We must leave the crops in the field

Published in the  SF Bay View on June 23rd 2015

By Anthony Robinson, Jr

“One of the gravest obstacles to the achievement of liberation is that oppressive reality absorbs those within it and thereby acts to submerge human beings’ consciousness. Functionally, oppression is domesticating.” – Paulo Freire, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”

The mass of prisoners have become domesticated by the paternal instincts of the rules and regulations that purport to govern them, but actually are implemented to carry out the results of their enslavement.

As a prisoner class, it is our labor that carries out the cause and effect of not only the inordinate sentences we are given in the kangaroo courts of America, but the perpetration of laws and policies that keep us in prison and bargain on our return to prison via high recidivism rates.

The “prison industrial complex,” through the multifaceted contradictions socially constructed into the regulating tendencies of its agenda – inflicted upon the prisoners’ consciousness – acts as the agency which keeps him domesticated towards his own demise.

“I must intervene in teaching the peasants that their hunger is socially constructed and work with them to help identify those responsible for this social construction, which is, in my view, a crime against humanity.” – Paulo Freire, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”

The prisoner finds himself in the same reality – our hunger, our oppression, our imprisonment is socially constructed, and identifying those who are responsible invites the most humbling rebellion into our lives as we look into the mirror of reality and realize that it is we, the mass of prisoners, who are responsible for our hunger. It is a hunger that roars throughout the belly of the beast and is perpetuated rather than satisfied by the toil of the prisoner, which is offered to the prison industrial complex like slaves sacrificed to some pagan god of old.

What we as a “prisoner class” must understand is: Each prison facility produces $250,000 to $500,000 worth of prison labor per month by way of the many domesticating jobs that maintain the facility – inmate porters, painters, plumbers, cooks, line servers, gardeners, dishwashers, tutors etc.

With the prison inmate making from 13 cents to 35 cents an hour for positions that on the outside pay from $10.50 to $35.00 per hour, it is clear that the prison industrial complex utilizes the apparatus of its authoritative agency and socially constructed domestication to convince the inmate worker to “stay in his place” within the context of his own labor and to agree and be grateful for pennies for his sweat, even when he knows his work is valued in dollars.

For me it is always mystifying to see the inmate worker putting every ounce of his energy into work that maintains the status quo of his class as “inmate worker” but won’t dedicate 16 ounces of energy towards work that confronts the reality of his own liberation, such as researching case law, earning a degree, organizing his class, interpreting his value etc.

Why would we as a prisoner class ever want to do work that helps corporations like CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) pass audits? They utilize the certification of such audits to invest in more prison building and legislation to keep us in prison.

“A particular problem is the duality of the oppressed (prisoner class): They are contradictory, divided beings, shaped by and existing in a concrete situation of oppression and violence.” – Paulo Freire, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”

The majority of out-of-state prisoners (the private CCA prison in Mississippi where Anthony is incarcerated houses “overflow” prisoners from California and other states – ed.) seem to be the most demoralized and voluntarily enslaved lump of clay in the lot. The contra­dictions that the mass of out-of-state prisoners seek – doping over doing, aiding the administration over the convict, gaming over educating, loitering over legalizing; – these are the contradictions that shape CCA environments and have enabled over 7,500 California “inmate workers” to be shipped out of state and readily exploited by corporations lined up in the collective bargaining for the prisoner’s soul.

It is interesting how this same mass of prisoners expect to share in the spoils of battles fought for prisoners’ rights. This same mass of prisoners are jolted out of their slumber, lined up in the aisles of their uncertainties, hands shaped into begging bowls, hoping that propositions like 47 fall into their laps, freeing them of their chains. This absurdity places the mass of prisoners into a catatonic state that paralyzes any chance they have of freedom for the simple fact, as Hegel testifies:

“It is solely by risking life that freedom is obtained … The individual who has not staked his or her life may, no doubt, be recognized as a person (or in case of the prisoner, a slave), but he or she has not attained the truth of this recognition as an independent, self-conscious being (a free man).” – “The Phenomenology of Mind”

The attorney general of California in her speech against Proposition 47 gave the inmate worker a glimpse at their value to the system when she posed a question as the basis of her argument for why thousands of nonviolent offenders shouldn’t be released from prison: “Who will do the work and fill all the jobs?”

