Something as beautiful as freedom; something that good; something that great could never be free. It seems like it always comes with a price. Trust me when I tell you that it’s a high price we have to pay for our freedom, especially if you come from the gutter, born into oppression, born into poverty, it’s a high price for anybody who has to live in this world of capitalism because they have found a way to make all people pay for the good things in life.
I feel like I’ve been paying the price for my freedom for the past 17 years, so when these gates open for me, when I can feel the fresh air in my lungs and when I can feel the sunshine on my face, I want the feeling I get to be worth it. I want the feeling that I get as soon as I step out of these gates to be worth all the pain, all the heartache, all the suffering that I’ve endured. I want that feeling to be worth all the madness I’ve gone through in my life. I want to feel it in my soul. I want my soul to know what freedom feels like!
I’ve paid for my freedom. I’ve paid for it with the pain of my soul, I’ve paid for it with the blood of my flesh, I’ve paid for my freedom with damage to my heart and damage to my mind and I know that because I know how this incarceration has scarred my psyche. I’ve paid for my freedom, so give me what I´ve got coming, give me what I´ve paid for!
Everybody in the world needs to feel a sense of purpose. A purpose for living. A purpose for being. A purpose for feeling good. A purpose for suffering. A purpose for dying. Many of us in this world are lost, confused, damaged, partly because we don’t know our purpose. We subject ourselves to all kinds of abuse and torment; we search for a meaning and a sense of self-worth in materialistic things, like money and possessions. We join gangs, join religious groups, join the military. Women will sell their bodies, not only for money but also for the sense of purpose and people will cling to the first thing that pays them any serious kind of attention. People will do drugs, chasing that feeling, chasing that high ‘cuz to them that high feels better that being conscious in this screwed up world. We are running around lost in this world with no real sense of purpose.
I’ve sat in these cells, in this prison, going through all kinds of crazy, fatal and drastic situations. I’ve been afflicted by so many devastating things, that have somehow become normal in our everyday lives and I’ve seen this madness, I’ve seen its face, I’ve looked in its eyes, and my heart has been afflicted by all of the pain and suffering that we have to go through in this world.
I’ve lived in this tormenting hell, going through the motions, just trying to live this penitentiary lifestyle and trying to keep my head above the water, but I’ve found that no matter how you do your time you will still be afflicted by all of this foulness, you will still be damaged. I’ve sat in these cells, sat in solitude, trying to find myself, looking for my own purpose in life.
There were times when I thought being a gangster was my purpose. There were times when I thought being a criminal was my purpose. There were times when I thought being a convict was my purpose. I was all of these things and still am a convict, but these are not my purposes in life, they’re my struggles. I realized, as I sat here and reflected that those were only purposes that served me, and vet there are thousands of people who suffer and struggle just like me and worse. The more I reflected on that, the more I realized that it´s not about me anymore. I will always be a part of the counter-culture, but I’ve realized that my purpose in life isn’t about me, but about striving to assist others who struggle alongside me.
As we sit in these cells searching for meaning, searching for truthful understanding, we begin to comprehend things in ways we´ve never understood them before. We begin to understand ourselves, our situations and our struggles and once you’ve embraced these understandings you begin to take steps towards purging yourself from your old ways of thinking and constructing the old ways into a higher realm of thought, until you become conscious, not only by how you think, but conscious in all that you do. Once you become conscious you don’t see things like you used to and you begin to feel renewed, enlightened and alive. You take on a new passion for life.
I am a social prisoner. I have become politically conscious and spiritually motivated while in prison for a “social crime”. I don’t feel the need to twist up my crime to make it seem like I am a political prisoner because I am content with being a social prisoner. I don’t feel the need to be considered as a political prisoner to make what I have to say seems valid. I am living in these trenches, behind enemy lines, everyday. I am going through it on a daily basis and as long as I am truthful with who I am and truthful with what I’m saying I know people will be able to connect to it and deem it as valid, and if for some reason certain people choose not to take me seriously, that’s their loss.
