Statements from People in Prisons for February 20th: National Occupy Day in Support of Prisoners
Pelican Bay Human Rights Movement Hunger Strikers in Solidarity (PHSS)
Sitawa Jamaa, s/n Dewberry C35671; Todd Ashker C58191; Antonio Guillen P81948; and Arturo Castellanos C17275
Corporate Amerika has coalesced its efforts around the exploitation of Human Beings, while using the political apparatus of the U.S. government, federal, state and local to institute policies that set in motion the creation of a corporate police state, which has targeted the poor as a surplus for incarceration and exploitation.
Those of us housed in solitary confinement throughout California and Amerika, support “Occupy Wall Street” and understand the necessity to resist against corporate greed. We will no longer willingly accept the subjugation, oppression and exploitation of Humanity.
Banks and the “prison industrial complex” are corporate empires that prey on the souls of Humanity. Therefore we officially join you all in Struggle.
Mumia Abu-Jamal: Souls on Ice
When I heard of the call, just raised in Oakland, California, to “Occupy the Prisons,” I gasped.
It was not an especially radical call, but it was right on time.
For prisons have become a metaphor; the shadow-side, if you will, of America, With oceans of words about freedom, and the reality that the U.S. is the world’s leader of the incarceration industry, its more than time for the focused attention of the Occupy Movement.
It’s past time.
For the U.S. is the world’s largest imprisoner for decades, much wrought by the insidious effects of the so-called ‘drug war’—what I call, “the War on the Poor.”
And, Occupy, now an international movement, certainly has no shortage of prisons to choose from. Every state, every rural district, every hamlet in America has a prison; a place where the Constitution doesn’t exist, and where slavery is all but legalized.
When law professor Michelle Alexander took on the topic, her book, the New Jim Crow, took off like hotcakes – selling over 100,000 in just a few months.
And where there are prisons, there is torture; brutal beatings, grave humiliations, perverse censorship–and even murders—all under a legal system that is as blind as that statue which holds aloft a scale, her eyes covered by a frigid fold of cloth.
So, what is Occupy to do?
Initially, it must support movements such as those calling for the freedom of Lakota brother Leonard Peltier, the MOVE veterans of August 8th, 1978, the remaining two members of the Angola 3 (Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox), Sundiata Acoli, Russell “Maroon” Shoatz, and many other brothers and sisters who’ve spent lifetimes in steel and brick hellholes.
But, the Occupy Movement must do more.
As it shifted the discussion and paradigm on economic issues, it must turn the wheel of the so-called ‘Criminal Justice System’ in America, that is in fact, a destructive, counter-productive, annual $69 billion boondoogle of repression, better-known by activists as the Prison-Industrial-Complex.
That means more than a one-day event, no matter how massive or impressive. It means building a mass movement that demands and fights for real change, and eventually abolition of structures that do far more social damage than good.
It means the abolition of solitary confinement, for it is no more than modern-day torture chambers for the poor.
It means the repeal of repressive laws that support such structures.
It means social change—or it means nothing.
So let us begin—Down With the Prison Industrial Complex!
This occupy rally is what Must happen at every jail in the United States–a direct challenge to Arbitrary Power that thinks it can lock up those with the greatest grievances against the system and systematically demonize them to their fellow citizens. I speak now for all the 2 Million but of course, particularly on behalf of those political prisoners who actively fought and tested this unjust system and now suffer in SHUs, and other forms of Solitary, for that. Many have been tortured for the last thirty years or more. When they were captured in the heady political days of the ’60s and ’70s, we were convinced that fundamental change was inevitable –indeed that it was right around the corner. It still remains inevitable but now we understand the protracted struggle necessary to breach this evil system. I for one am recruited to accomplish the freedom of political prisoners and as my comrade Chairman Fred says “FREE ‘EM ALL!!!”
Khalfani Malik Khaldun
All power to the people. I am in support/solidarity with your work to expose the contradictions existing at San Quentin prison, and all prisoners across the country.
Please extend my clenched fist salutation to brother Kevin Cooper/those men on death row.
