Hidden from public view and without any real political or judicial oversight, the Prison Industrial Complex has been forcing revolutionary political prisoners, prison rebels, jailhouse lawyers or litigators and so forth into domestic exile. Historically, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has always moved its federal prisoners around the country, out of the state where they were convicted, as a matter of course.
Well, this tactic has since trickled down to the state level where now various state departments of corrections, as a part of a larger strategy of psychological warfare, have been shipping prisoners out of state, thousands of miles away from our families and support networks. This is no coincidence and in fact is being orchestrated and coordinated on a national level.
COINTELPRO and counterinsurgency behind the walls
During the height of the Civil Rights Movement and what’s known as the Black Power Movement, the federal government – through its various security and intelligence agencies – spearheaded by the FBI, initiated a counterinsurgency and counter-revolutionary program known by the acronym COINTELPRO (Counterintelligence Program).
In “Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party,” pages 210-211, Joshua Bloom writes: “On July 15, 1969, Hoover publicly announced that of all the Black nationalist groups, ‘the Black Panther Party, without question, represents the greatest threat to the internal security of the country’…
“(B)y the fall of 1968, the FBI was secretly developing what would become its most intensive program to repress any Black political organization. Of 295 actions initiated by the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program to destabilize Black nationalist organizations, 233 of them – or 79 percent – targeted the Black Panther Party. Federal actions against the Panthers ranged from spreading false information about misappropriation of party money to fomenting marital strife and, in some cases, participating in planned killings of Panther leaders…
“COINTELPRO aimed to undermine the Black Panthers’ ability to threaten the political status quo. Toward that end, its agents tried to foster divisions between the Panthers and potential recruits and between the Party and other organizations, as well as among the Black Panthers themselves.”
This program systematically targeted any political, militant or revolutionary organization that threatened the political status quo. As pointed out above, the BPP and later the Black Liberation Army (BLA) was its primary and most principal target for destruction; as stated by the war kriminal J. Edgar Hoover – the BPP then represented the biggest internal security threat to the U.S. government and power structure that ever existed.
What a lot of people have failed to recognize or connect the dots, as the state security forces were targeting our political and militant organizations on the streets and murdering or “neutralizing” our leadership or cadre, they were also carrying out a systematic program behind the walls. A lot of the newer generations and younger up and coming revolutionaries have failed to make this connection, while at the same time being targeted and victimized by this same government program.
As the Panthers, BLA cadre and others were being hunted, murdered, framed or forced into exile on the streets, we saw the assassination of Comrade George Jackson. We saw the brutal, murderous repression of the Attica Rebellion.
We also saw the murder, isolation and disappearing of countless other brothers and sisters who were part of the movement and were behind the walls. The state declared and waged war on revolutionary brothers and sisters who were trapped behind enemy lines. The same COINTELPRO tactics that were being used against us on the streets also came behind the walls. This is how Ruchell “Cinque” McGee or Hugo Pinnell (RIP) can do over 40 years in solitary. This is how the Angola 3, Herman Ferguson, and many others can be buried alive in solitary for decades.
Now fast forward to the ‘80s. You see the state is a master at deception. With one hand they giveth and with the other hand, they murder and taketh away. A lot of hard fought human and prisoner rights were won in the ‘60s and ‘70s when the Supreme Court and the circuit courts were forced by the activism and sacrifices of prisoners and our allies, comrades and supporters to give certain concessions on issues of due process, religious rights, etc.
It was also a tumultuous time in the kountry for various movements, resistance and struggles for political power, reformism, human rights and national liberation. The state learned from their mistakes and losses during this time. They learned from the prison movement, as it was spearheaded by Comrade George and Muslims, many of whom belonged to the Nation of Islam (NOI) during that period of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
So moving into the ‘80s, in an attempt to avoid a repeat of that era, the state moved towards the building of control unit prisons and supermaxes with the opening of the Lexington Control Unit and by replacing Alcatraz with the Marion Control Unit in Marion, Illinois. While prisons have always had dungeons (“holes”) where they attempted to crush any form of resistance, this new development represented a more scientific approach.
