Voices from Behind the Walls: Prisoner Letters to Revolution

December 23, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Each week Revolution and the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF) receive letters from prisoners speaking to a wide range of questions, including their conditions in prison, art and science, religion, their engagement with Bob Avakian, how their own thinking has been transformed, and much more. In the past three years, PRLF has transcribed over 1,300 letters from prisoners. Following are some of them.


Transforming from a Gang Member to a Revolutionary

Revolutionary greetings!

I'll like to say thanks a lot to all the "PRLF" donors. Thank you for paying for my education. In essence that's what you're doing with your donations. Thanks to your donations, I've been able to start learning about the rapacious economic system (capitalism) that dominates every aspect of our lives. I've been able to learn that under capitalism, society is divided into different classes—between those who can only live by selling their labor to the highest bidder, (and only as long as their labor is producing profits to capitalist) and those who live by exploiting the labor of others; between oppressed and oppressor. And consequently, under capitalism, there can never be democracy or justice for all. I've been also able to learn that such social relations were not created by nature, but were created and are enforced, by the capitalist class.

And most importantly, I've been able to learn that a whole different and better world is possible; that capitalism can be overthrown through revolution. Thanks to your donations, I've been able to transform myself from a gang member to a revolutionary; from a homophobic and machista, to a progressive thinker; from having a defeatist mentality: "there isn't anything I can do, things are never going to change"; to having a radical mentality: Knowing that I can make a difference; that we are all worthy of a decent life—demanding a better life for everybody, and willing to fight for it!

And thanks to your donations, I've been able to liberate other people, (by sharing the literature that your donations enable me to receive) and I'm fairly confident that it'll have a snowball effect. I would like to end this letter by encouraging people to keep making donations to "PRLF," or to start, if you haven't yet. Your donations are helping us (prisoners) break the mental shackles, that have been placed there by this capitalist/imperialist ran system.

In Solidarity, Prisoner from California

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"From the putrid hull of this Amerikkkan slave ship called prison"

Revolutionary Greetings

I write from the putrid hull of this Amerikkkan slave ship called prison! And specifically from the house of horrors known as the control unit.

I have taken notice of the newly charged movement to halt the obese prison system and its focus on capturing Brown and Black youth, the stop and frisk and other methods of devestating our future has become a priority for all who have an ounce of humanity to refuse to be part of the internment, the new caste system, the slow genocide!

Those of us who pay close attention to the social conditions have that keen eye to all historical events which have and continue to shape the socio-political landscape in Amerika. It is precisely by identifying these events that unfold that we are then able to revolutionize our conditions, this is historical materialism in practice. The criminalization of oppressed youth will not go unnoticed nor ignored, too many have been caught in this quicksand of social despair and those of us 2.4 million are understanding that there is an alternative to simply lie down and allow a system of oppressors to continue to capture our lives and our minds.

For Black people this mass criminalization is just an extension of a long bloody line, a gory trail of white supremacy in Amerika. It is a continuance of slavery that has never left the reality of what it costs to be Black in Amerika. Today in exchange of being outright racist one can merely be tough on crime and can act in the same dam way as a racist did 50 years ago. The recent murder of Trayvon Martin in Sanford Florida is a clear echo of what has been played out over and over, and the fact that George Zimmerman has been treated as a good "crimefighter" says it all. The fact that Brown and Black prisoners in California sit in cells with life sentences for stealing a loaf of bread and someone like Zimmerman walks around out in society is like big flashing lights with flouorescent arrows spelling out for us that this system is not for us, it is not intended to do any good for us and we see this every day when we look around the prison yard, the cell block, the tier. We see who is locked up in these boxes and who is not. We see what happens to us when we commit a petty property "crime" and what happens to a Zimmerman when they do what they do.

