Reawakening a Sleeping Giant

Note: The following article originally appeared in The San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper on December 24, 2018.

In the ‘70s and ‘80s and throughout the ‘90s there was a strong progressive revolutionary prison movement throughout the state of Indiana. The two dominant and often competing political lines or ideologies were Revolutionary Nationalism or New Afrikan Communism as represented by the New Afrikan Independence Movement (NAIM) and Afrikan Internationalism as represented by the Afrikan People’s Socialist Party (APSP). Other tendencies were represented by Anarchists, Marxists and Maoists.

During this time, you not only had loose networks of structure; you had a climate dominated by a kulture of political or kultural consciousness. You also had hard-fought-for and -won institutions such as ethnic studies, including the Black History class taught by prisoners. You had The Lifers’ Organization that was run and operated by prisoners.

In fact, prisoners, or convicts, and prison clerks ran a parallel shadow system to the prison admin that actually made the prison functional and operational. If you wanted a bed moved or something, you didn’t go to a counselor; you went to an inmate clerk.

It was also common to see prisoners, some of whom were street org affiliated, holding political education classes out on the yard. In fact, it was mandatory by certain sets that you attend, go to school if you didn’t have a GED. At Pendleton, for example, it was a program called the Unity Run where brothers of different affiliations all got together out on the rec yard in military formation of two abreast and ran laps around the yard or did exercise routines.

In or about 1991 the IDOC launched COINTELPRO-style counterinsurgency behind the walls. A concept and strategy known as the “Shock Doctrine” was a part of this strategy.

Hence we saw the opening of Indiana’s first supermax, then known as the Maximum Control Complex (MCC), where some of the most vicious, repressive, violent and psychological torture tactics were being deployed against its kaptives, the majority of whom were either political prisoners, conscious or prison rebels that the state wanted to break or make examples out of. It was used as the modern day slave breaking plantation – like Abu Ghraib.

Most of the New Afrikan political leadership was held on this unit and then later the newly built SHU at Wabash when it opened several years later.

All organized political expression was under attack and being crushed by the shock doctrine application of outlawing prisoner groupings – amongst New Afrikans primarily. Controlled movement was implemented by installing fences and gates that fenced us into small areas and chopping off the heads – removing and isolating all threatening political leadership that wasn’t going along with the program.

They also exploited and kapitalized off of internal contradictions, petty differences and jealousies within the ranks. Some residue of that still exists today, some 25 years later.

While isolating such, they intentionally allowed the more reactionary elements of population such as street orgs (so called gangs) and groups that were pushing a racist ideology to flourish and establish operational bases to move from. Utilizing this tactic, they shipped out a lot of the old heads, veterans, OGs who had been down for 15 to 20 plus years.

Their security levels were dropped and they were moved to lesser security prisons and the younger prisoners coming in with a lot of time, often affiliated and who didn’t have a clue as to the history of struggles and sacrifices, were sent to the max prisons. As a result, we have what we have today.

However, with the rise of the New Afrikan Liberation Collective (NALC) and a few other lesser known more clandestine formations, there is a new current blowing throughout the state countermeasures to the state’s counterinsurgency. ​Let our politics function like a contagious disease that spreads and infects the system’s most vital organs until we cause it to go into cardiac arrest!

The New Afrikan Liberation Collective and Other Clandestine Groups Threaten the State

Today’s prison slavery and privatization is incurable because of the big money the GEO Group and other private prison companies donate to political campaigns. For example, consider the $2 million that GEO donated to former Gov. Mike Pence or the $10,000 they gave to local congressmen in order to build the New Castle Correctional Facility in his district.

GEO attempted to do the same in Gary, Indiana, by offering to build a new INS-immigration facility, until the people organized against it and blocked it. The fact that they would go into Gary, Indiana, one of the most economically depressed and neo-kolonized cities in the state, and try to build an immigration detention facility, to try and hire poor oppressed New Afrikans to watch over and control other poor exploited and oppressed people of kolor is how the system divides and conquers.

It is just another example of how the state and the system of kapitalism manipulates and plays poor, oppressed and disenfranchised communities off or against one another.

Now they manipulate poor New Afrikans, Latinos and poor Euro-Amerikans off each other and have us fighting over crumbs and scraps form the ruling elites’ table. They have us blaming and scapegoating one another and other exploited communities to the point that we never offer a critique or critical analysis of this kapitalist system as a whole that has its foot on our collective necks.

