Sunday, September 29, 2019
In 1971, when I first started haunting the doors of the prisons of this country, it didn't take long for me to hear about solitary confinement and the extraordinary ways it was sometimes being used. Unrest was rippling across America like a swarm of rabid locusts and the Powers-That-Be at the top of the prison food chain were dealing with "criminals" the likes of which they were unaccustomed. There were still bank robbers, of course, but sometimes now, they were committing their crimes to bankroll a group protesting the Vietnam War or police brutality. And the Black Panther Party had offices in 68 cities serving thousands of members. Folks at the top were worried -- and even scared. And not without reason.
Alcatraz had been closed eight years before with the prisoners showing up at Marion Federal Pen in southern Illinois, a new kind of prison for prisoners deemed "incorrigible" or "sociopathic" (both of which terms we knew meant "won't bow to authority"). As members of the Black Panthers and other politically-conscious groups hit the tiers, though, it became quickly apparent that this new breed of incarcerated citizens were not only dangerous because they would punch a guard where it hurts the most, but because they were smarter than the guards and even, in most cases, smarter than the wardens. They had read Mao and Marx and Lenin, as well as books by prisoner intellectuals like George Jackson. They held political education reading groups inside that quickly caught on like wildfire. They organized groups of resisters and modeled how solidarity between the groups would make it possible to fight the authorities instead of each other. It was a new and exhilarating era.
Then Attica upped the ante and it was on.
Saturday, September 28, 2019
The United Nations recognizes as torture all solitary confinement for more than 15 days. Lockdowns, amounting to solitary confinement and therefore torture, are group punishment, undeserved and infuriating. Add to that steel plates covering cell windows. The denial of a view of outdoors and of all natural light is described as torture by prisoners in windowless supermax prisons like the dreaded Pelican Bay SHU in California. Here, prisoners’ families, worried that the oppression may become intolerable, protest outside Perry Correctional Institution in Pelzer, S.C. – Photo: FitsNews
by Keith "Malik" Washington, Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee*
*Keith “Malik” Washington is co-founder and chief spokesperson for the End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement, a proud member of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee and an activist in the Fight Toxic Prisons campaign. Read Malik’s work at ComradeMalik.com. Send our brother some love and light: Keith “Malik” Washington, 34481-037, FCC Complex USP, P.O. Box 26030, Beaumont TX 77720.NOTE: This communique was first published in the San Francisco Bay View.