Resistance is critical

An essay by Coyote (incarcerated in Ely Max), originally published in California Prison Focus 26 (2006)

From the cemetery, I salute you! May my words be heard, shared, and reflected on, from prisoner to prisoner, state to state. Although, I’m not saying anything new, I still believe there are some who haven’t yet heard it, and the ones who have, well maybe you need to hear it again.
The situations we’re faced with, the shit we’re up against, some think its cool to “do time”– this ain’t cool, this is war. I’ve seen these lock-down situations turn solid cons into funny-style P.C.’s!

This strategy keeps us hating on each other and at each others’ throats, rather than aiming our anger at our oppressors, they got us thinking that we have to survive by any means. It’s true we have to survive, but there’s many means in which we can be doing this, rather than destroying each other we could be surviving by uplifting each other. You think Brown Power, Black Power, White Power is achieved by controlling and dominating other races? No! it is achieved by uplifting yours, and this can be done without stepping on the necks of the next man’s race.

I’ve read about many warriors before who have liberated themselves, who have found redemption through the knowledge of books such as Malcolm X, Dennis Banks, George Jackson and Tookie Williams just to name a few. Did the state rehabilitate those people? No, they took it upon themselves and they also were surrounded by a solid support group inside prison who encouraged and helped uplift them. In the case of all of these greats who have rehabilitated themselves, who have found redemption and liberation, not once did any of these men say that we should cooperate or identify with the people who oppress us. The entire time they were aware of who their enemy was. These are the people who went to the extreme to lift their own people up, to make the situation better, all while standing a firm ground against the people who oppressed them.

As a prisoner I represent the prisoner class. I represent the poor and the oppressed, of all races, nationalities, creeds and religions. We are all trapped in the system; we are all under the same gun. Remember, they don’t have to worry about killing us as long as we’re killing each other. We’re doing the job for them. As I’ve mentioned in the beginning of this essay, I’ve seen good men go funny, so, I encourage you, if you have books, to pass them around and share them, to hold discussions and study sessions, without being disrespectful to anybody else’s race, religion or creed. Keep it on a positive vibe; it’s all about uplifting each other. Who knows, you could be the next Malcolm X or the next Dennis Banks, or you could be the one who helps create him [or her]. Incarcerated, locked-down, slammed, torcidos. In these situations, resistance is critical. We are at war, in struggle. This is a psychological war, so we must defend ourselves by strengthening our minds. I encourage you to read any books you can find on psychological warfare, so you can study what they’re doing to you and seek ways to combat it. Knowing is the first step to consciousness. Consciousness is the first step to organization. Organize your mind and then your people. To the activist, concerned citizens and people on the streets, those who write to prisoners, who are concerned with their struggles and developments, if you are writing someone who you know is seriously committed to higher learning or further developing their skills, I encourage you to get involved with them and help them progress. If they’re into writing, then help them get into a correspondence class for writers. If they’re trying to study and learn the law, help them out with some law books. If they’re into art then help them get materials and supplies they need.

Whatever it is they’re trying to do, help them if you can, because they can’t do it without your help, and they can’t expect the same people who oppress them to help them. You would be surprised how far your help can go. The things you do for us, even the smallest of things, means so much to us; we can’t do it without you. We need outside support to get things done in here. As prisoners, we face many obstacles, many fights. For some of us the fight goes beyond survival, in the physical sense, it is a fight amongst ourselves, between good and evil. Our souls are in turmoil. We need books; we need to feed our souls with knowledge and spirituality, so that we can grow inside, progress, become stronger and intelligent, all while in this state of ongoing turmoil.

Shackled to my thoughts – words from the graveyard

This is an article posted on the Website of D.R.I.V.E. (Death Row Inner Communalist Vanguard-Engagement), an organization in solidarity with those on death row in Texas. Inmates in other States also show their solidarity with those on DR in Texas.

Here is an article by Coyote, who is incarcerated in Nevada. He wrote this in 2006.

