4 Reasons To Ban Solitary Confinement

This comes from Business Insider Australia:
Written by: Christina Sterbenz
March 1st 2014

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) touched on a controversial topic at its annual annual meeting this month — solitary confinement.

University of Pittsburgh law professor Jules Lobel spoke at the conference about his role as lead counsel in a proposed class action lawsuit against Pelican Bay State Prison in California. Lobel is seeking to represent more than 1,000 prisoners there who spent at least a decade in solitary confinement.

Lobel cited four reasons solitary confinement constitutes cruel and unusual punishment violating the Eighth Amendment. Solitary confinement also violates the right to due process under the Constitution, Lobel said.
Other speakers at the AAAS conference agreed with Lobel’s view, as does the ACLU. Here are four main Constitutional arguments against solitary:

1. Solitary confinement violates the basic concept of human dignity.

“Researchers have concluded you shouldn’t keep lab animals in this kind of solitary confinement. Why should we treat people that way?” Lobel inquired.

In the Pelican Bay solitary unit, prisoners spend 22.5 to 24 hours a day in an 80-square-foot, concrete, windowless cell — about the size of a king-size bed. They can’t make phone calls. And they’re often denied visitors and physical activity. The food is even sometimes rotten, Lobel wrote in the San Jose Mercury News.

2. It denies basic human rights.

Read the rest here.

When Good People Do Nothing: The Appalling Story of South Carolina’s Prisons

This was published on The Atlantic website, written by Andrew Cohen for The Atlantic on Jan. 10th, 2014:

A judge’s order in an inmate abuse case highlights the role played, or not played, by the state’s political and legal infrastructure.

In two months, America will observe the 50th anniversary of one of its most dubious moments. On March 13, 1964, Catherine “Kitty” Genovese was brutally murdered in Queens, New York. What made her case infamouslegendary, even—was that nobody responded to her cries for help. “Please help me, please help me!” she cried, over and over, and at least 38 people in her neighborhood who heard those cries did nothing to help her. They did not call the police. They did not come to comfort her. They did not, they later said, want to get involved. “When good people do nothing” is a timeless moral question, indeed.

One could say the same thing about the citizens of the state of South Carolina, who stand condemned today by one of their own. On Wednesday, in one of the most wrenching opinions you will ever read, a state judge in Columbia ruled that South Carolina prison officials were culpable of pervasive, systemic, unremitting violations of the state’s constitution by abusing and neglecting mentally ill inmates. The judge, Michael Baxley, a decorated former legislator, called it the “most troubling” case he ever had seen and I cannot disagree. Read the ruling. It’s heartbreaking.

Read the rest of this story here.

State’s Meanness Is Shameful!

From: The Prisoner’s Advocate: State’s Meanness Is Shameful! (via email)
For immediate release, 29 Jan. 2012
info at prisonersadvocate.org

State’s Meanness Is Shameful!
By David Honeman

The high walls and fences surrounding prisons are designed not only to keep prisoners in, but also to hide ugly secrets. That is exactly what’s happening in the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC). It is a well-concealed environment of abusive treatment of prisoners and a waste of taxpayer’s dollars.

One must walk in someone else’s shoes to fully understand and appreciate what they experience, especially adversity. While I’ve never been in prison, I have been an advocate for prisoners and prison reform for over 15 years. In that time, I have visited many prisons, talked with many prisoners and prison staff, and it has been an eye-opening experience for me. The mental, emotional and often physical abuse that prisoners endure daily from unscrupulous prison staff is unfathomable. If the public knew what really goes on behind those high walls and fences, with their tax dollars, they would be livid.

Everyone understands that people are sent to prison as punishment for their crimes. Being separated from family and society is their punishment. They were not sent to prison to be punished, abused, degraded and humiliated. Yet, that’s what is happening in the NDOC. While most corrections employees are there to do an honest day’s work, many feel it is their job to harass, threaten, intimidate and punish inmates for their crimes. They feel they can abuse inmates anyway they choose and not be held accountable for it. To a large extent, that’s true. That’s because most prisoners are functionally illiterate and come from impoverished families, and neither have the wherewithal to challenge the abuse. They have no voice; those who do challenge are retaliated against. Prison administrations cover up the abuse inflicted by unscrupulous staff. So the state wastes millions of dollars annually defending the unethical behavior of prison employees.

Lovelock Correctional Center (LCC) is a prime example. It’s touted as a model prison; however, that’s a huge misnomer. It is a prison filled primarily with sex offenders, homosexuals and dropout gang members. Those are the miscreants that staff loathe the most, and as a result, they are degraded, humiliated and harassed because of their crimes. Officers who gloat about abusing prisoners brag about this reprehensible misconduct; they find it very satisfying. Efforts of this kind are an attempt to beat up on prisoners because they are not liked. People who think prisoners are worthless and feel it is their right, as prison employees, to degrade and abuse them should not work in prisons.

