The Struggle Against Organized White Supremacists in the IDOC

This piece was originally published on the IDOCWatch blog on February 10, 2020. Amongst other things, it provides key historical context for understanding the current struggle to free the Pendleton 2. For additional supporting documentation, see the detailed report, “The Brotherhood: Racism and Intimidation Among Prison Staff at the Indiana Correctional Facility-Putnamvilleby Kelsey Kauffman, who was cited in this national CBS NEWS report on the subject.


The IDOC has a rich history of Klan and white supremacy activity, as well as organized violence. It was only after New Afrikan prisoners in particular started organizing and engaging in militant strikes that some of these abuses were curtailed and/or pushed underground. A lot of these racists who were up and coming through the ranks during the ’70s and ’80s are now in leadership positions and are either policy makers at Central Office or are sitting on the boards of private prisons or companies like Aramark. They act as consultants and their background is shrouded in secrecy. All the while giving rise to a whole new generation of neo-fascists from their ilk.

In the ’80s a crooked investigator named Penfold at Indiana State Prison tried to put a hit on Balagoon “John Cole” by offering two white convicts (who were allies) a deal if they would throw white gas in his cell and burn him alive. They refused and in turn exposed the plot. Later during court proceedings, after a takeover hostage situation, he admitted under oath on the stand that he tried to do this and he wasn’t fired, demoted, or charged with attempted murder!!! In fact the bastard would eventually be promoted and moved to central office.

When I first went to Pendleton in 1985, after the initial slave rebellion of Feb. 1, 1985, the lock-up unit MRU, known as the dungeon, was racially segregated. Blacks and Whites could not come out together for recreation. All movement to the recreation yards were in handcuffs and shackles. After a late night argument between myself and a young dumb wannabe white supremacist inmate, the guards passed him a knife that morning before rec, which I witnessed. They then tried to run us outside together and remove his handcuffs first. I had a handcuff key, and came out of my cuffs first. I gave him a chance to surrender his weapons. He refused, and I allegedly commenced to stabbing him nine times ’til they were able to drag his ass out, clearly and firmly sending a message to the “good ol’ boy” network that I had no intentions on being a victim. There are many instances of this nature.

Jail Guards Part of Organized White-Supremacist Gang

Wabash Valley Correctional Facility is infested with white nationalist C.O.s [Correctional Officers], and they make no secret about it. Some of it is just cultural and racial ignorance, but some of it is also rooted in ideology. They love Trump’s dirty drawls.

They also have a firmly entrenched “good ol’ boy” network of male and female pigs that are either older or have been there a while and are steeped in the racist tradition of targeting New Afrikans. People like Major Russell, Lieutenant Nicholson, Basinger, Alan Finnan, etc., all of them dudes came up through the ranks together. This is why they were so mad when I allegedly stabbed Sexton. He had been there over 20 years, was entrenched in their little racist networks, and would sit out there in ear shot of prisoners and tell stories to the younger C.O.s about how they use to beat us and throw us down steps while handcuffed, etc. Seriously.

Several times while I was being escorted, the guards would act like they were talking among themselves, but were actually talking to me indirectly about how they wish this was the old SHU (Secure Housing Unit) so they could teach trouble makers a lesson. I always made it clear that if you ever beat me, its going to be a homicide!

And here is one of the problems now. Back when I use to hustle, etc., I had a couple of female C.O.s that, I’ll just say I was extremely close with, and I’d use to run counter-intel operations. One used to be actually progressive and a sympathizer to our struggle, so I used to get a lot of inside Intelligence and photos. I actually had emails and photos of the inside of their towers, of all their weaponry etc. I can say it now because they busted some of the phones I had with it stored in my email folders etc.

The point I was getting to is this: You now have a whole new young crop working the SHU who are fascinated by these stories of brutalization. They are nostalgic for a time gone by. A lot of em is young, white, nationalistic, and veterans who have been over to Iraq and Afghanistan with that oppressive/authoritarian bs, and are bringing it back home to visit upon us. Khalfani can tell you. After he was accused and convicted of killing that C.O., they psych tortured that brother for over a decade. Dirty mfkrs use to go on the rec pads and get bugs, crickets, grasshoppers, water bugs, etc. and put in his food trays… The same shit they were doing to me on a smaller scale before I went on that hunger strike.

You cannot claim to be radical, revolutionary, or anti imperialist and allow the state to define and set the rules of engagement. Ain’t no such thang as legal resistance. A movement without any teeth or the ability, or even the desire, to bite or bite back when bitten is a paper tiger. I refuse to be a part of such because what that tells me is I can be killed or sacrifice my life and those responsible would not be held accountable or brought to justice. It ain’t about pushing masculinity or false masculinity/bravado. To me, sometimes that argument is used as a cop-out and an excuse to not take responsibility. I don’t advocate any type of reckless reactionary adventurism, but as a political line reflective of an ideology, it must be understood that the groundwork and foundation has to be established to develop the u.g. [or iron-binding] capacity to hold neo-fascist terrorists accountable.