I am a political prisoner here in Indiana. I have been in prison for 26 years now, with 18 years in isolated confinement. I am currently being held in a Secure Housing Unit, where the conditions are cruel and unusual punishment, and there are deplorable violations of state and federal policy all across the unit.
Those in charge have used criminal tactics to keep many of us in perpetual isolation. We could use some organized, principled help here in Indiana. Could you provide me and e-mail or other address of other occupiers in solidarity against prison injustice? We need to organize a force here to Occupy the Indiana SHU. I have some committed supporters…along with others we can move mountains. I agree with Kevin: just never forget us.
Kevin Cooper: We Dissent – An Occupy Death Row Production
A few of the definitions of the word dissent are: to withhold assent; to differ in opinion; difference of opinion; religious nonconformity; a written statement in which a justice disagrees with the opinion of the majority.
The above word “Dissent” and these few definitions speak in part to what all the different “Occupy Movements” are about.
While they all, each and every one of them, have different thoughts, ideas, tactics, agendas, and people who they represent, they all have, for the most part, “dissented” from what has been going on, and going on for decades, in this world and country.
We all disagree with, and do not want to be part of, the norm anymore! Nor do we want what is considered “normal” to be part of us, because the status quo is outright harming us on all of life’s different levels.
We all are saying in our own unique way that we don’t trust the people who are running the system, just as we don’t trust the system itself.
All across the world, people who don’t eat the same food, or wear the same garb, speak the same language, belong to the same religion or pray to the same named God, if they do pray, are dissenting.
Everywhere, people are standing up and fighting back, and speaking out from under the universal umbrella of humanity. This umbrella provides protection for the oppressed, from the oppressor.
The Occupy Movement as a whole is another form of the universal umbrella for human rights. From within this movement, we dissenters can speak the truth as to how the status quo, the ruler’s agenda, has a negative effect on “We the People” and this one planet we all must live on, and share.
Something must be seriously wrong and it is not us! The system is wrong and it has always been wrong and will always be wrong!
Some in the top 1% use their subordinates to ask, “What is it that they want?” Each movement within Occupy may want different things, especially since we all come from different places and have different real life and death experiences.
So while I can’t speak to what any one movement wants per se, I can speak to what all these different occupy movements don’t want.
We don’t want terrorism of any kind, against any people. We don’t want pollution of the air or water and other natural resources that Mother Earth produces; We don’t want a government that uses the mainstream news media to help a President send its people to war based on lies; We don’t want war in any of its forms; We don’t want sexism, racism, classism, or poverty!
We don’t want corruption, the death penalty, the prison industrial complex — either public or private prisons. We don’t want unions to be busted, nor do we want jobs sent overseas to other countries. We don’t want to go without healthcare or a good education. We don’t want police brutality or intimidation of any kind!
These few things mentioned above should go a long way to help people understand that there are two sides to every story, and while many seem to want to focus on just one side… “What is it that they want?” they must now come to terms with some of what we don’t want! If they do, then they will truly understand why we dissent. Everything that we don’t want is a very real part of what is wrong within this country and world, and it is having a very negative affect on the quality and quantity of life of the masses of people—the poor!
All these manmade ills are happening and have happened simply because of greed and the very real fact that the powers that be – They really don’t care about us!
So, we respectfully dissent!
The 2.3 million individuals that we as a nation incarcerate has become one of the defining qualities of this country of ours. Never before in the history of civilization has a country locked away so many of its own people. Have we as society become so violent, so incorrigible that we must lock away so many? How did we get to this point under the guise of ‘public safety?’
The cost of incarcerating women is immense. The average annual cost to incarcerate a woman is $50,000 and the average cost to incarcerate a woman over 55 is a staggering $138,000. Because of their role as mothers, the costs and consequences go far beyond the criminal justice system. Their children are either raised by other family members or are sent to the state’s foster care system. Children whose parents are incarcerated are 4-5 times more likely to become incarcerated themselves, thus perpetuating the intergenerational incarceration cycle. Since 1991, the number of children with a mother in prison has increased by more than 131% and nationwide more than half of children whose mothers are incarcerated are under age 10.