An employee of LCC, who spoke on conditions anonymity said, “The dearth of leadership at LCC and NDOC is unfathomable. There are no visionaries or people trained in corrections. It’s just a good ol’ boy network of uneducated, redneck racists who think they are executives and are paid as such. The NDOC does not want change, so they don’t recruit outsiders. But, educated visionaries won’t work in corrections no matter what you pay them. Within the last year, LCC got all new wardens, all were promoted from within and none were qualified; therefore, they don’t get the respect of the staff. Most wardens are so shielded by their command staff that they don’t have a clue about what’s going on in their prison. They do little work, instead, they delegate to their underlings. They lie and cover up for their staff’s abusive misgivings. They are cowards and not accessible to staff or inmates. Most hold jobs they are not qualified for, and therefore, are so far over their heads that they only know how to manage through threats, intimidation, degradation and humiliation”.

Citing an example, the employee said, “The shift lieutenant, Matthew Wightman, is a good example. He was promoted through the ranks, and is too uneducated, and has no people skills to do his job adequately. Yet, his title gives him a false sense of superiority. He is intimidated by anyone, staff or inmate, who is more educated than he is; therefore, he loses control, gets red-faced, and can only supervise with loud threats, cursing and degrading comments. To show that he’s in charge, he lies, embellishes reports of incidences, and instructs the staff to do so just to punish inmates he does not like. Staff feels compelled to follow suit because he’s their supervisor. Wightman is so insecure and jealous of other’s success, even inmates, so to feel superior and in control, he degrades and humiliates. He thinks this earns him respect from the staff, when, in fact, they have no respect for him. The administration condones his behavior”.

Caseworkers, who have the most direct contact with prisoners, are often the most abusive culprits. Their jobs are to assist prisoners, help prepare them for re-entry and prepare reports for parole hearings. One employee said, “Those reports are filled with lies. I’ve never read a positive report on an inmate, and no inmate has ever been pardoned from LCC since it opened about 18 years ago. Most caseworkers, like Dwayne Baze, are lazy; they slough off and don’t do their jobs. They are not accessible to inmates; they lie and makeup answers to inmate’s questions, just spin them, and ignore their inquiries. If they don’t like an inmate, then they brag about how they lie and file false reports to paper f—them out of the prison. Even inmates deserve an honest answer and to be treated with respect. Caseworkers feel it is their job to hurt rather than help inmates because they don’t like them, especially sex offenders.

It’s almost comical how incensed prison staff becomes if an inmate is not honest with them. They become offended, infuriated and punish them severely. Ironically, no one lies more than the people who work in corrections! Yet, they demand respect, and act as though they are morally beyond reproach. Actually, many of them are former alcoholics, drug addicts and prostitutes”.

Prisons are run on lies and deception. People who work in prisons are not much different than those they lord over. The biggest difference is that employees have not been prosecuted – yet! Staff, who is honest, will admit that too. Prisoners are facing their wrongs and are being punished for it, while employees see themselves as doing no wrong, and therefore anticipate no punishment for the evil they do. They know if they do wrong, their co-workers will cover for them. And, they do cover up because the union is so powerful and will defend them. One prison employee said, “Our union is no different than a street gang with its unwritten code of silence. We violate our own Employee Code of Ethics daily by lying and covering up the abuse”.

I know that in the more than 15 years that I’ve been involved in advocacy, I’ve never encountered a more mendacious and unscrupulous prison administration than is currently in place at LCC with Robert LeGrand and Quentin Byrne. It’s criminal, not to mention shameful.

While most prison employees do not abuse, they see it done on a daily basis by co-workers and just turn a blind eye to it. In my opinion, that makes them just as guilty. To work in prisons, one must sacrifice their conscience for the benefit of a job. For if they have a conscience, “it” will not allow them to work there. That’s why the average tenure of an employee of the NDOC is less than 2 years. They hate their jobs, they feel trapped, and can’t speak out against all the lies and abuse for fear of retribution from co-workers and supervisors. It’s no wonder that prison employees have the highest rates of alcohol, drug abuse, heart attacks, strokes and divorce. It’s not because they work in a dangerous environment either.

At the end of the day, whether the end of this day or the end of one’s career, all any of us have to reflect on is how well we’ve treated other people. When corrections employees do that, their conscience consumes them, and that’s why they hold that dubious honor.

Prison officials and the media are quick to blame prisoners’ families for introducing contraband into prisons. They place severe restrictions on visits and mail to prevent it. While I would never suggest that people visiting prisoners don’t try to bring in contraband, most contraband (drugs, cell phones) is brought in by prison staff and sold to prisoners. Employees police their own ranks and are not adequately searched. In some prisons, like LCC, employees can bring in coolers large enough for a family picnic, so they can bring in any contraband. Let’s put the blame where it’s due.