Instead of continuing outright brutal murder and torture, the state used various behavioral sciences and moved towards a more scientific approach of total social isolation and sensory deprivation. They created all sorts of scientific behavioral modification programs, programs designed to break you mentally, physically and spiritually.
It’s a new slave breaking program – destroying your personality and rebuilding you in the image of the state. It’s also perfecting the use of divide and conquer. It’s creating class divisions amongst the ranks of prisoners, i.e. those who went along with or participated in the behavioral modification programs, now euphemistically called step down programs or transition programs – programs now geared towards cell bossism, self-policing and the policing of other prisoners for class privileges.
Moving into the ‘90s, the rise of supermax prisons would catch on and spread like wildfire. As lawsuits were filed about various physical, constitutional and human rights abuses, as various political movements, groups and formations arose to fight this new trend of state repression and some units were exposed for human rights abuses and slated for shutdown, the state shifted gears again.
A lot of resistance on the outside was spearheaded by the awesome work of the Committee to End the Marion Lockdown (CEML) and the publishing of their newsletters “Cages of Steel” and “Cold Storage.” The exceptional work by dedicated lawyers from the People’s Law Office in Chicago also had a significant impact, particularly out here in the Midwest.
The state attempted to adapt and continued to evolve its barbarism with the rise of Pelican Bay, the ADX in Florence, Colorado, the Secure Housing Unit (SHU) in Carlisle, Indiana, and the Maximum Control Complex (MCC) in Westville, Indiana. MCC is the first state supermax ever condemned by an international human rights organization for its human rights abuses.
These units were used to target political prisoners (PPs) and POWs and they were used to target the political leadership of both existing and up-and-coming political formations. They were also used as tools of intimidation as the state pushed a form of bogey man politics in an attempt to repress jailhouse lawyers and litigators, prison rebels, influential prisoners and future revolutionaries.
The enemy state was using a multi-prong attack of 1) targeting leadership and PPs and POWs for further repression and isolation; and 2) trying to prevent the rise of a new prison resistance movement by attempting to kill it while it was still in its infancy – still in the womb, so to speak. Needless to say, with the rise of formations such as the New Afrikan Black Panther Prison Chapter, New Afrikan Liberation Collective, various formations in Cali that were born out of the massive prison hunger strikes and Pelican Bay resistance and general strikes nationally, the state strategy has failed!
While what’s known as the prison movement and prison resistance has never been completely stomped out, you do have what’s known as the ebb and flow of the movement, which has both a low tide and a high tide. The enemy state brought what’s known as the “shock doctrine,” as defined by Naomi Klein, behind the walls.
They started putting up fences, dog kennels and gates everywhere, blocking us off into small sections; they began hardening the facilities even more with new sophisticated surveillance and monitoring technology. They implemented controlled movement and tightened up internal security, all the while reducing and removing institutional programs and jobs.
They stopped building the old school model prisons of four or five tiers stacked on top of one another and instead started building these prefabricated prison pods put together like rubik’s cubes where various size groups could be watched more closely, where prisoners could be psychologically profiled and classified and moved around or manipulated on the pod chessboard.
Just as police security forces on the streets are being militarized, formed into tactical units with the latest military toys put to civilian use, the same is being applied to prison Special Emergency Response Teams (SERT) and Special Operation Response Teams (SORT). In fact, a lot of military veterans from U.S. imperialist wars are returning back to the U.S. and joining various police security and correctional agencies, where military tactics, counterinsurgency, urban warfare, torture and repressive tactics against “terrorists” are being taught and adopted.
The New Jim Crow and critique of mass incarceration
With the release of the book “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander, all of the liberal left and liberal elite wanted to jump on the bandwagon of critiquing the kkkriminal (in)justice system – critiquing everything but neo-kolonialism. But I digress.
With this critique came the blatant exposure in disparities in sentencing and the institutionalized racism and genocide built into the system itself – realities and contradictions that oppressed nations and peoples have always been aware of.
In this critique, it was exposed that long term solitary causes mental deterioration, PTSD and constitutes a form of psychological torture – that, in fact, it’s a violation of international law, the UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and the Mandela Rules.