This was a momentous shift from the usual propaganda of letting out “violent offenders” who will commit crimes. Because they were focusing on a class that couldn’t be labeled “violent,” they were forced to partially unveil the value of the “inmate worker” to the prison industrial complex.

This gives the prisoner class a momentous opportunity and obligation to recognize the value of our labor to the system and to use that value as a collective bargaining chip and to demand a restructuring of the prison system, based first and foremost on the recognition that we are human and because of that sole fact, Incarcerated Lives Matter.

“The oppressed must be their own example in the struggle for their redemption.” – Paulo Freire, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”

We have an opportunity to be paid an honest and fair wage, an hourly wage where at the end of the month we make enough to pay for our basic food and hygiene needs for the following month until the next pay period.

We have an opportunity to demand fair and up to date education and rehabilitative programs with certificates that are valued in the larger society, enabling us to get out and make positive and con­structive transitions into our communities. We have an opportunity to be provided decent and nutritious meals that will not only be healthy, but will taste like something meant for human consumption.

If slaves, during chattel slavery, were provided 5,000 calories a day for their labor, how is it that the “inmate worker” can’t be provided 3,000 calories per day for his labor?

We have an opportunity to be seen and treated as human beings and demand that the code of regulations, policies and the law recognize that Incarcerated Lives Matter. This recognition should not be more lip service or written as a parchment barrier with no weight of law, but should be exacting in its consequences of fines, penalties and termination for any peace officer, counselor, warden or employee found to allow or perpetrate violence upon any member of the prisoner class – violence as defined from the following perspective:

“Any situation in which ‘A’ (the prison industrial complex) objectively exploits ‘B’ (the prisoner class) or hinders his and her pursuit of self-affirmation as a responsible person is one of oppression. Such a situation in itself constitutes violence, even when sweetened by false generosity, because it interferes with the individual’s ontological and historical vocation to be more fully human. With the establishment of a relationship of oppression, violence has already begun. Violence is initiated by those who oppress, who exploit, who fail to recognize others as persons (Incarcerated Lives Matter).” – Paulo Freire, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”

The struggle begins with men’s recognition that they have been destroyed. The “inmate worker” – through neglect of confronting his value – has destroyed himself by engaging in work that deprives him of his vocation to be more fully human and instead keeps him in the category of a domesticated dependent.

We have an opportunity to confront ourselves realistically, to have a stake in a real opportunity for freedom. We have an opportunity to measure our value by putting down the hoe, putting down the broom, by putting down the domesticated labor and picking up the labor of our humanity. We must leave the crops in the field!

The only way we can have an impact on the system is to make their oppression of us a financial burden that diminishes their profits rather than increases them. One month of lost “inmate labor” throughout CCA and CDCR alone will cost them over $3 million due to their having to either contract with outside laborers, pay and fill positions utilizing corrections officers, teachers and other staff to do the work.

I am calling for the organization of a work labor strike of all prisoners, in all job positions: Don’t go fight fires, don’t report to education, to kitchen or yard crew, or as porters, painters, clerks, plumbers etc. If they use the profits from your labor to write laws to keep you in prison, what does it profit you to work for them?

If they intend for you to rot away in a cell, then let their crops rot away in the fields! If they cannot see you, then they will not free you. Make them see the value of your labor by putting away your labor – at least for two weeks, or until they raise the inmate pay a fair wage according to the value of the work that we see fit.

In Solidarity We Stand!

Send our brother some love and light: Anthony Robinson Jr., P-67144, TCCF MC-67, 415 US Hwy 49 North, Tutwiler, MS 38963.

Losing lives while gaining profit: 4 deaths in 2 months is business as usual for CCA prison

Published in the SF Bay View on February 26, 2015

by Anthony Robinson Jr.