For Latinos our history of oppression has come in different forms. For Chicanos we understand that Amerika never included us in its system and we learned this the day our land was stolen from us in 1848. We have also suffered the oppression that others have but new forms of attacks are coming in the form of criminalization. Of ICE terror in our barrios, of fascist attacks by white supremacist state sponsored paramilitary militias and of our overwhelming population in the torture chambers known as SHU! The recent roundups of Latinos, this internment is due to the rise in Latino population in Amerika. According to the 2010 U.S. census Latino men had the highest labor force participation compared to any other group in 2010. 75 percent of Latino men were a part of the labor force, compared to 69 percent of non-Latino men. Now what this proves is you can be the hardest worker, break your back for peanuts and "do what's right" and all that and still get snatched up and thrown in one of the neo internment kamps aka prisons! According to the census by 2050 it is projected that one out of three workers in Amerika will be Latino. These numbers and there obvious meaning is resulting in hyper policing in the barrios and more and more Brown people filling these dungeons at an explosive rate. Here in California the torture units known as security housing units (SHU's) are predominately Latino populated. These units are known to cause insanity. So why are Latinos filling these insanity chambers faster than any other group? This is a slow process of destruction of a people plain and simple. We are entering a new phase in repression, one that skirts around the kourts and is state sanctioned on all levels.

Bourgeois politics is no answer to this madness, we have the tia tomasa like the New Mexico Governor Susan Martinez who votes against giving migrants I.D. cards and is "tough on Immigration." What the hell is wrong with this picture?? And in an interview it comes out some of her family came "illegally" to Amerika. She is a comprador who lost her morals to say the least. We have the tia tomasa Sotomayor who signs off and allows poor people to rot and outrageous prison terms and death sentences to stand. We have uncle toms like Colin Powell who held up a fake vial of Anthrax in order to make a case for war on oppressed nations. We have the uncle tom Obama who signs the National Defense Authorization Act on 1-1-12 which can now detain anyone in Amerika indefinitely and without trial! If this isn't a police state I don't know what is—millions in prisons, legal torture, assassinations of Amerikan citizens without trial, an extensive spy network where you can't talk on the phone, computer or walk down the street without being spied on and this info kept on record. When this act went into effect 45 Democrats and 41 Republicans supported it with six Republicans, six Democrats and one Independent opposed it. This again shows there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans. Bourgeois politics does not include poor people or anyone truly humanitarian.

The cause of the stepped up criminalization of millions may seem as allusive as the yeti but to those of us who have been snatched up by the modern day slave catchers the cause is pretty clear. If we take a scientific approach to our holocaust we know that the majority of prisoners are imprisoned for drug related offenses. That said, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration it stated in part: "that 6.4 percent of whites, 6.4 percent of Blacks, and 5.3 percent of Hispanics were current users of illegal drugs in 2000."1

So I'm no genius but if in fact the majority of prisoners are in prison for drug related offenses and all people have roughly the same percentage of drug use—with whites being at the forefront of illegal drug use why is it that when you look into who is filling U.S. prisons all you mostly see is Brown and Black people? This is not an explainable situation. The numbers show if criminal law is applied "blindly" there should be as much white prisoners as Black prisoners in prisons and this is not so. I point this out not to ask for more bodies to fill these concentration camps, rather to show that the criminal justice system is really an injustice system! So the nature of this repression is not a rise in crime, it's a rise in targeting the oppressed!

Todays society we live under in Amerika revolves around a capitalist relations of production meaning every aspect of society, all our social relations revolve around Capitalism and the profit system. Living under such a individualist system affects us all, it seeps into every crevice of society from the kourts to the schools, to relationships or family life.

Marx in his Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right said in part: "Hegel starts from the state and makes man into the subjective aspect of the state; democracy starts from man and makes the state into objectified man." Amerika like Hegel makes the people into the subjective aspect of the state (Capitalism). By living in Amerika we naturally are shaped in our personal opinions by existing in a parasitic society. Even the "left" and outright revolutionaries are not totally immune from these effects thus the general public I.E. the masses are surely affected by Capitalism. Capitalism has an interest in maintaining its chokehold on the people and continuing its profit and exploitation off the backs of the oppressed nations globally. This is manifested in Imperialism's insatiable thirst, its addiction to exploitation. Imperialism is the real culprit that uses its tools to uphold the survival of its enabler—Capitalism. Capitalism is the enabler of Imperialism as Imperialism would cease to exist if capitalism were abolished today. Capitalism like any other economic or political system is only as strong as the people who support it. The day the masses refuse to feed capitalism with their sweat and blood is when we see an end to this madness. And so the Imperialists see certain chunks of society as threatening and possible bases of support for revolution in Amerika. These would naturally be those on the lowest level of society, the have nots, those who have been oppressed and terrorized since Amerika was first occupied when the Mayflower arrived. The oppressed in any country will always support the toppling of an oppressor nation, when someone has their foot on your neck you naturally want to remove that foot! The imperialists understand this quite clearly, they have institutes that study this and know all too well that with a spike in population growth of the oppressed, their future does not look too promising.

