My uncle was Chief of Police in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin when the town of 10,000 was a rowdy lumberjack town, which had 23 bars and houses of ill repute on one block. He kept order in that situation yet never took his gun out of its holster.
Now the town is about the same size, but most of the bars are gone, and all of the lumberjacks. The town is now made up of retired farmers and workers at the computer factories in the area.
A front-page article by Chris Vetter from the October 21, 2014 Leader-Telegram titled, “Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office Buys Drone,” says, “…a mechanized device equipped with video and photographic equipment can monitor potentially dangerous situations without risking officers’ lives.” 1
Clearly, the militarization of the police is spreading even to small communities like mine.
With warm comradely greetings,
For some time now, there has been a campaign to abolish or severely limit the use of solitary confinement due to the proven detrimental effects it has on inmates. There have been noteworthy changes in the policies of a number of corrections departments. Even Pennsylvania, where I am imprisoned, has made changes. Vulnerable groups, like the mentally ill, have seen significant reductions in the amount of time they spend in solitary confinement. From the outside, it looks like progress. But those of us on the inside see something different. There has been no reduction in the number of cells used for solitary confinement. Prisons are overcrowded so every cell must be used. If prison officials cannot fill solitary confinement cells with the mentally ill, they will fill them with other inmates. Beds in restricted housing units (RHU’s) will not go unfilled. We are no closer to the goal of shutting down solitary confinement. What has happened is that its burden has been shifted onto other inmates.
Prison officials have appeased the reformers by limiting the amount of time mentally ill inmates can spend in an RHU. But those beds will not stay empty. Those inmates with no reported mental illness now find themselves facing more misconduct reports and longer sentences in the RHU. The number of beds dedicated to solitary confinement have not been reduced so they must be filled.
At SCI-Smithfield, where I am housed, there are over 1300 inmates. The RHU holds 300 beds. There isn’t enough bed space in general population for everyone to be placed there. Some inmates must be housed in the RHU.
Another method being used at SCI-Smithfield is the increased use of administrative custody, a supposedly non-punitive status under which inmates are held in the RHU. Currently, more than 30 percent of SCI-Smithfield’s RHU are being held in administrative (protective) custody. These inmates are held indefinitely in the RHU. They’re not in the RHU for breaking a prison rule, but they bear the burden of solitary confinement nonetheless.
Sometimes, prison reformers call for changes in policies and practices and don’t reflect upon the practical effect these changes will have on the entire prison population. By focusing upon certain groups and limiting their time spent in solitary confinement, these reformers have inadvertently placed the burden of solitary confinement on other inmates. If reformers would have pushed for a reduction in the total number of beds dedicated to solitary confinement and not just an exemption for certain groups, real progress could have been achieved. For now, all that has occurred is a shift in the insidious effects of solitary confinement, not its elimination.
Limiting the number of beds used for solitary confinement is a better solution. Smaller RHUs force the administration to limit the amount of time anyone, mentally ill or not, could spend there. Fewer beds in the RHU mean less time for everyone. It means the elimination of torture. That’s the goal.
As long as there are beds in the RHU, prison officials will fill them by increasing the number of misconduct reports issued or by placing inmates under administrative custody. It’s called “population management.” Eliminating those beds or significantly reducing their number would force prison officials to use alternative disciplinary measures, less tortuous ones. If the goal is the curtailment or abolition of solitary confinement, then seeking a reduction in the number of beds in RHUs is a definite way to achieve that goal. Without a reduction in the number of beds in the RHU’s, all that will be achieved is a shifting of torture, not its cessation.
Stephen Wilson # LB8480
P.O. Box 999
1120 Pike Street
Huntingdon, PA 16652
Prison conditions in Texas are horrible. Now we are delving into the deep nuances of the “Happy Slave” mentality, which is so very pervasive in Texas and is counter to any movement which seeks to liberate us. In order to liberate our bodies, we must first liberate our minds.
Some years ago when the Federal authorities took over the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, a question was put to the prisoners by the USDOJ (Department of INjustice). “Would you like to get paid for work you perform in Texas prison, or would you rather receive ‘good time’ and ‘work time’ credits that could be counted for reducing your sentence?” Prisoners given such a choice would opt for early release. But the prisoners were bamboozled and hoodwinked. I have seen numerous men who had prison time-slips that showed an accrued combination of flat time (actual time served), good time (awarded for good behavior), and work time (credit awarded for working) that had exceeded their official sentence length by almost two times!
What I am saying is that there are men and women in Texas prisons who have been “credited” time which exceeds their actual sentence by five percent and in some cases 100 percent. That means on paper they have served up to 200 percent of their sentences! Why are they still in prison? The Texas Department of Criminal Injustice told “Uncle Sam” they would honor a prisoner’s good time and work credits instead of paying for the work. Comrades, we have been lied to! The oppressors who run the Texas government have attached a numeric monetary value to prisoners, and so there is no way the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles will ever honor these bullshit credits and release us.
So with this and many other relevant factors considered, we must ask ourselves—“When is enough, enough?” How many more comrades must we see murdered before our eyes? How many times will we allow the Office of Inspector General in Texas to rule these homicides to be accidents, or suicides, or justified? How much longer must we wait for journalists in Texas to give fair, honest and equal coverage to our suffering? When will we all come together in order to resist and rebel against an oppressive system, which has no interest in our success or future happiness? Can we, the lumpen-underclass in Texas, match or surpass the efforts of 33,000 determined and single-minded prisoners housed in the state of California who finally had enough and, with their 2013 hunger strike, took their destiny into their own hands? Our path to freedom in Texas starts with proper education. Grasping the concepts set forth by Mao, Lenin and Marx is a start.
In “Liberation or Gangsterism Part I and II” Comrade Russell Maroon Shoatz tells us that the imperialist oppressor will initiate and implement programs to sabotage the success of a revolutionary movement or destroy it from the inside out: cooptation, fear, or as in the case of Comrade Kevin ‘Rashid’ Johnson, separating the most advanced revolutionary element from the people.
Serving the people is a big part of being a New Afrikan Black Panther. Educating the lumpen, our fellow prisoners, and “free-world” supporters and comrades is one aspect of serving; awakening the lumpen is another. There is something exciting going on in Texas! I encourage you to learn more about us and the work we are doing in Texas and beyond. We definitely could use all of your help and support.
Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win! All Power to the People!
Keith “Malik” Washington
Write to Keith “Malik” Washington:
Keith “Malik” Washington, TDC #1487958
1100 FM 655
Rosharon, TX 77583