“It should never be easy for them to destroy us.” – Comrade G

In the last two months – from Dec. 27 to Feb. 10, 2015 – four prisoners have died here at Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility, a private prison California uses to relieve its prison overcrowding; it is owned and operated by the Corrections Corporation of America, CCA. These lives were lost due to indifference, unprofessionalism and lack of adequate training.

The families of all four of these California prisoners had to pay to have the bodies of their loved ones shipped back from the prison in Mississippi to California. Neither CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) nor CCA would foot the bill.

Steve Lee was an Asian American man around 56 years of age who had spent over 15 years in prison and was due to be released in April 2015. He lost his life because a correctional counselor by the name of Strong gave him a directive to prop some chairs on top of a flimsy table to take down some Christmas decorations.

In the process of taking down the decorations – unsupported by a ladder or another human being holding the chair – Steve Lee fell as a result of the chair slipping back and cracked his head. He had to be placed on life support until it was decided to pull the plug.

Tyrone Madden, F-92969, was an African American man intending to play a pick-up game of basketball and collapsed due to a seizure. The medical staff’s response was so inadequate due to indifference and lack of training that after fumbling with their oxygen tanks and other equipment and finally arriving on the scene, they were not even equipped with the knowledge that during a seizure Tyrone had to be placed on his side so that he wouldn’t swallow his tongue. It was a lieutenant who finally placed Tyrone on his side after the prisoners were yelling for medical staff to do so. How is it that a lieutenant who isn’t properly trained in medical responses is even involved with medical emergencies?

These lives should not be written off like some tax ledger expense or covered up through corporate PR and misinformation. As Ho Chi Minh stated: “Even the prisoner can get out and help build up the society. Adversity is just a measure of one’s fidelity.” These men were fathers, sons, brothers, uncles: important pieces to the structure of someone’s life. They had the potential to get out of prison and be pillars for their communities.

These lives were lost due to indifference, unprofessionalism and lack of adequate training.

For too long, the measure of human lives from poor demographics or environments such as prison has been cut off from the metrics of humanity – and we have all suffered for it. When you have developed such a cavalier lack of concern for the life of another human being, then you begin to suffocate your own humanity. Mumia said, “I have never seen so many corpses walking around talking about freedom.”

As evidence and an admission on their part of the wrongful death of Steve Lee, CCA tried to bribe the Asian Americans and others from N Building A Section with a chicken and pizza feast, which I am proud to say that they denied with a rebel yell that spoke volumes to the fact that incarcerated lives matter. Can you imagine being offered chicken as recompense for the wrongful death of a fallen brother?

This was a blatant attempt to pay off witnesses and buy silence by a corporation that has been exposed for its intent to put profits over humanity (see “Two slaves for the price of one” articles, Parts 1, 2 and 3). We must understand that the structured forms of protesting that we have been practicing have not yielded the humane results that we seek but have only reinforced the plurality of conditions suffered by not making the proper rebuttals to the systemic causes of our oppression.

This was a blatant attempt to pay off witnesses and buy silence by a corporation that has been exposed for its intent to put profits over humanity.

To the people of true humanity and civil merit and to those individ­uals, organizations and firms who profess to work towards the civil rights of humanity: We need your work, assistance and efforts now! Will you be on the wrong side of history?

We need a mobilized, con­crete effort to accompany your protest signs and hands up movements. If the only expense you are willing to afford to this civil rights struggle is the cost of paint and markers used to decorate your signs, then your movement has failed before the paint smeared on your hands dries.

At Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility, CCA is in violation of numerous human rights and prisoners’ rights and regularly commits fraud and contractual negligence violations. We need lawyers and paralegals willing to take on CCA and CDCR for their federal 1983 civil suits and tort claims violations.