Prison jobs are good jobs. Most only require a high school diploma or GED. Yet, prison officers earn more than teachers with Master’s degrees and college professors with doctorates, but are not held accountable. The trend today is to end tenure for teachers and tie their salary to how well their students score on tests. If that’s so, then why not tie corrections employee’s salaries to how many prisoners they rehab or to the recidivism rate? It makes about as much sense.

It’s the power over others that prison staff craves. That power gives them a false sense of superiority. They are quick to judge, find fault and punish, often severely, for petty infractions they are guilty of themselves. Often they lie and file false reports out of revenge. It’s akin to judges doling out lengthy prison sentences to drug users when they are drug users themselves. The hypocrisy is disgusting.

People think everything in prison is free, however, that is far from true. When prisoners get sick and have to be seen by medical staff, they must pay an $8 fee. If they don’t have the money to pay, then they are seen, but the $8 fee is held in arrears on their prison account, and is deducted whenever family sends them money. If they get injured playing sports, then they must pay the entire medical cost, which could be thousands of dollars. Yet, they are not allowed to have health insurance or choose their medical provider. The prison refuses to give an itemized bill showing the expenses. They only release the total amount. Imagine going to the hospital for treatment and getting a bill for $2000 with no explanation. The NDOC recently settled a lawsuit filed by the ACLU over inadequate prison healthcare. Greg Cox and E. K. McDaniel were responsible for the inadequate healthcare that precipitated the lawsuit. Yet they were promoted to director and deputy director, respectively.

Research shows that when prisoners have regular contact with their families that it improves their behavior and reduces recidivism, yet, a phone call from prison is so expensive that average families can’t afford it. A 30-minute in-state call costs $5 and that same call out-of-state costs over $20, a local call costs $1.95. The NDOC collects over 50% kickback on all prison phone calls. It’s shameful.

By their own admission, the NDOC is not meeting the nutritional needs of its inmates. The diets are not balanced or nutritional. The diets consist primarily of fast foods – hamburgers, hot dogs, and corn dogs. Elementary school children get more to eat than prisoners. Poor diets lead to poor health and poor behavior.

A visit to the prison commissary is robbery without a gun. A TV that sells for $89 at Wal-Mart goes for $350, which includes a fee for the electricity to use it.

Nevada is trying to finance the DOC on the backs of prisoners’ families, most of whom are already impoverished. Prisoners must rely on family and friends for money to survive in prison. Fewer than 10% of prisoners’ jobs have pay numbers, and top pay is about $30 a month.

To retaliate against inmates, officers shakedown and tear apart their cells with vengeance, often damaging and destroying their property and stealing their commissary items. Then laugh about it, and say, “what are you going to do about it?”

While there is a grievance procedure in place, most grievances are denied, lost or never responded to. They are denied because the prison knows that most inmates cannot afford the fee to file a lawsuit against them. Those that do sue are retaliated against.

Taxpayers spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually on corrections, and don’t understand why the recidivism rate is so high. There’s a reason why it is so high. People leave prison angrier than before they arrived. I use this analogy to describe prison: If you catch a tiger, put it in a cage and poke it with a stick everyday for 20 years, then turn it loose on your family and friends, what does it do? That’s what prisons do, so it’s no wonder people leave prison angrier than before they arrived, and the recidivism rate is so high.

All crimes are bad and regardless of how one feels about prisoners, they deserve to be treated humanely and with respect. And, given the resources needed to rehab in order to become productive, law-abiding citizens. Prison staff are paid to do that -to help, not abuse.

Given the nature of their work and the power they exercise over inmates, employees like LeGrand, Byrne, Wightman and Baze have shown themselves to lack fitness to hold employment. The harm that can be produced by this type of intimidation and humiliation can lead to tragic consequences. Inappropriate actions by prison staff or statements which could lead to dangerous situations in the prison (system) should not be tolerated. There should be zero tolerance for intimidation by staff as well as prisoners. .

One former employee said, “I’ve never seen a prison employee put in a full day’s work. They have access to the Internet, so they can play computer games and sleep. They read inmate’s newspapers and magazines, often keeping them for weeks, and working the crossword puzzles before giving them to the inmates, who paid for them. While prison jobs are good jobs and pay well, my conscience would not allow me to work there. I was ashamed to tell people where I worked”.

Prisons house our homeland war causalities, the wounded of our unsolved societal battles with racism and poverty. Our prisons have become housing for the poor, those who are the wrong race, the wrong class, and from the wrong side of town, with the wrong kind of drugs in hand.