The prison system is a system gone awry, gravely compromised and rampant with abuses. It is a terrifying breeding ground for anger, hatred, sexism, homophobia and dominating exploitation of other human beings. We are warehousing people, punishing them and then returning them to society worse off than when they entered the system. The violence that then comes out of these prisons is a much greater threat to public safety than any foreign terrorist group ever could be.
The bankers are legal racketeers. They are rewarded for their crimes. But the people at the bottom of the 99%, the poor, we are warehoused in the Prison Industrial Complex. They take away our ability to vote once we are inside because that might change the way things are. The rich get richer, the poor give up, and out of desperation they turn on their families and their communities. This cycle has to change!
Most all U.S. citizens benefit in some way from the capitalist mode of production, a system that exploits underdeveloped nations as well as 99% of its own nation’s people. This creates a vast contradiction that causes much emotional pain.
In 1865, Union Generals admitted to Lincoln that they were on the verge of losing the war and could only turn the tides if Lincoln would free the slaves. Of course, slaves were never freed; it was only the form of slavery practiced in the South that was disrupted, moving from chattel slavery to wage slavery as has been so well documented.
Defy permits to occupy, civil disobedience is a form of struggle, and where there is no struggle, there is no change.
We must strengthen our forces by uniting with the Occupy movement and liberation movements throughout the world in order to disrupt the capitalist mode of production and send capitalism to its grave.
Free All Political Prisoners and Prisoners of Consciousness
All Power to the People
First of all I would like to applaud and salute those in the Occupy movement for focusing on the hideous corruption of corporate America and the effects this corruption has on all of us in the 99%, including the well over two million individuals that fill our detention facilities and their families.
Being in prison, in solitary was terrible. It was a nightmare. My soul still cries from all that I witnessed and endured. It does more than cry – it mourns, continuously. I saw men so desperate that they ripped prison doors apart, starved and mutilated themselves. It takes every scrap of humanity to stay focused and sane in this environment. The pain and suffering are everywhere, constantly with you. But, it was also so much more than that. I had dreams and they were beautiful dreams. I used to look forward to the nights when I could sleep and dream. There’s no describing the day to day assault on your body and your mind and the feelings of hopelessness and despair.
There is far more than a casual relationship between the Occupy Movement and the work so many of you are doing to change the criminal justice system.
The same people who make the laws that favor the bankers, make the laws that fill our prisons and detention centers. We have to continue to make the connection between Wall St. and the prison industrial complex. The growth of the private prison industry is just one symptom of this unholy alliance.
I stand in solidarity with the Occupy 4 Prisoners rally and hope these rallies shed further light on the insidious effects of prisons for profit and politics.
Free all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.
I want to thank all the participants of Occupy San Quentin for being here today. Thank you for reading my statement.
My name is Steve Champion. I’ve been incarcerated for over 30 years and twenty-nine of those years and counting, have been spent on San Quentin’s death row.
We are living in a critical time in history. There is a global and domestic crisis going on. Our body politics is under siege because it is dominated by crony capitalism and social and economic indifference. We are fast moving toward a bicentric society of “haves” and “have nots.” If we fail to take a strong stand to transform this nation then we can expect an ill forecast for the future.
One of the most powerful unions in the state of California is the Correctional Peace Organization Association (CCPOA). As tuition for students are being raised, schools being shut down, cuts being made in the fields of education, social programs, nurses and other care-givers, everyone is being forced to make a sacrifice. But we don’t hear cuts being made in the salaries of prison guards. Why is that? Because the CCPOA (through rigorous lobbying in Sacramento) have the ear of California State Legislators. They make huge campaign contributions to both the Governor and State Legislators. This allows them to peddle influence and get implemented the policies they want in place.
What this ought to tell those of us who are concerned about social justice, prison reform and the abolishment of the death penalty is we have to up the ante of our struggle. If we want to see the eradication of the death penalty and the prison, it requires a multifaceted approach. It is not enough for prisoners to struggle on the inside; it is not enough to picket, protest or occupy specific places. Those things are important. But we also need to have a robust voice and seat among the decision makers who shape, influence and create policies that we vehemently oppose. We need to build a grassroots political organization to challenge those in power.