One of the reasons CCA and CDCR have been so emboldened in allowing such gross negligence and these violations to parade throughout their institutions is that the cost effective tactic to make a profit is measured against what they deem as the expense of true rehabilitation. This has become embedded more staunchly as civil rights and pro bono lawyers have shied away from prisoners’ lawsuits. The powers that be see that as permission to oppress and do away with an already out of sight, out of mind “underclass.”

These profiteers make the proper “adjustments” only when their eco­nomic bottom line is adversely affected. We must make the consequences of violating prisoners’ rights more expensive than the money they make or save by cutting corners and siphoning off rehabilitation efforts.

If your measure of humanity is more than mere lip service and your faith more than a mere apology, then contact me so that we can prove to the corporate profiteers that Incarcerated Lives Matter!

There are enough prisoners willing to stand up for their human rights once they know that the public is willing to stand up and recognize them as human. There are enough good people working here at TCCF willing to testify to the policies and illegalities of CCA regarding the inhumane treatment they are trained to perpetuate against us prisoners once they know that organizations and lawyers are willing to stand up and recognize that Incarcerated Lives Matter!

A man can be measured by the possibilities he seeks in himself and others. All power to the people who are not afraid to fight for their freedom for fear of losing their chains!

I pray that you not allow another human life to pass here at TCCF while supporting through inaction CCA’s cavalier “business as usual” attitude in regards to human suffering and death!

Send our brother some love and light: Anthony Robinson Jr., P-67144, TCCF MC 67, 415 US Hwy 49 N., Tutwiler MS 38963.

The value of Black life in America, Part 1

Published in the SF Bay View on February 17, 2015

by Anthony Robinson Jr.

The Black man “had no rights that a white man was bound to respect.” – U.S. Supreme Court opinion in Dred Scott

Dred Scott is buried about a mile down the same road from where Mike Brown was murdered.

Dred Scott is buried about a mile down the same road from where Mike Brown was murdered.

The same mindset that allows a police officer to summarily execute an innocent, unarmed Black person in the street is the same mindset that allows an officer to plant evidence and lie on the witness stand. It allows a judge to appoint a knowingly incompetent defense attorney, and it allows a prosecutor to withhold evidence, use false evidence, to overcharge and to discriminate with impunity.

What is at stake is the most important civil rights issue for generations to come: the value of Black life in america and the massive incarceration of Blacks and other people of color.

A people can only expect to live well in a society according to the rubric of how they are valued by that society.

While it is tragic to witness another Black man in america shot by the police, it is even more tragic to witness a people so in denial about their value in the society that they fail to recognize the symmetry in the modern forms of lynching that have become acceptable: instead of hanging “niggers,” they gun ‘em down – and leave their bodies on display for hours.

While it is tragic to witness babies being torn from the arms of mothers who are carted off to prison because the state has not sanctioned their means of providing for their families, it is even more tragic to witness a people so in denial about their value in the society that they fail to recognize the analogous Willy Lynch separation of mother and child in order to break the family units and instill a divide and conquer stratagem, where generations to come will be content with being separate in their cultural identification but equal in the brutalizing torture endured by the society in general.

While it is tragic to witness the effects on our children of laws that are passed which make it easier to prosecute Black teens as adults than to prosecute policemen for gunning down innocent Black men, women and children, it is even more tragic to witness a people so in denial about their value in the society that they fail to recognize that the value of their children – from a societal perspective – is no different now than it was during the tragic death of Emmett Till.

While it is true that Blacks have endured a lot of tragic moments in America, especially those living the gallows of the ghetto, it is even more true that Black people in america can look forward to even more of these tragic “raisin in the sun” moments, as these killings, stalkings, entrappings, incarceratings etc. are just effects of the problem and not the cause. Until we as a people, as a community, as a society get serious about dealing with the cause of these tragic moments – the value of Black life in america – we can look forward to more Oscar Grant “incidents,” more Trayvon Martins, more Mike Browns.

It is interesting how we have been organized and mobilized behind these tragic effects, yet few movements and organizations have had the audacity to organize and seek solutions to their cause. This is partly due to the fact that the people most aptly attuned to address the cause – Blacks in america – unfortunately have helped to perpetuate the cause against themselves. (See my “Two slaves for the price of one” articles – Parts 1, 2 and 3.)