Prison life is one of never-ending sorrows and sufferings. It is a society of despair, with anxieties and fears fostering mistrust and manipulation. Punishment takes precedence over programs for rehabilitation. Controlled movement and constant surveillance undermine a sense of dignity. Survival and advancement depend on submission and compliance. Anger rumbles beneath the surface, with some predictable eruptions into violence. Prisoners feel alone, sometimes plagued by guilt, often bombarded by stress. And usually they lack support and resources to address their struggles.
Prisoners are regularly shamed and humiliated by a system that is relentlessly cruel. It is shredding to the soul. Even humane correctional officers find it difficult to practice respectful ways when the system rewards and praises harsh treatment.

Where did we get the peculiar idea that further punishment and diminishment of a person’s life will create better human beings? In my imagination, I dream of ushering in new prisoners with the words, “Welcome. The violence and hurt stop here. Here you will learn a new way of being human. Here you will learn to live with dignity and respect for yourself and others”. It does not happen.

We should all be held responsible for our behavior, not just prisoners, but also those who work in prison. Put yourself in the shoes of a prisoner. Would you want to be mistreated and abused? Would you want your child, sibling or parent to be abused, regardless of their crime? Don’t you want them helped?

Taxpayers of Nevada deserve better and its prisoners deserve better.

David Honeman is Legal Counsel of the National Alliance for Prisoners’ Rights,
a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, nonprofit organization that advocates for prisoners and prison reform. He can be reached at PO Box 384, Milltown, NJ 08850.

Forever We Resist

Note: We received this recently with 4 documents which are Notices of Charges by NDOC.

Ask yourself this question: who’s crazier- the individuals that are forced to reside and rot in these so-called “prisons”, or the individuals who first thought of such inhumane institutions of torture? How repulsive! I, TrayWay, am an anarchist radical currently confined and held against my will here at Nevada’s Ely State Prison (Nevada’s department of repression).
Adamantly am I forced to remain in a cell twenty-three hours a day, seven days a week, three-hundred and sixty-five days a year. And for some of us, those years extend beyond decades. Just recently an event transpired that I myself feel obligated to tell you (the reader) with hopefulness that you shall learn from it. For, the more we know, the more effectively can we change our world.

So, my story goes as follows: in the unit that I’m in, (4A), several corrections officers had taken it upon themselves to deliberately and blatantly make our lives (the inmates’) worse than they already are. Personal property was being damaged during cell searches, the phone was hardly passed out, cleaning supplies were denied, and most appalling (and most despising), several inmates weren’t being fed occasionally. Also, keep in mind that, in the unit I’m in we are not allowed to order food from the prison’s commissary, so consequently we must depend on the food they provide us and the measly portions they serve. Portions that I might add are no bigger than that of a McDonalds’s Happy Meal for children (minus the small drink and a toy). Yes I know, my dear reader, sounds unbelievable. You may be saying-to yourself, “This coming from the mouth of an inmate”.
Well let me assure you that I have no reason to make up such a story, for I myself was victim to those acts of coward cruelty on several occasions. And secondly, these types of acts aren’t uncommon here at Ely State Prison, nor are they uncommon at most prisons in Nevada. In fact, most of these tactics (and many others) are implemented by the prison officials to produce prisoners submission; to show the inmate “who’s master”.

Anyways, back to my story: On the night of August 3, 2011, corrections officer x. and trainee officer y. were assigned to my unit (4A) as swing-shift floor officers. These two officers (x. in particular) were known to most inmates as trouble-makers. Trainee officer y. was actually responsible for not feeding several inmates a couple of days prior to the aforementioned date. Around 8:00pm that night, these two officers were escorting a lower tier inmate back to his cell after conducting a cell search. During the process of having his handcuffs removed from behind his back, the inmate inquired about an item taken from his cell. Corrections officer x. ignored his inquiry and began to forcefully and roughlv remove the handcuffs from the inmate; at the same time bending the inmates’ wrist upward causing the inmate to have to bend forward at the waist. After the handcuffs had been removed, the inmate then turned around and quickly captured his flap while proclaiming that he needed medical attention and that he would not surrender his flap until otherwise. The two officers began to close the flap on the inmates’ arm while at the same time l and other inmates began to verbally protest against the precarious actions perpetrated at the hands of the two officers. At this same time, senior officer z., who was located in the unit control room, came to one of the control room windows and yelled these exact words to his floor officers: “Break his arm if you have to”; and I quote. It was at this very moment that I myself became enraged beyond measure. It was by these very words that I came to the conclusion that further protest needed to be taken beyond the verbal level.

I then began calling out to other protesting inmates on the top tier, and after two minutes of debate (direct democracy), we came to the unanimous decision that we would all begin flooding the tier simultaneously. During our rebellious and somewhat humorous demonstration, the two floor officers had given up in their efforts to reclaim the flap. We continued our demonstration and after ten minutes of simultaneous flooding, one of the floor officers came upstairs and immediately after seeing the water everywhere, yelled to the senior officer in the control room to cut the water, supply to the tier. Thus was the end of our demonstration. But believe me, my dear reader, that was far from the end of our rebellion.