Too often, our social movements are on the defensive. We react as opposed to being proactive and taking initiative on programs we want implemented and policies we want changed. Building a grassroots political organization can facilitate a lot of the fragmentization that exists in our movements by uniting us. It would give focus to our objectives. If we don’t do this, then who? If we don’t do this now, then when?
The one percent who dominate the political and economic system in this country is not an accident. It was carefully planned. They want a government for the one percent and by the one percent, but not by the people.
We have to strengthen and intensify our struggle. We have to become more committed. We have to remember that our struggle isn’t a sprint, but a marathon. What we do today will alter the course of history tomorrow. Thank you.
Long live the struggle.
You all know we’ve been on a “counter propaganda” campaign here [in Pelican By State Prison] since Dec. 09 and much of what myself, Castellano, Sitawa, and Mutope have in mind in our writings about our struggle and resistance 24/7 is in line with our counter propaganda campaign!! Actually, I’d prefer criminal prosecution because 1) I’d be acquitted and 2) the publicity it would garner would be real great for the cause. Now that it’s not a DA referral (I expect due to legislative inquiry), I expect to be railroaded & found guilty administratively (first time guilty of a serious rule violation since Jan 94).
This will be used by the Board of Parole Hearings to issue me a longer parole hearing deferral when I go in Aug 2012 (probably a 7-10 year deferral). It will mean no art material or photos for a year, etc., etc., etc. This bogus CDC 115 RVR should be getting propagated out there as much as possible as well as other CDCR/PBSP dirty shit.
This is where I (and many others) stand on this struggle: For more than 30 years CDCR policy and practice has been “us vs. them” — viewing us as the enemy who they are at war with.
The 1st thing one does in war is propagate against and dehumanize the enemy. For 22+ years PBSP has been propagated as housing “the worst of the worst,” responsible for all the state’s gang problems.
We see it in reverse. CDCR (the prison industrial complex) are the criminals committing multi billions in fraud and many murders each year (law makers and courts are enablers and just as guilty). CDCR is housing us to put money in their pockets, all of which is part of the bigger problems – the class war in this country: the 1% vs. the 99% (the ultra rich v. poor). It’s no longer a “people of color v. white man” issue; it’s a “poor v. ultra rich” issue. The so-called middle class is long gone.
We’re at war (the poor 99% including the prisoners) and the people in power are scared to death and they should be. Most of us should have been out long ago. A life sentence has never meant “life” until the last 30 years. Most of us are many years beyond our minimum eligible parole dates.
We’re not serving a legally valid sentence anymore. We’re here illegally, immorally, and unethically based on politics and money.
Our supporters need to propagate against the system at every opportunity and tie our struggle to that of the poor and disenfranchised at large. This is just the start. We plan to force CDCR to open up all the level IV General Populations and spend money on our benefit, such as rehab programs, etc. and force change to sentences and paroles.
Our supporters need to see the system for what it really is and to educate people about it to bring more support in. It’s important to humanize and decriminalize us to the mainstream. Granted we’re “convicted felons,” but we’ve already served above and beyond any form of a valid prison term.
We shouldn’t even be recognizing that these CDCR “criminals” have any power over us. We really should be actively resisting our illegal confinement a lot more and our people outside should be doing so too, with all of our beings, until these “criminals” cut us loose or kill us.
Right now we’re waiting – waiting to get out to these General Population prisons. Then we’ll straighten out the B.S. on them so these people can no longer justify warehousing everyone. Then, we’ll go from there. People need to realize these “criminals” are the real enemy who we’re at war with and act accordingly in a smart way. The time is coming when they will fall and it’s not too far in the future. But we all must stay strong and do our part to make it happen. We need strong outside support. People should not fear nor be intimidated by CDCR’s “crime syndicate” staff. They’re really cowards in truth and need to be forced to get right.
As always, I send my best to all.
FROM CCWP WOMEN (Alisha, Veronica, Margarita)
The picture I’m about to paint can only be heard,
so listen closely to every word.