It also revealed that states with crumbling schools and infrastructure and other social ills could no longer justify or rationalize spending millions and billions of dollars on the so-called kriminal justice system.
There had to be a public shift – or at least the perception of a shift – in the conversation on prisons and mass incarceration. And as usual, the neo-fascist enemy state employed the art of smoke and mirrors, engaging in subterfuge.
Instead of true or real reforms, which the kapitalist state is incapable of doing, they attempted to apply a bandaid to a major trauma wound. Instead of major surgery, we get cut, paste and stitch. For example, now that it has become fashionable and more cost effective to take a new look at long-term solitary confinement, the state is adding old tactics in new form to its arsenal of repression and control.
This low-intensity warfare is manifesting in the opioid epidemic behind the walls and the rise of psychotropic medications as a cure-all, from the common headache to psychotic behavior. Just as the popular ex-TV series “Snowfall” depicted the rise of the crack epidemic in California, spearheaded by the CIA and federal government back in the ‘80s, so today, terrorist and white supremacist pigs move poisonous synthetic forms of weed that have been treated with various chemicals like roach spray. Some shit that got these dudes falling into comas, violent seizures or dropping dead altogether.
Then there are the tactics of forcing us to consume contaminated water while building prisons in cancer corridors on contaminated soil. Why are so many prisoners and PPs and POWs dying from cancer related issues within a short amount of time of their release? They are people who have served over 20 or 25 years in these death kamps!
Why are so many of us developing kidney and liver diseases and hypertension issues? Why is it across the board, whether you are vegan, vegetarian, workout or whatever, regardless of nationality? In this case, the nationality is “convict.”
Additionally, there is the state’s manipulation of gang warfare and racial hostilities as part of its low intensity warfare. Using these reactionary forces, the state targets some PPs or POWs, especially the more active and vocal ones, including some of our elder PPs who can’t adequately physically defend themselves. This isn’t a coincidence.
This leads me to the main reason I wrote this piece. I want to address something that isn’t being talked about or at least not in the proper context, in my humble opinion. That is the practice of sending state prisoners into domestic exile by subjecting us to what’s officially called the Interstate Corrections Compact. It’s an agreement between states to exchange, swap or accept prisoners from states, jurisdictions or counties other than their own.
Sold off the plantation
On Dec. 18, 2018, in the wee hours of the morning, I was packed up, chained up, thrown in the back of a paddy wagon-type van equipped with an infrared camera, and sent on a 14 hour ride to the neo-konfederate state of Virginia, without any form of due process and not allowed to pack my own property. A squad of 15 police did that, while I was held in the shower for over two hours with a sentry posted outside the door. Meanwhile, other team members assembled a high-tech electronic pole that detects any form of metal to ensure that I did not have a phone, cuff key, or knife shoved up my rectum.
In fact, I wasn’t even allowed to be told where I was going, as the windows were covered, so I couldn’t see out the windshield to read highway signs. I had to search license plates on the front of cars on the highway to determine what state I was in. In every state we stopped for a 15 minute bathroom break, and I was fed a dry peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Prior to leaving the facility, I was given and forced to wear and travel with a pair of shower shoes, not my own or from my property. I would later discover that the shower shoes were contaminated with some kind of sour-smelling fungus. Initially, the smell was at a low to medium level like sour milk.
After three weeks, when I finally figured out it was the shoes, and my cellie suggested we treat them with hot water and disinfectant until I could purchase a new pair. When we completed this process, the fungus exploded and actually contaminated anything it touched and, in fact, permeated an entire two tier area!
The shoes had to be placed in two plastic bags and thrown away; clothes, socks, etc. had to be destroyed and the cell scrubbed. Had I continued to wear these shoes, who knows what damage would have been done to my feet and what poisons would have been absorbed into my bloodstream. Why were they substituted for my own personal pair in the first place? Diabolical!
I discovered that this move had been orchestrated and signed off on by the governor, attorney general and executive branch of the IDOC. I also discovered that I had been traded and sold for Comrade-Brotha Kevin Rashid Johnson, NABPP-PC chairperson, who had been moved to Pendleton Correctional Facility (PCF) in Indiana a couple of months earlier.