Eventually a sergeant was called to the unit (due to the inmate having captured his flap and our solidarity demonstration), and after five minutes agreed that he would have medical staff come to the unit if the inmate
would voluntarily surrender his food flap. Medical staff came and checked out the inmate and hence the issue of the captured flap was resolved. I say that once more: the issue of the captured flap was resolved. Not the sadistic oppression we have been subjected to at the hands of these fascist pigs for several weeks prior to this day: That issue was not resolved, and it is because of this reason that our indignant acts of rebellion would not come to an end. To show their solidarity with those of us on the upper tier that had demonstrated earlier that night, several inmates on the bottom tier organized a massive flood that was to take place later on that night.

And once this demonstration took place, indeed it was a massive flood. The amount of water was so abundant that it covered the whole bottom tier and began pouring out into the unit hallway and into the other wing. Us rebels on the top tier unfortunately were not able to assist the massive flooding only because our water had been turned off individually earlier that night. But nevertheless, sabotage comes in many different forms. So, to add to the sabotage that was taking place on the bottom tier, I began pushing tons of trash out the bottom of my door and onto the top tier. Once the unit officers noticed the chaos that was taking place on the tier, they immediately shut the water off to the whole tier and called the sergeant. Thus was the end of that demonstration. But once again I say: not the end of our rebellion.

Now, once the sergeant had come onto the tier, as planned, us rioters began voicing out the door all the injustices and atrocities that have-been perpetrated against us at the hands of several cowardly officers. But as expected, the sergeant acted as if he didn’t care what he had to say and adamantly denied that his officers were doing such heinous things. I say this to you (my reader), that this type of denial is to always be expected; for you can never persuade a corrupted officer to persecute another corrupted officer. Your efforts will be futile. After I and several other comrades had given speeches out our doors urging all inmates on the tier to stand up for their rights and come together in solidarity with the rest of us that were rebelling, this particular sergeant (Sargent q.) came upstairs and stood in front of my door as if waiting for me to say something; and I did. And this is exactly what I told him word for word, I quote: “This is going to happen every day. All we ask is that you treat us like human beings and stop using food as punishment. You can stop this. Every time you disrespect us, we’lI disrespect you. You hurt one of us, we’lI hurt one of you.” At these words he walked away from my door and I came to find out later that he had written me up on a notice of charges clairning that I told him I was going to “stab him”. Cowards never cease to amaze me. The next day no one was allowed to take a shower, nor was anybody offered one-hour yard time. It did not matter anyhow, for most of us slept all day from having rioted all night.

That night while mail was being passed out, the same inmate that had captured his flap the night before was given a letter that had obviously been withheld from him the day prior.

But that is not the only thing. The letter he was given was soaking wet and the contents inside were completely destroyed. Need I not have to say what happened next. For I am positive that you (my reader) have already postulated that the beautiful ballad of rebellion serenaded the tier that night to the anarchist drums of solidarity. My ears have heard no sweeter sound. lnfallibly the more and more we rebelled, the harder and harder the enemy repressed. Eventually things escalated to a physical confrontation when on August 5, 2011, an inmate on the top tier attempted to head-butt an officer while being escorted back to his cell from the shower. He was slammed on the floor in handcuffs and the shift sergeant was called. Once the-lieutenant entered the tier, several inmates including myself began the usual proclaiming of all the oppression we have been subjected to. To our protests he replied, and I quote: “We’re trying to find a way to fix this”. Well I have a suggestion; treat us like human beings and we shall act as such. Minor floods and protest occurred after that incident and later on in the afternoon the unexpected happened. The assistant warden and the sergeant showed up to our unit to serve our dinner and make sure everyone got fed. I’ll say that again: the assistant warden and the lieutenant showed up to our unit to serve our dinner. I pity those of you who believe revolution shall be brought about through non-violent endeavors only; l assure you that both are a necessity.
Anyhow, moving on.

Later on that same night, a certain anarchist comrade of mine was moved to the infirmary without regards to why or even how long. This was expected. We predicted this move would happen days before it actually did.
The following is the reason why: this particular inmate (A.), is an anarchist radical that has been exposing the atrocious agenda of this corrupted prison inexorably for years. And because of his revolutionary activities (i.e. creating solidarity and awareness among prisoners, telling the unmitigated truth, and overall standing for what is right), he has become an interference to the fascist administration and their nefarious agenda. So, by removing him from the unit, the fascist believe they will have snuffed the flickering flame of rebellion which burns from the perpetual candle of autonomy. In this they are wrong. For you cannot cut the head off a headless beast. And war does not cease because one of our warriors falls. This act of dividing is typical of the prison industrial complex. They fear unity. For they know that there is strength in solidarity; that groups cannot be easily bullied or subdued; and it is far more difficult to predict the movements of ten individuals than it is to predict the movements of one. So, it is essential to their endeavor of maintaining dominance that they suppress acts of immense prisoner solidarity.