When I first came into the system in the ’80s and got sent to Pendleton, right after the rebellion that Balagoon and Naeem [Christopher Trotter] allegedly initiated, it was common for pigs to wear Klan rings, for them to call you boy, or catch you isolated and call you nigger. At the State Farm in Putnamville [Indiana State Farm, now named the Putnamville Correctional Facility], they were extremely vicious: chaining brothers to tables and shit and beating brothers. The stress positions, etc., that they showed U.S. troops doing at Abu Ghraib was nothing new to us. Some of us were going through that shit at 18, 19, 20 years old.

The Need for a Mass-Based Movement Outside the Bars

It wasn’t ’til dudes started organizing, taking over shit, and demanding that the feds come in…it wasn’t until then that we started serving notice upon racist pigs that justice was a double-edge sword, that we were able to push back some of the more blatant viciousness. Yet, that came at a price. Balagoon did 35 years in the hole! He and Naeem picked up another 80 to 100 years. I’ve done over 25 yeas in the hole altogether. Had we had a strong outside mass-based political movement with a u.g. capacity, then some of these sacrifices comrades would not have had to make. Understand what I’m saying?

For some of us, its too late to try and retreat. I mean, I’m a lot older and more disciplined now. I’m not so quick to just jump out there without seeing the larger picture and what’s at stake. With that being said, by the same token the state ain’t going to allow you to retreat; it’s like the scarlet letter. And yet you can only kill me once.

The state murdered Ajamu Nassor (slave name Gregory Resonover) on Dec. 8, 1994. They tortured him, electrocuting him until his head exploded in flames. While they were carrying out this act, they were playing XXX HARDCORE FUCKIN’ PORN TAPES ON THE PRISON CHANNEL ALL NIGHT!!! Then the fascists threw a party in the administration building after the legal lynching was over. This was the epitome of disrespect and was extremely hurtful and traumatizing. Ajamu and Ziyon were Political Prisoners of Wars, co-defendants, and highly respected and loved.

Approximately two weeks later, they found a neo-colonial pig butchered in D cell house, a killing Khal [Khalfani Malik Khaldun] was later charged with. Once it got exposed how they tortured Ajamu, the fallout forced the state to stop using the electric chair and start using lethal injection.

In the spring of ’96 it came time for them to murder his co-defendant, Ziyon Israel (slave name Tommie Smith), making him the first to be lethally injected. This time though, political forces had been quietly doing mass work and educating the population as to the politics and contradictions of the genocide penalty. By the time his date came around, large sectors of the prison was organized and mobilized. Various cell houses were carrying out nonviolent mass protest, hundreds of prisoners in coordination with actions on the streets.

Because of what happened after they murdered Ajamu, and although the two events were never proven to be linked, the state moved to temporarily stay Ziyon’s scheduled murder. Meanwhile, they manufactured all kinds of crazy conspiracy charges of planning to riot, take over the prison, etc., and went to federal court to get an emergency order to move us to MCC [Maximum Control Complex, now Westvile Control Unit] under investigation. They moved 12 of us for 30 days, while rounding up tens of others at ISP, all under investigation. This was all after a silent protest in the kitchen of over 200 prisoners of all nationalities. They panicked, made up a bunch of bs charges, and railroaded six out of the twelve of us and shipped us all across the state. Myself and Akono were sent back to MCC.

Before we were all moved, Ziyon was murdered on July 6, 1996. Tortured like Ajamu, he was poked with needles for over 45 minutes all over his body. The state claimed they couldn’t find a vein. During the course of the murder, there was militant action on all of the lock up units. Mass flooding occurred in the admin building as IDU sits atop it. Cells were destroyed by snatching the toilets and sinks out the walls, and Balagoon and them allegedly engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the goon squad as they went from cell to cell doing extractions. The 12 were immediately shipped, but the protest continued and a C.O. named Patikis ended up being stabbed through the bars by a young comrade as they refused to lock down and engaged the goon squad.

This is why I haven’t been allowed to return back to ISP since 1996. Everyone has since been allowed back over the years, except for me.

These were different times, and a different era altogether. However, it was also a product of the mass work that was taking place on both sides of the wall. Prison News Service also played an instrumental role in that mass work and politicization.

Featured photo: “Support the Indiana 6” graphic from the 55th issue of the Prison News Service.