Unlike the days of old when Chicanos were hunted and exterminated in what is currently called the "Southwest" lynched and murdered at random, or in mostly the South where Blacks were called talking tools and worked to death and lynched. Today this cannot be done as easily and as blunt. Repression has been devised in a way to go on in plain view in a guise of "fighting crime." Today's white supremacy comes to us not in a white hood with blazing torches on horseback, it has been re gifted like your favorite aunts fruitcake that just don't sit in your stomach well. Today things like the "war on drugs," the California "three strikes your out," "Stop and Frisk" and SHU's are the new forms of unleashing white supremacy on Brown and Black people. It is a soft air conditioned genocide and gets by the masses undetected and thus unchallenged. Even those who make it out of these dungeons, the slave status or caste like system is far from over, a new repression arises that continues the slave status even if the shackle has physically been taken off the ankle. The author Michelle Alexander captured this cold reality when she wrote: "The young men who go to prison rather than college face a lifetime of closed doors, discrimination and ostracism. Their plight is not what we hear about on the evening news, however. Sadly, like the racial caste systems that preceded it, the system of mass incarceration now seems normal and natural to most, a regrettable necessity."2 This is how this new caste like system is used where even if we are released from prison, we are forever branded a felon and deprived of the right to vote, the right to education assistance, housing opportunities, food assistance, every means to ensure our health mentally and physically, not that we intend to use these services but if we wanted as the slave of old we will be denied. The slave was denied based on her or his skin color. Today we are also denied because of our skin color only it's now called "tough on crime" with the same results.

It's a common theme to spin the truth by the Imperialists and their media propaganda outlets, our youth are referred to as gang members meant to further employ there slave catching operation in the barrios, painting our youth so full of life and curiosity into criminals. The state terrorizes our communities with the pig and ICE raids. According to the U.S. 2010 census one in four children in the U.S. is Latino and the Latino population from 2000 to 2010 jumped from 35.3 million to 50.5 million, although some may see the good side to this, the Imperialists see this as threatening their future rule, after all Latinos have continued to face an unbroken chain of oppression from land theft of Chicanos to extermination, migra terror, ICE raids and now SHU torture by the thousands! For this it is important for Latino youth and other oppressed youth to understand this new war and slow genocide and to struggle against this injustice in our plight for human rights.

The public should know that having studied the imprisoned masses for decades from within these modern internment kamps I see that prisoners are now shaking off their capitalist hangover and beginning to grasp revolution. This has been evident in different forms across the Amerikan prison system and will continue to be reflected in many future developments. And as you unleash your energies into halting the "operation slave catcher" that is branding Brown and Black people with a new Jim Crow stamp on our backs be sure to know that as you push in resistance out in society, know that the imprisoned masses are pulling in mutual rythem as we build momentum on our common path to transforming society and obtaining justice. Prisoners have nothing to lose but their shackles and SHU prisoners have nothing to lose but our torture chamber!

In resistance

1. “2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings, NSDUH Series H-34, DHHS Pub. No SMA 08-4343” (2007). [back]

2. “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” By Michelle Alexander, pg 190 [back]


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A True and Scientific Reasoning Behind the Why's

Dear comrades and donors.

I would like to take a moment and express what the PRLF means to me, and what your donations mean to us, the prisoners. Prisoners have little else to do than read and try to educate themselves. Prior to the PRLF, when prisoners, most of whom are unable to purchase books and or other materials, sought to educate themselves and find a reason behind the why's, people could turn only to the capitalist-imperialist organizations, especially the religious and racialist based organizations, which were more than willing to flood the prisons with their propaganda, and did so for free. There was no opposing voice of reason: and as such prisoners bought into these divisive groups ideologies and theologies. Because of this racism and religion have dominated prison life, and once released many prisoners take their new found Racist beliefs and Plant them in the minds of others. I know, i was once one of these individuals.