The level of suppressive actions implemented by the fascist varies to some degree and are dependent on several factors. But understand this and never forget it: the fascist shall always retaliate, always, more so if there is a possibility of public exposure. Some of their suppressive/repressive actions include, but are not limited to, the following: abrupt transfer to another prison, tampering and withholding of incoming and outgoing mail, false accusations, extreme sanctions for minor infractions, planting of false evidence, spreading rumors intended to cause alienation and division, visitation complications, food and heat deprivation, physical
violence, lengthy periods of stripped-cell isolation, destruction of personal property, and sometimes the fascist shall even resort to cold-blooded murder. If you were to inquire about the tactics I have mentioned beforehand, l assure you that the fascist administration would deny them; predictable. But, ask yourself this question my dear reader: who is more likely to tell the truth concerning cruelty and oppression – the individuals that being beaten (the slaves), or the individuals that are doing the beating (the masters)? My point exactly. Nobody knows the Master better than those that serve him. And I, TrayWay, am one such servant that has come to realization of the Master’s atrocious ways of operating.
Anyhow, back to my story now. Despite prior intervention by the assistant warden to temporarily bandage the situation, the coward officers continued to retaliate and repress. Showers were being denied, mail was being withheld or tampered with, food portions were being shortened and occasionally completely withheld, request for cleaning supplies were being thrown away or unfilled, and on one occasion, a particular officer by the name of Anderson, attempted to skip my cell and not pick up my outgoing mail that was sticking out the bottom of my door. Had it not been for my neighbor and I calling him on his cowardly actions, I am sure he would have gone through with his plan completely. On a second occasion, I had woken up to find that a roll of soaking wet toilet paper had been dropped into my cell earlier that night while I was asleep. I had woken up
when the toilet paper was initially dropped into my cell, but I was under the impression that it was nothing more than the routine twice-a-week handout; so I paid it no mind and went back to sleep. Upon finding this roll of wet toilet paper, I began laughing more than anything. I find the actions of some of these coward fascist quite humorous. I would like to make it clear to you (my reader) that everything that I have mentioned beforehand directly involved me or was observed being perpetrated against another inmate by my own two eyes. Although, l am positive other events took place during the times I was asleep; precisely do I recall several times having been awoken from the noise caused by protest taking place amongst the tier. Demonstrations continued for several more days ’til eventually the administration decided to implement bed moves. Myself
and two other prisoners were the only ones that were not moved, while everyone else that had been a part of the disturbance (or believed to be so) was moved to another unit or placed in the infirmary. Thus was the end of our solidarity demonstrations and group rebellion. But l assure you that the flame of resistance still inhabits the heart of those of us who refuse to consent passively to oppression and injustice. A heart that knows no such thing as submission is a heart that beats forever. This was not the first time an event like this transpired, nor shall it be the last. As long as the prison administration and its lackeys continue to psychologically and physically oppress prisoners, rebellions such as the one I have depicted will continue to take place. For, though some of us have succumbed to our degenerative conditions, there still remains those of us who have come to the understanding that we are human beings and deserved to be treated as such; despite being labelled a “criminal”. We’ve come to the realization that life is worth living and we intend to live it; and hence, forever we resist!

Part II: Operant Conditioning

Apparently, Willie Lynch’s methods for “controlling slaves” have not been terminated; on the contrary, they’ve only been revised by the prison industrial complex and the fascist United States government. And since I dwell in this vile concentration camp which is known as Ely State Prison, I shall depict to you (my reader) several of the tactics utilized by this fascist administration and its puppets (guards) to control its slaves (inmates) and manipulate their behavior. Take heed dear friend. Today, in the world of psychology, there is a basic and fundamental term known as “operant conditioning”: a type of learning in which the consequences of behavior are manipulated so as to increase or decrease the frequency of an existing response or to shape an entirely new response. So, in simpler terms, operant conditioning means to create certain conditions in assuming that those conditions will cause an individual or individuals to be have a certain way. Still do not understand? No worries, I shall give you an example: imagine for a moment that you have captured and imprisoned an
individual because you wish to obtain certain information from that person. Well, let’s say that this particular individual refuses to give you the information that you seek. Subsequently, from your deeply learned tendency
to “dominate”, you relate to this individual that they will not be fed until they give you the information you seek.

