New Mail Policy in Michigan Prisons:
Billionaires Profit at the Expense of Prisoners, their Families and Friends, and U.S. Postal Service
First posted at Rand Gould’s website, here.
When the state is most corrupt the laws are multiplied. –Tacitus
Effective November 1st, 2017, the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) has instituted a new mail policy, which they falsely claim will stem the flow of contraband, primarily the controlled substances suboxone and fentanyl, into Michigan prisons, when they well-know over 80 percent of all contraband is smuggled into prisons by employees, as confirmed by multiple studies. If the MDOC really wanted to stop drugs and other contraband, such as cell phones and tobacco, from entering its prisons, then they would search all MDOC employees just as thoroughly upon entry as they do prisoners’ families and friends when visiting. Consequently, one can only conclude that stopping contraband is not the goal of this new policy, merely the excuse for it, and a cynical person might easily think this new policy’s goal is to enable MDOC employees to corner the remaining 20 percent of the contraband market.
On October 21, 2016 Robert Earl Council (aka Kinetik Justice Amun) went on a Hunger Strike based on threats against his life from the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) administration and staff. He was transferred to a supermax facility, and water was shut off in his cell in an effort to force him out of his hunger strike. His transfers happened after the media exposed the ADOC during a nationwide prison strike to demand changes to prison conditions and unpaid labor.
As of November 3, 2016, Kinetik Justice is in danger for his life, and organizers are calling for action. Continue reading
Over a month after September 9 there are still few things we can say with certainty about the scale of the strike. Many inside contacts have still not been able to connect with us, many prisons continue to be opaque and unaccountable to the public. Where we do have good information coming out, we’re often hearing about extreme violence of prison authorities’ response.
Now is the time when we determine the future of prisoner resistance in America. We can either make consequences for the prison’s violent responses, staying their hand, eroding their legitimacy, creating systems and expectations of oversight and improving the strategic groundwork for future actions, or we can allow the authorities to torture and even kill prison rebels with impunity.
It is essential that our responses be decentralized, localized and coalitional. IWOC and the National Lawyer’s Guild have a national-wide presence, but their resources are too limited to fight every fight from the top even if they wanted to, so instead they’ve been coordinating and supporting state-level responses.
In Michigan, the story about Kinross’ protest and retaliation is breaking and a newly formed coalition of activists and family members are exposing the DOC’s violence. The NLG is helping recruit lawyers, new protests are being planned, and IWOC is helping coordinate media connections to keep the story of the state’s violence central. http://supportprisonerresistance.noblogs.org/post/2016/10/18/kinross-coverage/
Information is just now beginning to escape from Kinross Correctional Facility in northern Michigan, where one of the larger, more inspiring strike actions occurred on September 9. Retaliation by MDOC officials has been severe and violent. Three prisoners have turned up dead under suspicious circumstances. Find links to news reports and coverage below, and updates at https://www.facebook.com/Michigan-for-Prison-Abolition-585834328095870
Local organizations have connected and coordinated with National Lawyers Guild and IWOC as well as family members and the prisoners to get more information out and to build an effective response to the state’s violence and refusal to release information. Continue reading
A nationwide prison work stoppage and hunger strike, begun on Sept. 9, the 45th anniversary of the Attica uprising, have seen over 20,000 prisoners in about 30 prisons do what we on the outside should do—refuse to cooperate. “We will not only demand the end to prison slavery, we will end it ourselves by ceasing to be slaves,” prisoners of the Free Alabama Movement, the Free Ohio Movement and the IWW Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee wrote in a communique.
This round of prison strikes—there will be more—has had little outside support and press coverage. There have been few protests outside prison walls. Prison authorities—unlike during the 1971 Attica uprising when the press was allowed into the yard to interview the rebellious prisoners—have shut out a compliant media. They have identified strike leaders and placed them in isolation. Whole prisons in states such as Texas were put on lockdown on the eve of the strike. It is hard to know how many prisoners are still on strike, just as it is hard to know how many stopped work or started to fast on Sept. 9.