Shackled to My Thoughts
by Coyote Sheff

With incarceration comes darkness and once you’ve been subjected by the darkness the only thing to do is search for light. I guess that’s why since I’ve been down I’ve always craved an insatiable hunger for knowledge, for elevated thinking and higher learning. Many things that I’ve learned in here, I’ve learned through raw experience, personal pain or strife. My other sources of knowledge have been obtained through intense research and study – mostly ‘cell study’! But there have been many things I’ve learned through other convicts.

That comes with being solid. There have been many different convicts and comrades throughout the years who had enough decency and respect to take time out to show me things, ideas, perspectives or ways to get ahead, ways to get over and ways to get around the pickle-suit oppressors. That’s what being a convict is about, knowing how to do time; to look out for other convicts. Because, like it or not we are all cuffed by the same cuffs, we are all shackled by the same shackles, we are all in this madness together.

I always had convicts around me to pass me a new piece of literature or a book, or someone decent enough to encourage me to pursue my studies even further, to develop my own writing skills and to put my skills to use. Ever since, a fire has been raging inside me and I’ve been on some unknown mission to keep it burning by igniting the torches of others who I see have potential or who are ambitious or who seek to grasp and understand things more higher, deeper than their normal perceptions of what they consider to be REALITY.

If the conditions of confinement aren’t sad enough, it’s as if nowadays, in these lockdown situations, the weirdos seem to outnumber the solid convicts. When I say weirdos I’m mainly speaking about the inmates and psych-patients who should be in protective custody or a Mental Health Facility, the ones who are either openly working against the solidarity and unity of the prisoner class, in conjunction with the Administration, or the ones who are working against us impassively for their own personal, sick satisfactions. It’s devastating for all of us to be under the same gun and still working against each other instead of directing our frustrations and hatred towards the one who are holding the gun in our face.

More and more prisons are being built and more of them are being slammed. From state to state the internal conflicts that arise within these dungeons are what’s giving the Administration the excuse they need to keep us confined to a cell all day, everyday.

I see new faces all the time, most of these new faces that are coming through this disgusting system seem to be younger and younger. This system has no hesitations about locking up kids and throwing them in with the Lions. All true convicts know what this system does to the youngsters, how it turns them out, and all true convicts know that we can’t count on the same people who oppress us to help us.

So it’s on us, as convicts to give these youngsters the proper tools, the proper guidance and education, to help them move forward, cuz these youngsters crave truth like a Vulture craves a corpse, they crave the power of knowledge like a Jackal craves to lick the blood off of left-over bones.

It’s on us to lead these youngsters down the right path, to turn scavengers into hunters and make higher learning and self-education their initial prey. It’s true that there’s nobody more dangerous than a sophisticated thug, but I’m thinking beyond that. I’m talking about instilling dignity and self-esteem, productivity, creativity and intelligence into our younger generations and into one another as well. We must seek ways to rise above these horrible situations, to move forward.

I believe that as prisoners, regardless of what race, we are all oppressed people. To rise above oppression we must first teach ourselves to think on a higher plane. We must first liberate ourselves through knowledge. Knowledge is idle without action and action is baseless without knowledge.

Through my actions and through my efforts I have been able to put into practice what is called “Solidarity”.

It’s always a blessing to open someone’s eyes to something truthful, to something fresh and to something progressive, especially while in these confined situations. It’s always a blessing to be able to offer new insights, new ideas, and to be able to inspire others to want to further their own path or sphere of knowledge.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: some of the most brilliant, intelligent minds can be found right here, behind enemy lines. To all the Comrades, Activists and Organizers on the streets, if you’re not writing to a prisoner, you don’t know what you’re missing. Get involved with a prisoner and share His/Her struggles and burdens, and you will come across some of the most enlightening and truthful conversations and discussions. If you are writing a prisoner, it wouldn’t hurt to send them a book, at least once a month, so that they may seek a liberation through the power of knowledge.