Several days pass by, and as you forewarned, you continuously deprive this individual of food until they meet your demands. In this, my dear reader, is operant conditioning. You have created two conditions: 1) hunger;
and 2) fear of starvation which inevitably leads to death. You created these conditions in assuming that they will cause the individual to give you the information that you seek. Thus, if the individual gives in to the
conditions you have created (imposed), you will have succeeded in manipulating their behavior from refusive, to submissive (operant conditioning). But please dear reader, I ask that you do not make the honest mistake of assuming that power is given to he who imposes conditions on others. L assure you that assumption is wrong.

For, though one may have the power to impose conditions on ethers, you do not obtain the power over that other individual until they have surrendered to the conditions you set forth. Precisely! So you see, in all actuality, the oppressor does not inevitably obtain power over the oppressed by imposing conditions on them, no; it is the oppressed who give the oppressor power once they have. consciously or unconsciously surrendered to the unnatural conditions set-forth, Yes indeed. Authority of any kind (i.e. government, police,bosses, correctional guards, etc, etc.) can only obtain power over human beings insofar as they are willing to give it to him (or her).

Operant conditioning is a method utilized by all forms of unnatural authority to keep its victims subordinated. And the first step to overcoming one’s circumstances is awareness. For, how can an individual desire freedom if they are unaware that they are not free? They can’t. And similar an individual (or individuals) cannot come to combat the conditions that have been imposed on them effectively if they do not understand the totality of why those conditions have come to be manifested in the first place. I place emphasis on the word “effectively”. For though opposition at any moment may give us temporary satisfaction (and indeed it does), we as the oppressed should always strive to annihilate oppression in its entirety. Thus, a profound understanding of our situation is essential to our overall desire for liberation. But understand this comrades: awareness and understanding are not enough to bring us (the oppressed) liberation. Most certainly not. For once we have come to understand our unfortunate situation, it is up to each and every one of us individually and as a collective whole to make the decision to act upon our enlightenment; to resolve to change, or at least attempt to change the deplorable situation we find ourselves and others trapped in. Knowledge not put to use is useless. And knowledge put to use without persistence is futile. Therefore, once awareness and understanding is achieved, one is left with two options: to utilize what you have learned by deciding to take action; or to disregard what you have learned and accept complacency. Truthfully, though they may be the masters, it’s your choice to continue being the slave. Everything I have mentioned beforehand (i.e. operant conditioning, transference of power, awareness and understanding, etc.) can apply to life in general. but as I mentioned earlier, since I am a captive of this vile institution known as Ely State Prison, I wish to give you (my reader) a moderate (but insightful) depiction of how the fascist administration and its lackeys attempt to manipulate the behavior of its victims (the inmates). That which I have mentioned beforehand correlates to the depiction I am about to give.

Thus I begin. For those readers who are not familiar with the inside operations of the unit in which I am confined (I’m sure there are quite a few of you), I’ll take a brief moment to describe those operations. As I mentioned in part one of this essay, inmates are confined to a cell twenty-three hours a day, seven days a week, three-hundred and sixty-five days a year. One-hour individual yard time is offered occasionally throughout the week but most inmates refuse this for reasons of their own. Since the entire unit is locked down twenty-four hours a day, consequently this means the correctional officers are responsible for providing us inmates with any necessities one may need (i.e. showers, phone time, legal forms, request forms, cleaning supplies, laundry, food trays, etc, etc). In this lies a significant problem comrades. By the prison administration’s myopic decision to assign these tasks to the unit correctional officers, one must assume (and hope) that these individual officers will be responsible enough to fulfill the task given to them. And not only fulfill the task, but proceed in a consistent, fair, and respectful way. Ha! Let’s be honest with ourselves; can we honestly expect such diligent behavior from officers who, veritably without doubt, think of us as nothing more than animals who deserve to rot in these cells for all eternity? One would be foolish to think so.

Occasionally, particular officers do come along that carry themselves with humanist dignity; but for the most part, these officers are rare. Secondly, it has become my observation, that new officers tend to become more like their co-workers over a period of time. And unfortunately, the majority of their co-workers have the robotic fascist mind-set of a tyrant! Just recently, I’ve noticed an enormous growth in the utilization of operant conditioning by unit officers in order to manipulate prisoners into refusing a shower; consequently leaving the officers with “less work” to do. I shall explain further. We (the inmates) are offered showers every three days and if we accept, must submit to wrist and leg shackles before we are escorted out the cell by officers to the showers which are located at a varying distance depending on what cell you’re in. Once the inmate is secured in the shower, the officers then conduct a cell-search which I have heard several of them term a “compliance check”. Heed, this “compliance check” is where they implement their tactic of operant conditioning. They’ll intentionally and blatantly begin to destroy the inmate’s cell with absolutely no regard for personal property such as appliances, letters, writings, legal work, and photos of loved ones. No regard, none whatsoever.
This act of coward cruelty is intended to discourage inmates from accepting a shower, thus giving officers less work to do. The officers know that not only will this tactic discourage the individual who lives in the cell that has been destroyed, but it will also discourage other inmates from accepting a shower out of fear it will happen to them (operant conditioning). Just as the U.S. government and its capitalist crime partners disregard human life in their endeavor to obtain more money and power, so do these officers disregard humanist respect just to make their job easier (like master, like flunky). And sadly, most inmates will not speak out against this atrocious (but clever) behavior exhibited by the officers, out of fear of even more retaliation.