There is a narrative that has been smuggled – like slaves on a cargo ship – into the cultural subconscious of america that says, “Black people, as evidenced by how they live and interact with each other, don’t value their own lives, so why should we?” We are confronted with this narrative in america daily through the institutionalized tools and state sanctioned oppression deployed against us at will – police shootings, beatings, incarceratings.

Anthony Robinson Jr. showing the SF Bay View Newspaper

Anthony Robinson Jr.

As I sit here reading the December 2014 Bay View paper, it is interesting that despite having a Black president, Black people still must put the emphatic symbol of their agitation on a T-shirt that reads: “#Blacklivesmatter.” A protest navigating through the wilderness of a question, a self-reflective question staring back from the mirror of reality, waiting for the gaze of a people who can’t look forward because they are too afraid of losing looking back.

Ferguson was not a new lesson or protracted politics revealing the reactionary mathematics of the government. Ferguson was a prophetic reminder of the saying, “A people who refuse to learn from their history are forced to repeat it.” In a cause and effect relationship, there’s even mathematics applied.

We need to orient our thinking and calculate our steps behind this premise: If the value of Black life in america is the cause, then the organized state sanctioned oppression inflicted upon Black lives every day in america is the effect. The police seizure of property and “justifying” their actions by writing the theft into the law is the same as the police seizure of an unarmed Black life – which they see as nothing but property – and justifying it just the same with their “justice system,” deeming it a justifiable homicide.

In a country where district attorneys are trained to lead witnesses, overcharge for crimes they can’t prove, plant evidence, and win without regard for the law in service of protecting the law, how is it that District Attorney Robert P. McCulloch could not sieve an indictment from the grand jury even on the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter of an unarmed Black man with his hands raised in the air? The value of Black life in america, that’s how!

“I understood the problems plaguing poor communities of color, including problems associated with crime and rising incarceration rates, to be a function of poverty and lack of access to quality education – the continuing legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.” – Michelle Alexander

The three social cues that reveal the value of Black life in america to an unapologetic populace are mass incarceration of Blacks and other people of color – and the laws that target them – lack of access to quality education and the senseless killings of Blacks in america. These three social cues, if perpetrated upon any other race in America, would solicit a national crisis, but because they are perpetrated upon Blacks, there’s barely a whisper.

The sad part is the reality that even amongst Blacks, there’s barely a whisper – as if our voices and struggles have become confined within the margins of other people’s expectations and valuations of us. How are we as a people not mobilized and organized through indignation to at least become conscious enough to see our organs, i.e., our families, communities, churches and every cultural medium through which we act as political instruments exercised to gain us power by the only means practical, the value of Black life in america.

“Mass incarceration is the most damaging manifestation of the backlash against the civil rights movement.” – Michelle Alexander

Through mass incarceration they have taken back all of the rights gained for Black men and women through the civil rights movement. With all the motives and policies that disenfranchise felons from not only their own communities, but society at large, it is more than interesting to note that the same exclusionary tactics that boxed Blacks out of society in the Jim Crow era and Reconstruction era seek the same end now, legalized in the prison industrial complex era: discrimination in hiring, housing, education and voting are now accepted again as long as Blacks (“felons”) are biting the bullet.

Through mass incarceration they have taken back all of the rights gained for Black men and women through the civil rights movement.

By convincing him that he has no value, the prison industrial complex targets the Black man’s ideals and social cues, forcing him to register such a low estimation of himself that he takes as his portion the state sanctioned oppression which the law in its humanity accords to him.