Innocent until proven guilty?
They can’t be serious,
In a system where
Drug dealers get more time
than serial killers,
juveniles get tried as adults,
before they become one.
I guess nobody musta warned’em
about playing with knives and guns.
Guilty by association?
That’s what it’s called
then they get hauled
off to the pen,
where some girls become boyz and some boyz
unaware of who they are,
wounded while in the belly of the beast.
I call’em invisible scars,
the kind that can’t be healed
by Neosporin and stitches.
Went in walkin’
came out switching.
Could you imagine what it’s like?
Being told that the beginning
is really the end of your life.
3 strikes and you’re out!
Some think it’s a game,
but it’s really outta my hands.
Lord knows, I’m not tryna do life
on installment plans.
Everybody wanna be a part
Of the occupy system,
I need to occupy my life and
find something to do with it,
otherwise it’s useless.
Some may mistake my words as verbally abusive,
But the truth is…
How do we expect our kids to grow
have to fend for themselves
in cells where it is dark
and hot as hell?
More parents come to see kids in jail
than they do at graduations.
That’s cuz the new diploma
is parole or probation
Fucked up situation
“Now I’ll be gone until November”
Listening to a public pretender
telling me to plea
Cuz I’m young, black, and sell crack in da streets.
Babies committing robbery,
Even with blind eyes
I could see it ain’t cool.
They building prison programs
and tearing down schools.
We all got an opinion
just like we all have a choice.
No one can hear you speak
if you don’t use your voice!
My name is Veronica Hernandez and I am a 20-year-old young woman that has been incarcerated since I was 16-years-old and tried as an adult at 17-years-old.
Prior to being charged as an adult I was appointed a no-good attorney that couldn’t have cared less about me or the outcome of my case and consequently had put absolutely no effort into representing me adequately. There are no law libraries or legal services at Juvenile Hall so a juvenile rather it be for better or for worse had literally no choice but to be dependant on his or her court-appointed attorney and trust that him or her will lead them in the right direction. Unfortunately, for me that direction was to adult court where I now face a life sentence should I be convicted.
In California, peopel who are 16-years-old are eligible to be tried as adults and in some states, the minimum age to be tried as an adult is 13-years-old and in others, there is no age limit at all depending on the nature of the crime. Regardless of the age, juveniles that are tried as adults are subjected to harsher punishments that juvenile court judges lack the power to impose such as life without the possibility of parole or sentences that are so outrageous like “43 to life” or “51 to life” that those sentences might as well be life without the possibility of parole.
Although a juvenile’s right to a hearing before a case can be transferred to adult court was established by Kent V. U.S. (U.S. Sup. Ct. 1966) there are still cases that get transferred to adult court without a hearing at all and that is known as a “direct filing.” The D.A. can file a direct filing on a juvenile that is 14-years-old or older and that contradicts California’s so-called minimum age of 16-years old or older to be eligible at being tried as an adult and a juveniles so-called right to a hearing.
The human mind doesn’t stop developing until the age of 25, so it is ridiculous that a judge can even be given the power to determine that a juvenile can never be rehabilitated and will remain at the same state of mind that the juvenile was in at the time of their crime was committed for the rest of his or her life. Aside from ridiculous…it is outrageous…oppressive…opprobrious…and something that needs to cease…abolish this oppression and give children the chance at life that each and everyone of them deserves.
Sean Swain: Occupy, Liberate, De-Colonize: A Statement for Occupy Columbus from Prison
In 2007, in a published interview I observed that if Ohio prisoners simply laid on their bunks for 30 days, the system would collapse. I wasn’t talking about just the prison system, but Ohio’s entire economy.
I came to that conclusion because I recognized that 50,000 [Ohio] prisoners work for pennies per day making the food, taking out the trash, mopping the floors. We produce parts for Honda and other multi-nationals at Ohio Penal Industries (OPI), making millions of dollars in profit for the State. If we stopped participating in our own oppression, the State would have to hire workers at union-scale wages to make our food, take out the trash, and mop the floors; slave labor for Honda and others would cease.
