US Prisoners Strike Against 13th Amendment Sanctioned Slavery

“The degree of civilization in a society is revealed by entering its prisons.”

-Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Today, after months of preparation, many prisoners in the United States will go on an unprecedented work strike in protest of inhumane treatment and exploitation within the penal system. Starting today and ending on September 9th, the anniversary of the 1971 Attica uprising, it’s likely that many inmates will face absurd and unjust retaliation for their organizing work (some already have), supported primarily by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, a branch of the IWW, which I was a member of for several years. It’s important that the public is aware of the gravity of this situation, the issues being raised, and that as “citizens” we turn as much focus as possible towards this struggle in an effort to protect some of the least visible human beings in society from further violence at the hands of the institutions that hold them. Their demands are not lofty:

  1. Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.
  2. An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.
  3. The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.
  4. The Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act must be rescinded so that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation and parole. No human
    shall be sentenced to Death by Incarceration or serve any sentence without the possibility of parole.
  5. An immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of Black and brown humans. Black humans shall no longer be denied parole because the victim of the crime was white, which is a particular problem in southern states.
  6. An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting Black and brown humans.
  7. No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.
  8. State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.
  9. Pell grants must be reinstated in all US states and territories.
  10. The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count.

In Colorado, several inmates at the Sterling Correction Facility reported to the Denver Anarchist Black Cross (disclosure: I was also a member of this organization, a prisoner support group, for a number of years) that they have begun a hunger strike in response to punitive policies that have placed several dozen prisoners in administrative segregation in a collective punishment practice. Inmates are citing a settled case that is supposed to place restrictions on solitary confinement in Colorado, as well as demanding crucial commissary restitution after prison-issued tablets were recalled and outstanding subscription money wasn’t refunded. The men in Sterling are also fighting for correspondence courses to strengthen ties with family on the outside.

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Eric King

I’d also like to use this space to bring attention to the case of Eric King, incarcerated for actions taken in support of the Ferguson Revolt and sentenced to ten years in federal penitentiary. Eric was moved to a Secure Housing Unit (solitary) last week and then transferred to the high-security SHU in Florence, Colorado. The reasons for this punishment is unclear, and it remains to be seen if this is connected to the larger prison strike struggle, as Eric is a vocal political prisoner, but has also been put in the SHU before after filing complaints about a guard who threatened Eric and his partner’s children during a visit, and the authorities blamed his correspondence with people on the outside. You can learn more about Eric King here, and he loves receiving mail! His updated address is posted here alongside guidelines for writing him. His partner was recently in a car accident and is fighting health issues. She is a friend of mine, and if you feel so inclined, please donate to help offset the costs of her medical treatments and automobile repairs.

On the outside, active solidarity to support prisoners is springing up across the United States and the world. It’s Going Down is constantly updating a page with news and ways to help, including call-in campaigns, rallies, and other actions to take to support the strike. The despicable “Silent Sam” statue was toppled last night at UNC-Chapel Hill in North Carolina and demonstrators held banners in support of the strike. Widespread graffiti murals have been reported and photographed as far away as Lisbon, Portugal and Indonesia.

I’ll be writing as much as I can about the strike as news breaks, likely trying to keep my focus on local facilities and solidarity actions here in Colorado in the next few weeks. Until all are free, strength to the prison rebels.

Murdering Death Row Inmates With the Drugs Murdering Everybody Else

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Carey “Mustache” Moore

In a macabre twist in the already insanely cruel, dehumanizing, and ultimately pointless process of executing convicted criminals in the US, officials in Lincoln, Nebraska opted to use the opiate Fentanyl to kill Carey Dean Moore this week. Moore was convicted of killing two Omaha cab drivers in the late ’70s and was regarded as one of the longest-serving death row prisoners in the United States. The drug, popular among traffickers as a cutting agent to increase potency in heroin, has been largely responsible for skyrocketing overdose rates during an opiate abuse epidemic that’s raged for more than a decade. Eric Stoltz was evidently prophetic as drug dealer Lance in Pulp Fiction that heroin was coming back in a big, big way.

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The United States has had a real hard time executing people lately. Many pharmaceutical chemists in Europe stopped most exports of sodium thiopental in 2010 either because they were fundamentally opposed to the death penalty or because they no longer wanted their products associated with executions. This has led to barbaric experimentation with various drug cocktails leaving condemned men the victims of botched executions, arguably violating statutes against cruel and inhumane punishment as well as strengthening the cases and increasing the numbers of death penalty opponents.