“In a landmark decision by the Virginia Supreme Court, Ruffin v. Commonwealth, issued at the height of Southern redemption, the court puts to rest any notion that convicts were legally distinguishable from slaves. For a time, during his service in the penitentiary, he is in a state of penal servitude to the state. He has, as a consequence of his crime, not only forfeited his liberty, but all his personal rights except those which the law in its humanity accords to him. He is for the time being a slave of the state.” – “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander

For those of you that support the prison industrial complex’s institutionalization of massive incarceration of Black men and other people of color, you are aiding and abetting the legislative plantation owners’ continuation of the system of slavery through the penal system – the first system sought to control the newly freed slaves by placing them back into the conditions of chattels with the commonly utilized legislative pen as the bullwhip – a condition that became meticulously sewn into the fabric of america to such a degree that the unapologetic populace, even amongst people of color, have sat back and marveled at the parallel “prima facie” systems of slavery built into the prison industrial complex – for example, working long hours for little or no pay.

And Blacks and other people of color not only work for these plantations, but they seek employment in these plantations with such destitute and deplorable conditions that a lot of them are lulled back into a system of slavery not only by the physical and logistical parallels of slavery, but also by the parallel expectations that slaves had of themselves based on the low estimation plantation owners had of them.

“Black men in the U.S. fortunate enough to live past 18 are conditioned to accept the inevitability of prison. For most of us, it simply looms as the next phase in a sequence of humiliations. Being born a slave in a captive society and never experiencing any objective basis for expectation had the effect of preparing me for the progressively traumatic misfortunes that lead so many Black men to the prison gate. I was prepared for prison; it required only a minor psychic adjustment.” – George Jackson

Their laws, their policies, their capital, their modus operandi has targeted our men, women and children and communities for too long. We have been auctioned off and placed in stocks in america for too long.

The value of Black life in america is the pressing issue. How many slaves will have to be freed at the point of this exhaustive pen before we realize that in all of these “incidents” they are targeting our existence with impunity.

We have allowed them to become so comfortable with targeting and policing our communities that Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley had the audacity to introduce a plan under “The Justice Reinvestment Initiative” to build satellite prisons in poor Black communities and call it “community corrections.” Prompting the ACLU Sentencing Project to report, “The Justice Reinvestment Initiative, as it has come to operate, runs the danger of institutionalizing mass incarceration at current levels.”

Unfortunately we have already reached that point in america where the mass incarceration of Black men and other people of color has become institutionalized not only in the fabric of america, but in the collective subconscious of the American populace. Although it is a fact, statistically, that 70 percent of the crime in america is committed by whites, Blacks and other people of color make up over 70 percent of the prison population.

They are targeting our existence with impunity.

As expressed by one Alabama planter, “We have the power to pass stringent police laws to govern the Negroes. This is a blessing, for they must be controlled in some way or white people cannot live among them.”

“The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its Black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid. In Washington D.C., our nation’s capital, it is estimated that three out of four young Black men (and nearly all those in the poorest neighborhoods) can expect to serve time in prison.” – “The New Jim Crow”

As Blacks and other people of color in america, we are facing the eruption of a moment of truth so connected to our future existence in this country, that if we fail to stare down the effects of our reality and face the cause (the value of Black life in america), then we will be deservedly remembered as the race which polluted the air of humanity by supporting the institutionalization of mass incarceration.

Harriet Tubman, who freed hundreds of slaves, always regretted the fact that she could have freed thousands more if only they knew they were slaves. The NEW underground railroad and The Free Alabama Movement refuse to march forward with the same regret. We understand that for those of us affected and targeted by mass incarceration, it’s our turn to act. We have to leave the crops in the field.

“When the innocent, mentally ill and the guilty are enslaved under the same oppression simply because the system deems you expendable (the value of Black life in america) then I recommend that you’d better resist too, or else you will suffer the most ignoble fate known to humanity: dying as a slave of old age. It is far better to die fighting for your liberation, freedom and honor that it is to live a life of service and docility, constantly enduring abuse by your master.” – Spokesperson Ray of Free Alabama Moment

I would ask the reader to please keep an open mind to your own measure of courage and ability to abolish this institution of massive incarceration of Black men and other people of color. The most difficult part of any revolution is convincing people to boot up and take that first step, but this is also the most enduring.