Before the strike I was able to speak to prisoner leaders including Melvin Ray, James Pleasant and Robert Earl Council, all of whom led work stoppages in Alabama prisons in January 2014 as part of the Free Alabama Movement, as well as Siddique Hasan, one of five leaders of the April 1993 uprising at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility at Lucasville, Ohio. (The Ohio revolt saw prisoners take control of the facility for 11 days after numerous grievances, including complaints about deaths allegedly caused by beatings from guards, went unanswered.) Now, authorities have cut off the access of these and other prisoner leaders to the press and the rest of the outside world. I have not been able to communicate with the four men since the strike began. Continue reading
As a national prison strike enters its second month, the Department of Justice says it will investigate conditions in Alabama prisons. And some corrections officers are expressing support.
The U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation into prison conditions in Alabama, weeks after inmates there joined a nationwide prisoner strike in protest of forced labor and living conditions.
“The investigation will focus on whether prisoners are adequately protected from physical harm and sexual abuse at the hands of other prisoners; whether prisoners are adequately protected from use of excessive force and staff sexual abuse by correctional officers; and whether the prisons provide sanitary, secure and safe living conditions,” the DOJ said in a statement.
The department declined to comment on what prompted the state-wide probe. But Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, a leader of the Free Alabama Movement, an advocacy group that helped support the strike, credited the actions of prisoners and corrections officers of Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama.
“I do believe the prison strike that was initiated led and organized by those on the inside of Holman prison is the reason for the DOJ launching the investigation,” he said. “And I think when they saw that even the officers admitted that the administration was allowing a hostile environment to be created, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
As the prisoner strike continued in late September, corrections officers at Holman prison did not show up to scheduled work shifts and spoke out about dangerous conditions. And in Michigan, unionized corrections officers have expressed sympathy for the prisoners’ cause. Continue reading
Ohio prisoner Imam Siddique Abdullah Hasan says he was recently threatened with disciplinary action by an investigator at the Ohio State Penitentiary for speaking on the National Public Radio program, “On Point,” about the September 9 national prison strike.
Hasan, who is a Muslim spiritual leader on death row for his alleged role in the 1993 Lucasville Uprising, said he was informed he would be written up for unauthorized use of the phone and could have his phone and email privileges restricted, despite an understanding with prison officials that he could use his phone and email time to communicate with media as he has done for the past decade.
On Monday, Hasan told Shadowproof he was not sure when the disciplinary actions would come down, but he and his supporters expect it to be imminent. If it happens, it will be the second time he’s faced retaliation for supporting the strike in as many months.
“I’m getting kind of mentally exhausted. How am I going to deal with this nonsense?” Hasan said. “I’m not going to throw in the towel. I just remain in the trenches.” Continue reading
Peacefully Marching Prisoners Tear Gassed, Zip-Tied, Left Out in Rain in Retaliation
KINCHELOE, MI – More than two weeks after prisoners at Kinross Correctional Facility participated in a nationwide prison workers’ strike, the prisoners’ own accounts of what happened are beginning to emerge. Prisoners report that the facility was on lockdown from September 10 to the morning of September 22, preventing communication with their outside supporters.
Most prisoners, including kitchen staff, did not report for work on September 9 in conjunction with the nationwide work stoppage. The following morning between 400 and 500 prisoners marched peacefully in the yard. The deputy wardens came to the prisoners who communicated their grievances, including low wages, the commutation process, restrictive visitation room seating in violation of MDOC policy, high phone rates, poor quality and quantity of food provided by private contractor Trinity Services Group, the way the yard is run, living conditions that squeeze eight men into a room intended for four, no re-entry programs, no bleach for clothes, MP3 players that break easily and cannot be fixed or replaced, not enough room in the law library, not enough room in the visiting room causing some visitors to be turned away, and not being allowed to transfer to other facilities. Continue reading
Date: October 2016
September 9, 2016 was the start of the largest prison strike in U.S. history. Over 72,000 incarcerated workers in 22 states refused to provide their labor to profit the prison industrial complex. California forces 5,588 incarcerated workers to labor in exchange for little or no compensation. The financial losses to the California prison system are as much as $636,068 in revenue or $156,736 in profit for every day of the prison strike.
Download the full report here.