Though I don’t condone one succumbing to that fear, understandably it is justified. For those of us who do courageously speak out against the injustice, inevitably end-up facing more repression such as further damage to personal property, withholding of or shortening of food portions, relentless harassment, verbal disrespect, and other acts of retaliation intended to discourage one from speaking up again in the future. Thus, as you can see dear reader, more injustice is committed in order to suppress the individual who speaks out against an injustices just like the U.S. government resolves to solve crime by committing another crime (operant conditioning). I repeat once more what I said earlier in my discourse: all forms of unnatural authority utilize this tactic to keep its subjects subordinated; to keep them compliant; to keep them silent. Ponder this for a moment and you will find what I say is true. This tactic of conditioning an individual (or individuals) can be used individually or as a collective whole. The depiction I have given above is only an example of how the correctional officers utilize operant conditioning individually.
Now I will give you an example of how the fascist administration here at Ely State Prison utilize it as a whole.

Once again comrades, take heed. The segregation units (which I reside in) are intentionally designed to be a most dehumanizing, degrading, despairing, and torturous experience. Inmates are prohibited from ordering such items as appliances, books, winter clothing such as thermals and jackets, nutritional vitamins, and food of any kind.. One phone call is allowed every month, and to add insult to injury (in my opinion), inmates are not allowed to barter, lend, or trade amongst themselves. Yes, but be not disgusted just yet. Because inmates are locked down twenty-three hours a day, inevitably they become subjected to what is known as “long-term sensory deprivation”, which consequently causes mental disorders. Moreover, majority of the inmates will live under these conditions for years. Dutifully I put emphasis on the word “years”. These conditions will only produce two things (with exceptions occasionally): 1) highly anti-social individuals and 2) the mentally insane.

And of course, there is a third option that is quite uncommon but nevertheless plausible: death. I must ask: am
I the only one who finds this treatment of human life horrific? Veritably though, this is my reality; and there is a reason for it, which I will now attempt to explain.

The fascist prison administration has created these dehumanizing conditions, confident that they will produce two things: 1) disunity among inmates; and 2) conformity and passiveness without question. The anti-social complex developed in an individual due to long-term sensory deprivation will consequently make it difficult (if not impossible) for that individual to unite in solidarity with other inmates; even more so, those he does not know personally. Thus, the natural human tendencies of mutual aid and solidarity become impaired (not completely removed), only impaired. Subject enough inmates to this form of dehumanization and one can
almost guarantee disunity, consequently making it easier for the fascist administration to oppress and rule over them. Moreover, inmates are more likely to conform and remain passive towards injustices committed,
due to their fear of returning back to the inhumane atrocious segregation unit they were once subjected to. To liberty’s dismay, sadly such is the case not only in prison, but even within that morbid reality we so blindly
proclaim as the “free world”. Once the double-edged sword of fear successfully penetrates the throbbing heart of direct action, the body and mind is left inert, impotent, and subdued. Thus, the oppressor’s goal is
achieved (operant conditioning).

Part III: Parallels

Reflection upon our morbid reality is not only a means by which we come to better understand our existence (and the significance of it), but in itself is also a clandestine form of defiance. For, by reflecting one dares to
think, And when one dares to think outside the conventional “circle of certainty” imposed by the fascist elite (i.e. the government, the church, etc), one does exactly what the oppressor does not want you to do: think for yourself! For you radical thinkers (those that think for themselves) I offer the following as a gift to reflect upon, if you wish:

“My current reality (that of the prison industrial complex), was birthed from within another reality (that of the so-called free world). So logically, one can only deduce that it would tend to resemble that which it came from. If life in prison is one of exploitation, slavery, and oppression; then life in the free world must be somewhat similar.”

That is reality, dear friends. Prison is only slightly different from the society in which it was birthed. In one, individuals are enslaved, oppressed, and told they are not free; while in the other, individuals are enslaved, oppressed, and told they are free. One allows a wider range of movement and material possessions, while the other does not; but both realities are controlled by a minority few and limited. And lastly, just as prisoners are forced to obey through violence or fear of violence; so are the individuals within society forced to follow laws through violence or fear of it. But be not surprised; we the anarchist have been saying this since time immemorial: no unnatural authority can sustain itself without the use of force, which in essence is violence.

Comrades: oppressed women and men of all mankind; reflect upon this, understand it, fight it! For your liberty and mine depend on it.

Abolish slavery, viva la social revolution,
Victor TrayWay