To the Comrades on lockdown, in prisons nationwide and beyond, we must rise above this oppression. We must stride out of the darkness and towards the light. Open your eyes, open your heart and open your soul to truth and to struggle. If you have what it takes to learn then you have what it takes to teach.

I encourage you to make copies of this essay, publish it in your paper, newsletter or zine, mail copies of it to prisoners, especially to prisoners serving time in solitary enslavement. And I encourage prisoners to pass it to other prisoners. Use it as an example to write your own essays, to say what’s on your mind, to speak the truth.

Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to say what was on my mind. I was shackled to my thoughts until I took the time to share them with you.

In Truth and In Struggle,

Coyote Sheff
Ely State Prison, Nevada

We are wondering how many people must die here in the Supermax?

“We are wondering how many people must die here in the Supermax before they find the source of this problem, these so-called ‘invesigations’ the department claims to have launched is like a dud firecracker. There will never be a ‘bang’ to solve this problem, not when you are investigating yourself.

We are wondering what happened with no investigation when the brother Lornell Evans died up here Oct. 2, 2005? We don’t even remember seeing an initial report in the newspaper from State Corrections Department John Dipko – is it because Mr. Evans is black and mr. Rundel is white? No, we are not playing the race card here, just laying out the evidence. We are all prisoners in my book, and every prisoner is my fellow brother of this ongoing struggle for peace & justice at the hand of the opprerssors. It could be because of liability, the way Mr. Lornell Evans died, and the way mr. Steven T. Rundel died.

After a major operation Mr. Evans was brought back here to the Supermax, when he should have stayed at the hospital where he could be watched by trained doctors & nurses, but here they just left him in a cell and after he (Mr. Evans) informed them that his stomach hurts and he could not eat, they never sent him back out to the hospital or no institution nurse at this facility came down to check him – the next day he was dead (R.I.P. Soljah).

Now since Mr. Steven T. Rundel died at his own hands, and was a convicted child molester, it is easier for the oppressors to drag his name through the mud, knowing the public will turn a blind eye to a child molester’s death. We can’t play into the oppressors’ hands, I’m on the inside and know better, we asked why have two people died here this year? Why wasn’t Mr. Evans sent back to the hospital? Why happened with the Jones-El and Johnson- v. Berge, et al. Class Action Agreement that all prisoners must be screened by a psychologist for any kind of mental illness before they are sent here to the Supermax – someone failed in this screening process.

Mr. Steven T. Rundel clearly had some kind of mental illness to take his life, he was not there a good month-and-a-half. John Dipko the Department spokesman said “the Department has launched an invetigation into how Rundel was able to construct a noose from his bedsheets and hanging himself without attracting notice of prison personnel.” Even a monkey will figure this out. Prison personnel don’t give a damn about prisoners’ well-being, and I’m in a room constructed the same way as Mr.Rundel’s and there’s no place in this room to hang yourself but on the bars on the door, and the crazy thing about it is that the bars play no purpose in supporting the door, they can cut the two bars off the door. This was an incident just waiting to happen – the doors on Alpha unit don’t have these bars on it, so why do these doors need them? This is monkey science. Take the bars off the doors, they don’t need them – their investigation will go nowhere.

We on the inside are callling for help. How many more must die, hear our voices, hear our cry comrades. The bars on the door are about five feet off the floor so Mr. Rundel had to kneel down with his feet still on the floor. Rounds: all staff are supposed to make their rounds on the range: white shirts, unit manager, nurses, social workers, and crisis workers. The white shirts, unit manager, nurses, social workers, and crisis workers might come on the unit and sign in at the sergeant cage, but no rounds on the ranges where the prisoners are at, unless it’s some kind of emergencyor a prisoner is getting suited up on. This will be the time you can catch them on the range – ‘some’ sergeants make rounds – not all – all frontlline officer will make rounds – and one psychologist, Dr. Hughes has for the last 30 days been making rounds once a week cell to cell asking prisoners if they are okay. No-one else is concerned. So this is how Mr. Rundel hung himself without attracting notice of prison personnel.”[January 1st, 2006)