While some may think because they’re standing by the stove and not sitting on the flame as some communities are that they’re a step above the rest based on that privilege. I believe that is a false sense of security and superiority.

You’re still getting heat, and kapitalism when it suits its purpose will throw yo ass directly into the fire if it suits its purpose. I predict that this Trump administration in the end is going to prove this analysis to be the case.

This same principle applies to prison politics of struggle. Some sectors of the prison population allow themselves to be used and manipulated for certain privileges, including skin privilege, such as the best jobs, skilled jobs, strategic positions etc. These groups will turn a blind eye while the state attacks prisoners of color or represses various religious groups, such as the Moors, Muslims or the Hebrew Israelite Community.

Again, they don’t understand that the state uses such disunity to manipulate us ​all ​as it further prepares to repress and oppress ​us all​.

With that being said, we do see the state moving to institutionalize a “class structure” amongst prisoners in Indiana as it further hardens the physical structure of its max and medium security facilities with more gates, fences, cameras, sophisticated surveillance technology, building catwalks on top of prison walls etc. and it simultaneously prepares to turn its older max prisons, ISP and ISR, into primarily lockdown facilities.

By turning all of the cell houses into lockdown, they are adding over 200 more beds to their administrative segregation capacity. Simultaneously, they are turning the dorms and smaller housing units into honor housing, Plus Programs, ACT Programs and other behavior modification units and programs that will be used to do the slave labor for the facility.

These units will supply the inmate workforce for the operation of the prison. Refuse to work? Get sent to an administrative segregation lockdown idle unit, where visits will no longer be contact, only by video or tablet once they’re provided. You’ll be allowed only one 15 to 20 minute phone call a week.

You can already see the blueprint for this. Some housing units, where extra visits, food orders, video games and commissary orders are allowed as a privilege, are being used to force prisoners to police one another’s behavior and conduct. If you live in a dorm and a person gets caught with a knife or batch of wine, the whole dorm’s extra privileges are being taken, restricted!

It’s a science to that. It also makes you believe that, based on these privileges, you’re better than other prisoners, different. It becomes us, the privileged klass, vs. those over there!

These are the winds blowing in the state of Indiana. Recently the state has quickly and without media attention implemented a program of disappearing prisoners who dare fight back against the physical aggression of a lot of prisoncrats.

They are now being disappeared out of state into other prison systems. We are being sent out of state without notification or any form of due process or the right to appeal.

This just happened with comrade brother Cortez Wheeler, who was charged back in November 2017 along with another brother, Kimo, of three counts of battery with serious injury on three prison guards. The situation had evolved out of correctional officers (COs) disappearing and withholding personal mail.

As soon as Cortez signed a plea, he was immediately shipped out of state and disappeared. Supposedly this is the new response by the IDOC to all serious assaults on prison staff.

The state is so vindictive that they even refused to list his location on the IDOC locator website where friends, family and supporters could reach out to him. It simply says “out of state.”

This should be an indication to us all of things to come. Today it’s those who allegedly seriously injure a CO who are being shipped; tomorrow it could be you. Already various Political Prisoners who have a history of struggle behind these walls and in these dungeons are being threatened!

This is why the New Afrikan Liberation Collective (NALC), Prison Lives Matter (PLM) and the IDOC Watch Organization are so critically important at this time. For one, it is to serve notice that we are here and aren’t going anywhere.

It also signals to the state and its prisoncrats that the policies and oppressive tactics being done in the dark shall be brought to the light and you will not only be exposed but held accountable. We want to hold these prisoncrats and politicians accountable to the people and public.

Public Education by Revolutionary Prison Groups is Critical

For example, we want to educate the public on the negative impact the new sentencing guidelines have had on families, communities and the prison communities themselves. They are being used as part of a larger scheme to build and expand county jail facilities throughout the state wherever there are now complaints about overcrowding or lack of resources.

We want the public to know that the IDOC implemented a policy in 2015 denying us the right to apply for the restoration of good time that has been taken, often illegally, if you have been found guilty previously of various rule violations. As a part of this scheme and larger plan, the IDOC commissioner issued a new executive directive in February of 2017 ruling that for certain serious assaults on staff or other offenses, all of your credit time can be taken – and you can’t never get it back!

If you’ve served 20 years, they can take all 20 years, thereby extending your release date and statutory sentence of the underlying felony by whatever is arbitrarily taken. No criteria, no guidelines or nothing in place. Such practices violate the ex post facto clause of the Constitution.