The prison industrial complex is using your labor, your votes, your taxes, your silent consent to promote and perpetuate the system; therefore, if you cut off your labor, re-align your votes, and demand that your taxes be used to free rather than enslave people, you will shut down the system’s vital organs. Everyone affected by the institutionalization of mass incarceration, whether by profit or liability, has a pivotal role to play in the abolition of this enslavement.

I would ask the reader to please keep an open mind to your own measure of courage and ability to abolish this institution of massive incarceration of Black men and other people of color.

The first step for many of you reading this will be to re-evaluate your perspective on crime and punishment and your superstitious beliefs in the justice system, determining what psychic adjustments or hallucinations you have made to accept a system more devastating than apartheid.

Hitler bought insurance policies on biological property – the soldiers. When that money was gone, he insured prisoners, and he put a lot of people into prison. The United States of america is copying Hitler, putting people in prison and bonding them.

The U.S. has amassed huge amounts of money based on mass incarceration and warehousing of slaves. In the beginning of 2014, California added hundreds of new “laws” to its books – on top of the thousands of laws already existing. Why is america in such a race to enslave, entrap and incarcerate?

“Before democracy, chattel slavery existed in america.” – Michelle Alexander

Through the prison industrial complex and institutionalization of mass incarceration, the Corrections Corporation of america and other mega-corporations have found a way to profit off of their favorite pastime – chattel slavery.

When history awakens from its slumber to recite to God the accounts of man, will america’s blurb read, “a society so indebted to the whores of commerce that they sought to enslave men rather than free them.”

Send our brother some love and light: Anthony C. Robinson Jr., P-67144, TCCF MC-67, 415 US Hwy 49 North, Tutwiler MS 38963; Anthony is a California prisoner held in a private CCA prison in Mississippi. His series, “Two slaves for the price of one,” is being made into a movie that is expected to be released this year.

Strange Fruit

The cherry blossoms
with a bullet in its pit
because its roots have been watered
by the muffled screams of slaves hanging
from its branches …
A child plants a prayer
in the garden of his mother’s mind
next to his father’s broken dreams;
she raises him on bitter milk and cold cereal:
a meal she deems fitting to prepare him for the world.
I sometimes wonder if Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant
are in heaven writing an epistle to the people on the same bullet?
I imagine it would read:

To the Black and minority people of revolutionary merit,
our communities have become the death blossoms
that the power structure in america uses as rationalizations
to parade its paramilitary and institutionalized
mass incarcerating agendas to wipe out a colorless class …
Colorless in regards to any political hue that would give
us the power to paint our visions with the vibrant expressions
of self-determination to act in our communities and in the
world as productive contributors to the will of humanity.
Remember, our lives were taken with the consent of state
sanctioned jurisprudence under the watch of a Black president.
We wanted our lives to be more than a few sad songs and photographs
pasted onto the collective subconscious of the american people.
We see the true people of merit organizing, protesting, marching …
We’ve tuned in so much to the rhythms of the people’s heart
for change that we threw a concert in heaven so that we could
watch the angels dance.
Some of them hadn’t cut up in a while.
We are tired of dancing, but we’re noticing that the music
is getting louder. Please, don’t let them stop the music;
now it seems we can’t rest without it.

Sincerely, Trayvon and Oscar

The cherry blossoms fall from their stems willingly
in order to be free of the noose.
Falling with the determined strength to live free,
they plunge into the soil similar to slaves overboard cargo ships
plunging into the ocean with the purest memory of freedom in their hearts …
Black and minority people have been pitted against so many
antagonisms and contradictions that it is hard for us
to recognize the value of our seed.
Maybe it is more important for us to remember the source from which
our water is gathered: inner strengths like love, faith and determination …
Yes! We are proudly recognizing that we are strange fruit
in america – strange because once we blossom into the people
we are meant to be, only God will recognize our names …

– Anthony Robinson Jr.

