaboration and collectivity. It’s time to be more vigilant and disciplined.

Philly RAM: From what we and our comrades have done and seen and seen from others, it’s been the commissary drives, online workshops, and education opportunities have really served to bring people together and uplift the spirits of those inside or outside.  Establishing skills in care work and teaching each other help us for any future situations that might arise.

IGD: In your own words, in the current COVID-19 period, what do you think comes next in the fight for abolition?

Oakland Solidarity and Abolition: Desperate times call for desperate measures. The current moment shows us who, what, where, and why of what ‘desperate’ is. It’s our job as abolitionists from wherever we are to fight the desperation, death, and indignity around us and our neighbors.

Everything about this world is becoming more naked. Violent mechanisms survive best in the dark and they’re finding fewer places to hide. I think our job is to be loud and quicker about everything that happens, and be creative about illustrating and interpreting the shifts. But ultimately this is just a piece.