However, The PRLF is the first and only group which offers prisoners a true and scientific reasoning behind the why's. The PRLF is the only [one] which is performing true revolutionary action by confronting and challenging the falsehoods of these capitalist-imperialists institutions and the Racist and religious organizations which flourish within them. I have passed around every issue of Revolution i receive, individuals have began to see the truth behind the system, and most importantly, they are beginning to organize as a class around class struggle. The process is slow, people must become awakened to the class conflict. Knowledge is empowerment. And Prisoners seek knowledge. Prisoners are a revolutionary Force waiting to be organized...  Just think, your small Donation, no matter how much has and will continue to open the minds of Prisoners who can and will get out and become true revolutionaries.

Prisoner from Nevada

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Monthly Contribution to Spread BAsics

Dear R.C.P.;

Greetings within and beyond, "Amandla!"

I hope this finds you Comrades, in the best of all things possible, especially health and spirit—revolutionary spirit!

I am still confined within this hell hole concentration camp but my heart, spirit, desire for the revolution never wanes nor faulters. This Texas Slave camp is supposedly for the "sick," "blind," "deaf." and "dying," and is a "Medical Unit." Although, there are many who are here that do not fit in any of those categories, all of them need a dose of "Revolution." I am attempting to do just that, give them all—"guards," and "[ALL]" a dose of Real !!! revolution. I'm currently on a mission of buying copies of BAsics and distributing them to individuals here on the unit. This will be a slow proces, but I will buy a copy of BAsics, each month.

I am also sending "You" my monthly contribution of $10.00 for the "Bus Tour," BAsics. I have been sending $10.00 for approximately 3-4 months, saying to place it for the BAsics Bus Tour in Texas. Well, I change that!! It should be for the BAsics Bus Tour—Period! See, I've come to realize my small minded thinking was only looking at the State of Texas and thinking "We" (IN TEXAS) need a revolution. But, the more I got into the "New" synthesis of COMMUNISM, and INTERNATIONALISM..., I come to realize my thinking was wrong. This is not just about "My" home state or whatever locality I may reside in, this is about the State of the "World," and this "Nation,"... about truly building the "New Socialist Republic," of North America.

Everybody in this Country needs to read BAsics and hear Bob Avakian and come to know who he is, what he has brought forward and the advancements of the science of "Communism" has made. So, lets all take a radical step into the future by advancing our own knowledge and thinking through our actions of supporting and carrying forward B.A.'s BAsics and the new synthesis of [R]evolutionary Communism.

So, included in this letter is $20.00 dollars.

$10.00 for the book BAsics and

$10.00 for the Bus Tour; BAsics.

I can't wait to see the bus tour come to each City in Texas—True!! but, it also needs our support for other States, like New York and all other areas.

So UNTIL the time is ripe, I stand in "Solidarity My comrades"!!...

Respectfully: XXXX (Prisoner in Texas)

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Crocheting for the Revolution

...First I would like to fill you in on progress Ive Been making. I have been passing around every issue of Revolution, as well as BAsics, the RCP Constitution and the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, etc. People are very open to it and I am trying to take up a collection to purchase copies of BAsics. I am trying to get sent to [another] yard where I will be able to spread BA more easily.

Now onto my thought i want to run by you comrades. My cellie and i both crochet. It's a way to pass time. I want to help by crocheting things for the homeless Sandy victims etc. Things that comrades can pass out on the BAsic bus tour, from the book stores, etc. to those in need. I'm thinking like beanies, scarves and lap quilts. We can knock these things out from anywhere between 5 hours for a scarve to 4 days for a lap quilt.

I want to get prisoners involved in this...  Heres my thoughts.

My cellie and i can start, while teaching others to do the same. People in other states can do the same. For hooks and yarn we will run an ad in different crochet magazines asking for donations. People always help with this. Then, people who want it get yarn, hooks, etc. We make enough to fill a box...  You can then do what you deem best. For example, donate them to homeless with palm cards, give them to people who donate certain funds, etc. Its up to you comrades. We can crochet, donate, and you comrades do what you believe is best for the struggle. We can crochet anything we have patterns for, like little bears for kids etc...

Prisoner from Nevada

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"Last years hunger strike... combined with your newspaper has really opened my eyes"

I am currently in XX SHU. I have received your copy of BAsics and in this latest issue of [Revolution] you printed the call for peace from the prisoner's. I and everybody around me participated in last years hunger strike it was a life changing experience for me. Combined with your newspaper has really opened my eyes to the injustice of this country and the need for revolution...  I would like to learn more about Bob Avakian and any books or book list you could send me will be highly Appreciated.

Prisoner from California

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