Ohio would lose millions of dollars a day in production. The State’s economy would not recover for a decade.
When I made that observation, I didn’t know for certain that I was right. I suspected I was. But more than a year later, prison officials came to get me. My cell was plastered with crime tape. All of the fixtures, including lights, sink, and toilet, were removed and inspected, something that I haven’t seen happen in 20 years of captivity. I was taken to segregation and slated for transfer to super-max.
The reason? My observation in a year-old published interview, that Ohio’s economy would collapse without prison labor. That’s when I knew my observation was right. The enemy confirmed it.
I eventually avoided super-max because friends and supporters made enough noise, but I am now on a Security Threat Group list even though I have never been part of any organization, and my incoming mail is screened.
I share all of this in order to underscore how seriously and irrationally terrified the state is about the possibility of anyone awakening the prisoner population to its own power. The state is hysterically shit-their-pants petrified of an organized prisoner resistance, the way plantation owners feared a slave uprising.
I was subjected to repression in 2008. Since then, the situation for the State has become even more dire. Given austerity cuts and privatization of a few prisons, the guard-to-prisoner ratio has drastically dropped, leading to more disruption in the standard prison operations. On top of that, the Kasich administration’s efforts to bust public workers’ unions, though a failure, has destroyed the morale of guards and staff, the majority of whom now only care about collecting their pay checks. With each downturn in the economy, the prison system takes more essential services from prisoners – from medical to food to clothes – and thereby increases hostility and resentment of the prisoner population.
With very little effort, very little money, and a great deal of advanced planning, Ohio’s prison population could be inspired to completely disrupt the operation of the entire prison complex. If such a disruption were to occur, it would cause more than the economic collapse of the State that I already discussed. Such a disruption would ultimately seize from the State the power the power to punish. This would pose more than a simple political problem for the government: in such a scenario, it loses all power to enforce its edicts and impose itself; the government ceases to be the government.
Such a development would be a great benefit to the Occupy Movement. While Occupy directly challenges the crapitalist system, it must be remembered that the global crapitalist matrix uses governments as factory managers. If you protest private bankers, you get beaten by public cops. Given the recent bail-outs, the public trust is nothing more than a corporate slush-fund. It is nearly impossible in this blackwater-enron out-source era to tell where governments end and corporations begin – and vice-versa.
The prison complex is an essential component to the larger crapitalist matrix. If an Occupy-prisoner collaboration in Ohio could take the prison system out of the enemy’s control – if the Occupation could expand to the prisons – we can collectively create a prototype for the larger movement to replicate, building momentum that collapses prison complex after prison complex, paralyzing state government after state government, spreading like a computer virus, liberating and de-colonizing the most-essential and intimidating bulwark against freedom the empire relies upon: the prisons.
For those of you who are part of the 99% but don’t really want to identify with this segment of the 99% and object to the possibly causing all of these criminals to go free, I remind you: The most hardened and irremediable criminals, the most ruthless killers and rapists, currently run the Fortune 500; they dictate U.S. foreign policy; they drive cars emblazoned with “To Protect and To Serve”. You serve the agenda of those criminals if you turn your back on these “criminals.” Without us, you’re not the 99%. If my math is right, without us, you’re only about 94%.
This 5% is only waiting for the invitation. You can let your enemy keep his slaves and possibly defeat you over time, or you can liberate his slaves and defeat him quickly. To me, it’s a no-brainer. It’s a matter of actually living up to what you present to be – something your enemy has never done.
We’re still waiting for that invitation.
On behalf of the Cuban 5 we send you our solidarity on this the National Occupy Day in Support of Prisoners. We know first hand about the injustice inherent in the U.S. judicial system. In our case we are serving long sentences for defending our country against terrorist attacks by monitoring groups whose whole existence is to carry out violent acts against Cuba. It is our hope that what you are doing today will bring attention to the plight of those behind bars and help bring about a more humane society that provides jobs, housing, education and opportunity instead of incarceration.