I can understand why some ‘rades might feel the need to be considered political prisoners, because political prisoners get all of the attention. But as social prisoners, as conscious prisoners, as anarchist prisoners, or as imprisoned radical intellectuals, we have a place in this struggle too and if you are resourceful enough and active enough and it what you have to say is valid and as long as people can connect to it, then you can get your voice heard just as much as any political prisoner, but if you’re just doing this to get yourself some attention, or just to get your voice heard, with no real intentions of striving to make a difference, then you’re doing it tor the wrong reasons. If you are serious about your concerns and serious about your activism it wouldn’t matter whether you were considered a political prisoner, or a social prisoner. All that matters is that we want to do something good and make a difference. We want to help people who can’t help themselves. When it comes down to it, that’s all that matters and if you ain´t about that then you’re only living tor yourself.
When people on the streets read this zine, I hope they will want to get more involved with prisoners in meaningful ways. When prisoners read this zine, I hope it will inspire them to take a critical look at their own situation, and maybe even help them to get organized and to start taking action to make things better where they’re at. I want people to understand that prisoners are a people who long tor real human contact, we long for real social contact, we long to establish and maintain real, truthful relations and meaningful, substantial connections with people on the outs. We need people to stand by us during these hard times, we need people to get involved in our struggles, and we need people to help us ourselves.
Being institutionalized, addicted to drugs, materialism, violence, being a member of a street gang and being a prisoner and trying to overcome all of these things, these are my struggles, these are my afflictions, but this zine isn’t about one man’s struggle, this booklet is about the system, about prison, it’s about all the people in prisons who struggle just like me. This zine is not about anarchism, it’s a zine about imprisonment, struggle, resistance, life and survival, written by an anarchist prisoner.
I see prison as a place that takes people who have been damaged by poverty, neglect, abuse, racism, and addiction and keeps them damaged and damages them even more, so that they’re always held down in life. I write this zine to expose a piece of what the system does to us, how we can survive it, why people need to get involved in prisoners struggles and movements and I wanted people to understand, from the perspective of one man who has gone through it and who is still living it and trying to rise above it.
People do not realize that I have been fighting most of my life. Snatched up as a youth, against my will no doubt, and placed in various institutions and juvenile facilities for 7 years. I got out when I was 18 and came to prison when I was 19. I was already “institutionalized” before even coming to prison. It is a struggle that has made me stronger, though it is a sad situation that many of us face in these graveyards.
I don’t write about it to brag about it (I’m not that “institutionalized”) because it’s nothing to brag about, it’s nothing to be proud of. Though I feel no shame or self-pity for my own painful experiences, I don’t feel proud of them either. There’s mixed emotions and mixed blessings that come with all of this. I am appreciative of the things that have made me stronger, disgusted that there are millions of us living like this, grateful that my mind is not only still intact, but even sharper than ever, and I’m heartbroken that there are thousands and thousands of people who won’t ever be able to rise above this madness and oppression, ever.
I write about it to show people how this barbaric system deprives us of our youth, deprives us of our emotions, deprives us of our senses, deprives us of our freedom and our humanity. From an early age, many of us are deprived of these essentials and slowly we begin to manifest into institutionalized, anti-social, predatory savages.
There are lots of people who don’t understand, can’t understand that I’ve spent the majority of my life in institutions and prisons since the age of 11, but this is a very real situation. People need to be made aware of what we are going through in these institutions, even prisoners need to know what’s happening to them, what’s really going on, underneath the surface. People need to understand that our lives are real and that the things that we are going through in here are very real, and mothers and parents need to understand that they should keep their kids out of the hands of pigs.
