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Prison Life — Drugs + Drinking : A Revolutionary and Political Prisoner Perspective

May 2, 2013


Rashid Johnson’s foregoing article on his traumatic and dangerous experience with accidentally getting high, then trying to hurt himself, all while being in the control of prison authorities, is a cautionary tale indeed.  I don’t know Brother Rashid personally, but his long time work with 4sm and his leadership in the New African Black Panther Party, gives him seriousness and credibility as a revolutionary.  I am certainly glad he survived his ordeal and I think there are lessons to be gained from his hardships.

Let me share some thoughts and information with you, especially readers who are in prison.  Long held political prisoners in the u.s. and the organizations we came from, adopted a total “no use” policy on all drugs and alcohol, as long as we were in captivity, back in 1985 and 86.  At that time there were, unfortunately, a lot of political prisoners being held in MCC-New York, while their trials were going on in NYC.  These included militants from the Black Liberation Army, Macheteros, United Freedom Front, Red Guerrilla Resistance, Revolutionary Armed Task Force.  There was also an IRA man being held there at the request of the British crown.

These revolutionary prisoners and the trials we were involved in drew a certain amount of public support and a lot of media attention on a regular basis.  There were also some official international inquiries made about us and the conditions we were held under.  For example, the government of the Soviet Union officially asked the u.s.a. government to explain why some political prisoners in MCC (and other prisons), were being harassed, mistreated and kept in solitary confinement.  The u.s.a. government ran its (still) official line that they did not hold any political prisoners.  That all u.s. prisoners were charged or convicted of crimes.  The fact that some of us were charged with “crimes” like sedition, trying to overthrow the u.s. government, conspiracies to stop u.s. wars, stop racist police activities, etc., were all just “crimes”.

The u.s. government, through the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), also attempted to discredit our character and principles.  They tried to claim that some of us were in segregation for use of drugs or alcohol.  While this was not true, it brought the issue of drugs and drinking to a group level for all political prisoners.  Up to that point, people were guided by the policies and regulations of their organizations, as far as drug and alcohol use was concerned.  Even in captivity you were still a member of your revolutionary organization and thus still subject to organization policy and discipline.  Personally, I have  never heard of any revolutionary organizations that accepted the use of hard drugs.  The recreational use of alcohol and/or weed was accepted by some organizations.

The BOP and u.s. government was trying to discredit revolutionary organizations, and besmirch their principles, morality and activities, by labeling political prisoners as drug users and criminals.  We understood the seriousness of this.  In response, all political prisoners in MCC, and from there the word went out to prisons across the country, formally committed ourselves to the policy that from then on all political prisoners, as long as we were in captivity, would not use or possess any drugs or alcohol — period.  For me personally and as far as I know, this is still how political prisoners conduct themselves – we don’t use or possess drugs or alcohol.

This has little to do with prison rules or regulations.  It does have a lot to do with being a freedom Fighter, being committed to the principles and work of creating a new free, just, peaceful, cooperative, sustainable and revolutionary future for our people and planet. Wherever revolutionaries and activists are, it is not just what we say, but what we do, how we act, live, relate to each other and the people, that we are known and evaluated by.

Here is one more thought for my fellow prisoners.  Rashid spoke about having his “spread” meal spiked by drugs.  I know we all remember good and real food, and we try to create little tasty treats and meals, like Rashid spoke about.  I don’t know any details of Rashid’s overall relationship to the person who drugged him, but while randomly sharing a cookie or a soda with whoever, is ok, who we actually prepare meals with and for — our eating partners, should not be random.  Our eating partners/circle should be close people who we have trust and some history with.  Rashid’s situation is a clear example of why doing this makes sense.

As far as medical care, many prisons are lacking basic minimum care, and a system that works.  This is certainly true in a lot of federal prisons.  In addition, like Rashid ran into and described, you frequently have very negative, if not outright hostiles attitudes on the part of the medical workers.  Here is another thought for my fellow prisoners, the best way to insure your health and survival in prisons, is to keep yourself as fit as possible and take sensible measures to avoid deadly diseases.  The more you can avoid the prison infirmary the better.  Stay fit, exercise, eat sensibly, take some daily vitamins. Stay away from blood and body fluid sharing activities.  And seriously think about avoiding drugs and alcohol, at least while you are in prison.

Freedom (and survival) Is A Constant Struggle! – Jaan Laaman (anti-imperialist political prisoner)

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