A big embrace to you all
From inside a prison cell I call out to you. Hello to Mumia Abu Jamal supporters. Hello to Troy Davis supporters. Hello to Occupy Oakland. Hello to my own supporters. Hello to everyone else whose conscience compels you to gather here today. I’m so thankful this country and the world still has people who look beyond their own lives and their own condition to remember others who for different reasons have become victims of a deeply flawed justice system. I believe whenever people gather together with an interest of the common good of all men in their hearts, that is a sacred gathering and pleases the Creator. For what man is a man and what woman is a woman who does not try to make the world a better place?
Today in the shadow of San Quentin, the belly of the beast housing 700 men the state wants to kill, you come together to speak of injustice and reform. While they will not come out and say it, I have been given a life sentence for a crime I did not commit. I defended my people from a government waging war on defenseless elders and traditional believers. Many friends of mine died in that war, and because two FBI agents also died, I have been in jail for 36 years. I have been held despite evidence the government withheld and manipulated evidence, coerced witnesses, and did all they could do to keep me from proving my innocence. I have been held longer than their own laws say I should be. All because I am a symbol and a reminder of what they will do to anyone who stands up against their authority. But all this shows is that they only have violent access to authority. They do not have righteousness or decency or even legality on their side. Throughout history all such systems that ignored justice and rights to rule by force eventually fell.
We have seen that minorities are incarcerated far more and for far longer periods of time than Caucasians. We further know that minorities receive the death sentence in far greater numbers. We know poor people get convicted and serve longer than those with money and influence. Even if you support a death penalty these facts alone indicate that we must have a moratorium on executions until we can rectify these issues. It’s the only reasonable alternative to continuing a racist and biased system.
I believe a civilized country does not commit murder. Murder is not justice no matter the crime or situation. Justice is all parties agreeing on a suitable outcome. Murder does not bring closure to anyone or any situation. Murder does not create healing. We know that America has executed innocent people. We further know more innocents will die unless this system is rebuilt from the ground up. It is true that for those working to right these wrongs, the life you save may be your own.
And so my friends I ask you to look around. Look at your friends and family and allies. Appreciate them and support one another, for in doing so you support myself, Mumia, and so many others wrongly serving time. Know that I am with you and appreciate your efforts. Know that I am in the water that refreshes you, in the food that nourishes you, and in the air that sustains you. You cannot lock justice within walls or bars. Justice surges through all of us and unites us. Justice has done more to further the advance of mankind’s endeavors than any gun or weapon. Thank you for your belief in Justice. Thank you for your time. Thank you for your love. Thank you my brothers and sisters. Thank you.
Mitakuye Oyasin, We Are All Related
In your pushback for social justice, you give us hope. Failure to claim your rights is failure to know whether they exist or not. Abstract terms though they be, you make them real. A parasitic social order has fully emerged and affixed itself to our existence and now requires our unquestioned loyalty and obedience to its will. And we have come dangerously close to complying.
Ordinary people doing uncommonly brave things have rekindled our hopes that we can do better this time in safeguarding the public trust. Far too many of us have grown complacent in our civic and moral responsibility, which explains in part how Wall Street, big banks, and corporations, in political connivance, have gotten away with so much. So we have to take some responsibility for that.
I think we are now coming to understand that. Your occupation in these troubling times calls attention to much of what is wrong in our society. So keep it tight: no elitism, no arrogance, no divisiveness, and consult the elders as you go forth, because youth often do the wrong thing for the right reason.
And in a clear, unwavering voice wherever you go, wherever you speak, wherever you occupy, demand release of our political prisoners, for they are the embodiment of our movement’s resolve. And don’t let anyone punk you out, because what you do matters. Big jobs call for big people and you already stand pretty tall in my eyes.
Your creativity, energy, and love of humanity bring warm sunshine to many of us behind these prison walls. You’ve eloquently and concisely articulated the central problem: a society run by the 1% and based on corporate greed as opposed to human need. That obscenity of power and purpose creates countless specific and urgent concerns. Among those, the criminal injustice system is not just a side issue but essential to how the 1% consolidate power.