I write about resistance, because there is nothing more important than resistance in a situation like this. Resistance is a means to survival. I have been resisting all of my life, since the age of 11, and for the first 3 years of my captivity, from the ages of 11 to 13, I spent most of that time strapped to a bed, alone in a cold, desolate timed-out room, where the walls were pale and the air was state, not much different than where I’m at now, but I´m not physically strapped to a bed anymore but psychologically, I am confined to a world of darkness, because I cannot envision or even imagine what life would be like, outside of this cell, outside of prison. I’m 30 years old now and as I sit here and try to reflect on the fact that I’ve survived for 3 decades, I try to figure out what that means, and all I can think of, is that it means I’ve lived 3 years longer than Bobby Sands and if I can survive for another 3 years, I will have lived as long as Jesus Christ and I guess that means that I’m surviving.
My mind is sharper than the razor-wire that surrounds the prison that contains me. If it wasn’t I wouldn’t have been able to survive this constant isolation and sensory deprivation for years on end, I’d already be brain-dead, or intellectually dead, or even delirious, like a lot of others in here who unfortunately suffer from some kind of mental illness. Nothing wrong with me, I’m no more messed up than most of the people in society. The only difference between them and me, is if you were to do a CAT-Scan or MRI on my brain, the image that you see on the cover of this zine, is the same as the image you’d see on the MRI: A BRAIN GRENADE! Explosive minds are created in these prisons, for those who resist, for those who think, and for those who strive to elevate themselves, in spite of the infectious and foul conditions we have to live in. Explosive minds, dangerous minds, revolutionary minds, for those who resist.
This place, this graveyard, cemetery, dungeon, hell-hole, whatever you want to call it to make you feel better about being in it, has devastating effects on all who dwell here, whether you’re resistant or not. But the more you resist the more you survive. I won’t say that being here and going through this madness hasn’t had any destructive or negative effects on me or hasn’t done any damage, I could never say that. This suffering, this madness has done plenty of damage to me, in so many ways and I may never recover from some of it, but the point is that nobody is immune to the effects of constant isolation, or constant prison madness. You cannot live like this and not be affected, no matter how strong you are or how much you resist, it has a devastating effect on everybody, more devastating for some than others, that’s why it’s important to stay active, stay healthy, and to keep resisting, keep striving, keep elevating yourself.
I’m conditioned to live in this place like this, I don’t have a life sentence, but I’m conditioned to live the rest of my life like this, living like a dog, and that’s sad. I have to get out of prison one day, some day and I’m going to have to get out and recondition myself and my mind, my life and readjust my way of thinking and living and that’s going to make surviving out there harder for me that it is to survive in here. In the back of my mind I know I have a life to go to out there, I have family and friends who love me and care about me, but as I sit here in the midst of this constant madness, all I can see is that I have made a life for myself, right here in this graveyard. I don’t yet recognize a life on the other side of these walls, fences, gates, so I don’t think about it much, I don’t think about getting released. So it’s a heartbreaking, painful situation for us in here. We can’t see a future for ourselves that exists beyond these walls, beyond this life; we don’t think about these things, we are stuck in a rut, stuck in a maze. We need people to get involved in our lives in real ways, get involved in our struggles in meaningful ways, to help us envision a life outside of prison; we need to have a c1ear picture of freedom inside our minds. We need people to help us grow, help us elevate, help us organize, help us survive, live and heal. We have a lot to overcome, a lot to heal from. We need people to help us see and recognize a life for ourselves on the other side of the darkness, and the people who don’t ever have a chance of getting out of here are in need of the most love.
A prisoner doesn’t need books to become a radical. If the lst amendment rights were completely stripped from prisoners and if they were to disallow any type of books, or reading materials into these prisons a prisoner can still be wild and radical as his or her heart is. They could take my books, zines and reading materials away from me, and if I just sit back and observe what goes on around here, thinking deeply about the things I see and think deeply of the underlying causes behind all of this, I can write about this madness all day long. So, you see ,we don’t need books to become radicals, we need books to become intellectuals. Books are powerful tools. Prisoners need people to send them books so that they can further their intellectual growth. We need people to send us zines and serious reading materials so that we can take it upon ourselves to resist the aura of intellectual death that permeates through these walls and steel doors. We need people to help us organize study groups and intellectual, spiritual and political movements on the inside of these coffin-like cells and to help us spread truth and intellectual growth amongst our comrades who dwell in these cemeteries with us. We need knowledge so that we can liberate our minds from this constant oppression, so we can gain consciousness and so we can take the initiative to rise ourselves, up and above this constant death, destruction and devastation.