There’s something fundamentally childish and simultaneously dystopian in watching, on average, 200 people per day in 2017 overdose on drugs, looking at the problem of obtaining chemicals used for executions, and deciding that there’s a solution there. Just as the heroin and crack crises of the ’70s and ’80s were very much manufactured, controlled demolitions of targeted communities, it’s not a stretch to say that between deliberate corporate over-prescribing of opiate pharmaceuticals at the turn of the century and the subsequent “crackdown” there’s been a concentrated effort to criminalize wide swaths of the (primarily poor) population at the benefit of a for-profit prison and drug rehabilitation system. It goes without saying that there’s no greater form of social or population control than a populace completely strung out on opiates.

What irony, of course, that a drug wiping out everyone from the American underclass to suburban teenagers to celebrated artists is now being employed to execute the nation’s most neglected social caste: prisoners. Even sweeter, state agencies are likely using dubious, less-than-legal methods to obtain the drugs, topping off the contradictions of a drug war that has seen the rapid end of marijuana prohibition in almost half of the country (despite thousands remaining in cells over its trafficking and cultivation), the research and eventual prescription of MDMA, ketamine, and psilocybin to combat veterans and others suffering from PTSD, and the proliferation of microdosed LSD to programmers in Silicone Valley working on the nation’s next most useless (or eventually globally nefarious) tech export.

An Extralegal Execution in Aurora

Very early Monday morning in Aurora, Colorado, 73-year-old Richard “Gary” Black woke up to find a woman on his porch attempting to retrieve her 26-year-old son, who she said was on drugs and not likely in control of his actions. Black raced upstairs, where he found that a nude man, later identified as the 26-year-old Dajon Harper, had dragged his 11-year-old grandson from the living room into a bathroom, where he was strangling and attempting to drown the boy. Black, a Vietnam combat veteran, started to beat the man and reportedly tried to gouge out one of his eyes in an effort to free his grandson to no avail, went and retrieved a handgun, and shot Harper dead.

Black’s wife had been on the phone with 911 and police reported hearing gunshots as they approached the house. Black walked into his living room, where police shot him dead through a window from outside the house. Police reportedly didn’t identify themselves but claimed for “around thirteen seconds” they screamed at Black five times to drop his weapon. The whereabouts of Harper’s mother during the incident are presently unknown. Black reportedly suffered hearing damage from his time in Vietnam, as well as further degradation due to old age, and also likely had very little auditory function after firing a handgun inside of a bathroom. Aurora Chief of Police Nick Metz has blamed Mr. Black’s actions for his death, despite the as-of-yet unnamed police officer being involved in a fatal shooting in June and recently returned to duty.

The same police department that took in Aurora theater shooter James Holmes into custody alive murdered a man defending his family in his own home, from outside the house, who was an entirely different ethnicity and wearing specifically described clothing than the suspect detailed during the emergency phone call. That’s an indictment of incompetence and poor training that underscores the “fearful”, wanton bloodlust of police culture in America, where academies constantly drill a shoot-first-ask-question-later mentality with phrases like “better to be judged by twelve than carried out by six.” Anyone paying attention in the last thirty years knows that phrase is far accurately “better to get several weeks of ‘paid administrative leave’ and no charges.”

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The Highwaymen Are Now Boarding

high·way·man 

/ˈhīˌwāmən/

noun historical

noun: highwayman; plural noun: highwaymen
a man, typically on horseback, who held up travelers at gunpoint in order to rob them.

 

When you get back on a sub-par metropolitan public transit system, especially after a brief respite, there’s sometimes new nuances and customs to learn. I’ve detailed the bad taste in my mouth Colorado’s Regional Transportation District has left after thirteen years of residency and service before, but my most recent return to this town’s buses and trains during arguably the hottest summer this city has ever seen has left me shaking my head in a puzzled, Kafkaesque bewilderment. As the city pushes more and more poor and working class people out, forcing longer commutes, RTD is pushing another fare hike and aggressively pursuing so-called “fare dodgers” on the light rail lines. I don’t know why I even let myself be surprised anymore.

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I’ve prepared a graph.

Anecdotally speaking, the vast majority of people I’ve seen ticketed are either underage kids with expired transfers who would be riding on economically negligible fares anyhow, commuters who chanced it instead of missing a train because of slow ticket kiosks and validation processes, and regular, every day people who paid for the “wrong fare.” Armed men, sometimes uniformed security contractors and sometimes plainclothes city police, will board the trains from “random” stops and like hall monitors checking to make sure you’re allowed to be going to the bathroom, pace the aisles checking tickets. If you’re not squared away, they take your identification, take your picture, and put you in a database with a warning. If you’re already in there, you’ll get a ticket for more than $100.

Of course this happened to me.

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