PCF – formerly known as the Indiana Reformatory – has a long racist history of brutality and was the scene of a violent prison rebellion on Feb. 1, 1985. The brotha has been in the state for approximately three months and still hasn’t been given his personal property!
In my research, I’m discovering that brothers and comrades who are either leadership, cadre or who have continued to be active and attempting to rebuild the movement, comrades whom the state has been unable to break – these comrades are being targeted all around the country for domestic exile, i.e., moving us away from our families and support networks solely based on our ideological and political beliefs. The NABPP-PC and its cadre and leadership appear to be one of the principal targets thus far. Some comrades have been moved to three, four, five different states within the last three years alone!
This method and strategy of the states are giving a whole new meaning to the Fugitive Slave Act! The higher courts have ruled that we have no reasonable expectation to be held or confined within our state of conviction.
Once again this gives credence to the reality that we are being dehumanized as modern day slaves and chattel. Once again the 13th Amendment statement – “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States” – becomes crystallized.
Doesn’t this tactic violate our so-called constitutional right of being free to believe and express our religious and political beliefs without fear of retribution or retaliation from the state? This is also psychological warfare, coordinated and orchestrated on a national level among high levels of the government and its security agencies.
Removing us from support structures of families, comrades and supporters, all the while disappearing our legal materials, law books, family photos etc. and subjecting us to a foreign and possibly hostile terrain is meant to make you feel vulnerable, enhance your isolation, and – if possible – neutralize you by reactionary forces. When I was moved out here to Virginia, my TV disappeared while in “storage.” So did all of my law books that specifically focused on Indiana state and 7th Circuit law, all evidence pertaining to a pending lawsuit, Quran, Bible and many other books – all disappeared. Note: Law books that didn’t focus on Indiana, but federal law instead were all left untouched!
We are being moved without any form of due process, hearings or heads up, and it is usually performed in a military fashion with heightened security. We are also being denied access to the courts. The law library here is mediocre, almost primitive, with no access to any Indiana codes, cases etc.
Recently, before the resignation of the former reactionary Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Oppressident Trump issued a mandate to Sessions that he start a database classifying all prisoners who advocate “revolutionary Black nationalist politics, Black identity or self-government ideologies” as domestic terrorists. While it’s no surprise, this alone has serious and far-reaching implications in our era of hyper anti-terrorist rhetoric. Some years ago, there was a discussion taking place in the federal government among prisoncrats about creating regional prisons for all the so-called “worst of the worst.” This means they’re talking about taking the art of Supermax facilities to a whole other level.
On the state level, before they start building Supermax torture chambers, they were using the tactic of transit in an attempt to suppress and isolate political prisoners and revolutionary forces. This meant you were repeatedly being moved or shipped from one prison to the next.
Every few months or at least once or twice a year, you were shipped to another prison in an attempt to keep you off balance and from building any type of foundation or political base and infrastructure. This practice was altered on the state level with the rise of the Control Unit and Supermax prisons, where now the practice becomes to just isolate you and bury you alive for years on end.
Well, revolutionaries, political prisoners and activists found a way to subvert that attempt at isolation. In fact, we flipped the script and turned a lot of these units and dungeons into schools and universities of revolutionary cadre development. Turned them into base kamps of resistance and struggle, e.g. George Jackson University – even more so with the advancement of various forms of technology.
This isn’t to say or suggest that some of us aren’t or weren’t permanently damaged by this form of scientific torture or brutalization.
Repression breeds one or two things. It breeds either resistance or cowardice. You either find a way to fight back, to struggle forward, or you surrender to the tyranny of the oppressor. Take the massive hunger strikes and work stoppages throughout the penal colony of California, spearheaded by brothas slammed down in solitary at Pelican Bay.
This continued resistance and response by our outside comrades and supporters have taken away some of the power from the tools of the state that are used to destroy and brutalize. This is occurring as we see, under the Trump administration, the U.S.’s withdrawal from U.N. treaties and covenants on genocide, human rights, protection of prisoners etc. In fact, the U.N. – with all of its hypocrisy and lack of democratic practices – is being even more de-legitimized.