I came to prison when I was 19 and I quickly learned and assumed the mentality and ways of being a convict, things aren’t what they were when I came to prison, they’ve gotten worse for us in here, but 1 haven’t changed much, I haven’t deteriorated. Once you’ve been sent to prison you have to keep in mind that there’s only 3 things that can be taken from you, or only 3 things that you can LOSE: Your mind, your manhood or your life. I’ve stood up many times, against my oppressors, and they came in and took my television, took my property and charged me restitution. But you see, they can take my T.V. (I don’t watch it anyways), but if I haven’t lost my mind, then they haven’t taken nada. They can take my privileges or my good time (life goes on) but as long as nobody has taken my manhood from me, they ain’t took nothing. They can take my money, my property or any other material possession they want, but as long as they haven’t taken my life, then they haven’t taken anything.
It’s been 10 years that I’ve lived inside the depths of the prison regime and I haven’t lost my mind, my manhood or my life, so I guess you can say I’m surviving. I was always taught that a convict is someone who sticks up for himself, stands up tor his rights and who looks out for other convicts and that it’s better to lose your so-called privileges than to lose your manhood, it’s better to take a stand than to be walked all over by people who think they’re mightier than you because they have the law on their side.
And so, in that sense, being a convict is like being a revolutionary, but on a smaller scale. Intact, all these struggles, riots, conflicts and acts of resistance against our oppressors is actually training and preparing us to take it to another level. We’ve turned these prisons into training grounds tor revolutionaries. We’ve come from being convicts and developed ourselves into imprisoned radical intellectuals, so you see; this has just been another way tor us to make a bad situation into a better one, because that’s what we do.
Rather than allowing ourselves to be destroyed by prison, we sit here contemplating, trying to find ways to destroy the prison. In Abbie Hoffman’s book, Steal this Book, when he gives instructions on how to build a pipe bomb, he writes, “The basic idea to remember is that a bomb is simply a hot tire burning very rapidly in a tightly contined space.” I think that’s what we are, we’re not just prisoners, as we sit and dwell and develop in the confines of these cells, our hearts burn like a raging fire, and our brains are like bombs, a hot fire burning very rapidly in a tightly confined space.
Consciousness permeates through these walls and fills the atmosphere of these graveyards, they can’t imprison consciousness, they can’t stop it, as long as we have our minds intact and continue to use them as weapons, and they can’t stop it. We sit here locked up, confined, and slammed down, thinking of freedom; the thing that’s so great, but costs so much, and the more we think about it, the closer we are to it.. ..
So here is some of my best, break the chains, smash the system writing, I hope you´re ready for this!
Until prisons have been abolished,
ABC – Nevada
December 15th, 2007
Feel free to make copies of this zine and send it to prisoners, prison activist groups, free books to prisoner bookstores, newsletters and to advocacy networks, etc. Anyone who would like to write me, or make any comments, or who would like to get involved in my activism, struggles or movement could write to me at the address below. I am a prohibited from receiving letters directly from other prisoners, but would like to hear from everyone, everywhere.
This zine is dedicated to my fallen comrade: Silencio, (May you rest in resistance carnal) killed by the hands of the pigs in the Washoe County Sherriff’s Office, (the county jail in Reno, Nevada). We miss you Bro.
For letters of encouragement or support, write to:
Coyote Sheff #55671
P.O. Box 1989
Ely, Nevada 89301 – 1989
Or write to my comrade
South Chicago ABC Zine Distro
P.O. Box 721
Homewood, lllinois 60430