What these measures do is not only turn every incident into a potential life sentence; they also provide job security for these social parasites. It keeps contracts complied with like the one the IDOC made with the GEO Group to keep the beds at the New Castle Correctional Facility (NCCF) at 95 percent-plus capacity.

We want to expose the Ferguson type system of false reporting involving false tickets and write ups with little to no evidence. How we are then sent before these kangaroo disciplinary kourts for hearings where often the chairperson or hearing officer is related to the captain, lieutenant or supervisor, often a spouse, who signed off on the ticket. How blatant conflicts of interest are ignored and rubber stamped by the warden’s office through a sham appeal process.

People need to be exposed, educated and enlightened to these hidden facts. Our families and communities need to be made to understand and see why we aren’t coming home on time, how and why some of us are getting more time or being denied contact visits with our families for 5-10 years or being held on administrative segregation or solitary for 5-10-plus years.

These are serious and dangerous times in this country. We can no longer afford to allow the state to dominate and dictate the narrative or info going out to the public about what’s happening behind the iron curtain of these koncentration kamps, which is why it is so important for us to support media – publications like the Bay View – who try to hold us down. Most of us can come up with $24 in funds or stamps for a subscription.

For example, several guards at Pendleton were recently fired for beating on handcuffed prisoners, as they did to comrade Kwame Shakur, reported in the Bay View. Here we got the warden all over the news lying about what’s not to be tolerated. Yeah, especially when it’s caught on camera!

Those of us who are or have been housed at that prison know that Sgt. R has been beating and assaulting handcuffed prisoners for years with the full knowledge of the administration. In fact, he was one of the administration’s attack dogs and shakedown artists with the clear wink-wink approval from the warden and major’s office as he often planted evidence and weapons.

We must signal to prisoners that while we must hold the IDOC accountable, we don’t have to be totally dependent on the state. We can and must take some responsibility for ourselves.

They don’t want to fund or allow us programs, then build and organize your own! Create your own library which should be mandatory for all NALC cadre.

That $50 or $60 you’re spending on hood novels, sports magazines or booty pics can be used to invest in some law books. Order medical encyclopedias, medical dictionaries where you can look up the medication they’re giving you and learn about its side effects.

Learn how to diagnose yourself and one another so when you file a complaint or lawsuit about medical malpractice, you know what you’re talking about. Recently the new healthcare provider that replaced Corizon has instructed its doctors to discontinue prescribing or distributing all pain medications and in their place they’re substituting psychotropic psych meds.

A lot of these pills causes impotence, sterility, kidney and liver damage. Look it up. A lot of the psych meds that are being used to treat mental health issues, like Zoloft, Cymbalta etc., also have severe side effects. It’s no coincidence that it’s a concerted effort to saturate the population with psych meds.

Doped up on BS, you ain’t interested in your rights or resisting. You just want to sleep or mentally escape.

We often complain that we have no outside support. We always got the naysayers and negative toxic people that complain and critique but don’t never initiate nothing.

Well, here we got people and organizations that are willing to help us, support us, be our voice, who are committed and not caught up on your affiliation, what city you from or your so called race. People who are organizing a network of lawyers to look into civil and human rights violations. People who are organizing our own form of media outlets to get info out.

People who are lobbying Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to initiate an investigation into IDOC practices. People who are in various communities and on college campuses educating, recruiting and organizing about these prison, laws and conditions in this state.

Prison Lives Matter: A Strategy for Liberation

We’re pushing Prison Lives Matter as part of a larger strategy towards liberation. Surely if they can represent for us and be in solidarity with us, we can reciprocate. If we don’t, who will?

We’re pushing Prison Lives Matter as we strive to build, develop and unify political cadres that are capable of impacting other cells and atoms as they circulate throughout the bloodstream of the system.

A reawakening of political consciousness. A stirring of “We tired of this shit!” A developing critique of how we are being treated, how the IDOC is out of control and a law unto itself. It is this developing climate, this gust of fresh air, to which I now speak. It is to that reawakening.

It’s strong winds blowing. Don’t wait till it’s the middle of a hurricane to try and build structures and seek shelter from the debris and lightning. By then, it’s too late and you’re likely to be overwhelmed.

Free all political prisoners!

This article was originally published on December 24, 2018 in The San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper. Featured photo: The Bay View Newspaper.