The U.S. mania for putting people behind bars is counterproductive in its stated goal of public safety. A system based on punishment and isolation breeds anger and then difficulty in functioning upon return to society – things that generate more crime. The U.S., which imprisons people at about seven times the rate of other industrialized countries, has a higher rate of violent crime. Punishment does not work. A transformative, community-based justice model would be more effective as well as more humane. It would both support victims and work with offenders, to enable them to function well and make a positive contribution.
Although the punitive approach does not make communities safe, it has served the rulers well. In the same 30 years that the 1% nearly tripled their share of U.S. national income—with global inequities far steeper—the number of people behind bars in the U.S. went up from about 500,000 to 2.3 million. It’s no coincidence. The “war on crime” started in 1969 as a code for attacking the Black Liberation Movement, at a moment when that movement was at the front of a widespread wave of radical social action which seriously threatened the dominance of the 1%. Mass incarceration, especially of people of color, was an important part of the 1%’s strategy for holding on to their wealth and power.
The second way the criminal injustice system works to keep the powerful in power is that as the 1% steal more and more of humanity’s wealth, they face the pressing political need of deflecting attention from their colossal crimes. Over the past 30 years mainstream politics have been driven by a series of coded forms of racial scapegoating—against “criminals,” welfare mothers, immigrants, Muslims, the poor who get token concessions from the government—to turn the frustration and anger of the majority of white people away from the rulers and toward the racially constructed “other.” Confronting that demagogy and hatred is critical to resisting the 1%’s offensive.
As activists, we often grapple with a tension between prioritizing the needs of the most oppressed—based on race, class, gender, sexuality, ability—and maintaining a universal vision and broad unity. But those two important concerns are not in contradiction. The only road to principled and lasting unity is through dismantling the barriers formed by the series of particular and intense oppressions. The path to our commonality is solidarity based on recognition of—and opposition to—the ways this society makes us unequal. Our challenge is to forge this synthesis in practice, on the ground, in the daily work of building the movement of the 99%.
With an embrace to you and your inspiring stand, one love.
Jalil A. Muntaqim
The 2.3 million U.S. citizens in prison represent more than a problem of criminality. Rather, the human toll of the U.S. prison industrial complex addresses and indicts the very foundation of America’s history.
In 1865, the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution served to institutionalize prisons as a slave system. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime….shall exist within the United States.”
This Amendment evolved out of the Civil War allegedly to abolish chattel slavery. However, since that time, prisons have become an industrial complex. As an industry, its investors are financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs & Co., Prudential Insurance Co. of America, Smith Barney Shearson, Inc., and Merrill Lynch & Co. Understand, these investors in this slave industry in 1994 are no different from investors in the slave system prior to 1865.
The political system supports this industry by passing laws that enhance criminal penalties, increase penal incarceration and restrict parole. Former U.S. President Clinton’s 1985 Crime Bill effectively caused the criminalization of poverty, exponentially increasing the number of people being sent to prison. On May 12, 1994, the Wall Street Journal featured an article entitled, “Making Crime Pay: Triangle of Interests Created Infrastructure to Fight Lawlessness; Cities See Jobs; Politicians Sense a Popular Issue and Businesses Cash In—The Cold War of the ‘90s.” The article clearly indicated how prisons have become a profitable industry, including so-called private prisons.
Given this reality, the struggle to abolish prisons is a struggle to change the very fabric of American society. It is a struggle to remove the financial incentive—the profitability of the prison/slave system. This will essentially change how the U.S. addresses the issue of poverty, of ethnic inequality, and misappropriation of tax dollars. It will speak to the reality that the prison system is a slave system, a system that dehumanizes the social structure and denigrates America’s moral social values.
The prison system today is an industry that, as did chattel slavery, profits off the misery and suffering of other human beings. From politicians to bankers to the business investment community, the prison industrial complex is a multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise, all of which has been sanctioned by the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
It is imperative that those of you here come to terms with the reality that America is the prison industrial complex, and that the silence and inaction of Americans is complicit in maintaining a system that in its very nature is inhumane.
Abolish the American prison industrial complex!!
All Power to the People! All Power to the People! All Power to the People!