As contradictions sharpen, as revolutionary formations continue to rise behind enemy lines, the state must come up with some type of Hitlerian “final solution.” They must up the murder game and bring it to our leadership.
The sending us out of state into “foreign territory,” based solely on our politics and practices, allows the sending state to disavow having a hand in nefarious attacks. It allows the sending state to disavow having any role in the orchestration of our killings and assassinations.
Isn’t that one of the key tactics of COINTELPRO, along with sowing seeds of conflict and distrust? Why should it be any different for revolutionaries and movements behind the walls?
This is what isn’t being discussed enough amongst us on both sides of the wall. The narrative needs to be changed and put into proper context. Ain’t no such thing as legal revolution, legal resistance. We all profess to know and overstand the nature of the beast and enemy, yet don’t prepare for or respond to his murderous tactics.
When we expose their hidden agendas, this gives some cover and security for targeted comrades because it serves notice that not only are comrades’ general welfare and health being monitored, but also that our enemies are being watched by outside forces and allies. It serves notice that any suspicious attacks or murders of comrades will not only be thoroughly investigated and exposed, but that there must and will be accountability on both sides of the wall.
National infrastructure building and strengthening of networks
The last few years we have seen a rise in coordinated protest and resistance behind enemy lines, especially during the month of Black August. It is way past time for a revolutionary vanguard structure that represents and gives outside teeth to this resistance. Teeth that can eventually bite.
It’s way past time that all of these various defense committees and small group support structures for political prisoners start not only talking together, but building together, start to actually be absorbed into existing formations. The Jericho Movement has been putting in work for over 20 years. The material by Comrade Jalil – “Frolinan” – is even older. Should be required reading!
Recently, some of us have begun to push for regional organizing committees comprised of and representative of the most active political prisoners and POWs in that region and their support networks and structures. We want to eventually build some sort of national steering committee for the support of PPs and POWs, but also for the resistance behind enemy lines, giving such resistance a point of the spear.
This also helps to undermine the state strategy of forcible exile and isolation. When a comrade such as Rashid gets moved to Indiana, or myself to Virginia, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t immediately and automatically be absorbed into and supported by those existing networks on both sides of the wall. In my case, NABPP-PC comrades not only made me feel welcomed, but offered concrete assistance on both sides of the wall.
People, we have to get clear on a vision and our political line. When you have a clear vision, a correct vision, it makes it easier to build. As we push for and build revolutionary national liberation struggle, ultimately one of our goals has to be to make these dungeons ungovernable. Shut this mfkr down! Shut your profiteering down!
No new prisons or ICE facilities get completed building without the possibility of being sabotaged! The ultimate strategy can’t be about reforms, making it a kinder, gentler oppression or being recognized by the U.N. It has to be about sharpening the contradictions of anti-imperialist struggle on both sides of the wall. Where it becomes possible to call for mass protest, mass general strikes, accountability of known terrorist pigs. If we ain’t envisioning that, if we ain’t building towards that or at least in that direction, then we playing!
At some point, we have to develop the capability to liberate comrades, PPs and POWs that have been languishing behind enemy lines for 35, 45 plus years and now are in their 60s and 70s and 80s. At some point, the qualitative leap has to be made from just protest to active resistance. That has to be an essential element of the vision.
A key part of facilitating that is the building of ROCs and absorbing some of the Basic Units (BUs) that already exist. Recently, some formations have put aside various petty differences, set aside personal egos and ideological differences, and have merged in an attempt to further strengthen and build those national networks I mentioned earlier.
This is also an effort to help strengthen networks of outside comrades and organizations as we move towards building that vanguard. Beyond just growling, we have to move in the direction of being able to bite! This is our time. All we have to do is seize it! East Coast, West Coast, Midwest, South – do y’all hear me?
Send our brother some love and light: Shaka Shakur, 1996207, Sussex SP 1B-33, 24414 Musselwhite Dr., Waverly VA 23890. He writes on behalf of Prison Lives Matter and NALC.