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Inside a CCA private prison: Two slaves for the price of one, Part Three

Published in the SF Bay View on November 8, 2014

The People vs. CCA

by Anthony Robinson Jr.

“How frightening it is to see people choose not to see what’s in front of them.” – Stuart Grassian, Massachusetts psychiatrist

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) pulls the slave straight from the cotton field and gives him a whistle, badge and uniform with a slave wage that convinces his conscience that he’s been promoted to the prestigious status of “house nigga.”

The symbolic vestige of these trinkets that come with employment places the chattel employee of CCA in a peculiar predicament: They know that they’ve been bought and sold to the plantation owner but their desperation and fear of going back to being an old cotton pickin’ nigga in one of the many fields in Mississippi – literally – convinces them to be agents against human rights, justice and God.

CCA doesn’t value its employees enough to pay them a living wage but uses their pay as a collective bargained incentive to convince the employee to sell CCA not only their labor, but their morals, ethics and education. The interesting thing about this dynamic is that most of the employees you talk to here at Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility (TCCF) – who have the courage to be honest in the moment – will tell you that they don’t agree, nor can they make sense of a lot of the policies CCA forces them to follow.

This is analogous to the Willy Lynch syndrome where the plantation owner was taught to pit one slave against the other. But here, the chattel employee of CCA (at least the one of color) is pitted against other people of color and is convinced and trained to disregard the humanity of his shackled and chained brothers and sisters and go against his God-given right and liberty to pursue happiness in a self-determined way.

Some people would say that I am taking a risk exposing the truth about CCA and TCCF in particular; but as a revolutionary for humanity, I must place my heart in the eye of the storm and look oppression dead in the face and articulate the sentiments of the people of true merit.

Like Ferguson reaching the tipping point in order for the rally cry and war song of the people to be heard, my “Two Slaves for the Price of One” articles empathize with that same tipping point to express to both the slave and the slavemaster that CCA is on the wrong side of history. And the day is coming when they will be held accountable for marching against King’s Dream and becoming what Langston Hughes referred to as “a raisin in the sun,” i.e. the consequences of a dream deferred.

We as a society have to face the audacity in the question: Is the rehabilitation of American prisoners a right or a privilege; and who is it that we owe this right or privilege: the prisoner, society or both?

As Michelle Alexander so eloquently stated in “The New Jim Crow”:

“If Martin Luther King Jr. is right that the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice, a new movement will arise; and if civil rights organizations fail to keep up with the times, they will be pushed to the side as another generation of advocates comes to the fore. Hopefully the new generation of advocates will be led by those who know best the brutality of the new caste system – a group with greater vision, courage, and determination than the old guard can muster, trapped as they may be in an outdated paradigm. This new generation of activists should not disrespect their elders or disparage their contributions or achievements; to the contrary, they should bow their heads in respect, for their forerunners have expended untold hours and made great sacrifices in an elusive quest for justice. But once respects have been paid, they should march right past them, emboldened, as King once said, by the fierce urgency of now.

“Those of us who hope to be their allies should not be surprised, if and when this day comes, that when those who have been locked up and locked out finally have the chance to speak and truly be heard, what we hear is rage. The rage may frighten us; it may remind us of riots, uprisings, and buildings aflame [think of Ferguson]. We may be tempted to control it, or douse it with buckets of doubt, dismay, and disbelief. But we should do no such thing. Instead, when a young man who was born in the ghetto and who knows little of life beyond the walls of his prison cell and the invisible cage that has become his life, turns to us in bewilderment and rage, we should do nothing more than look him in the eye and tell him the truth. We should tell him the same truth the great African American writer James Baldwin told his nephew in a letter published in 1962, in one of the most extraordinary books ever written, “The Fire Next Time.” With great passion and searing conviction, Baldwin had this to say to his young nephew:

“‘This is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen, and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it … . It is their innocence which constitutes the crime. … This innocent country set you down in a ghetto in which, in fact, it intended that you should perish. … You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity, and in as many ways as possible, that you were a worthless human being. … But these men are your brothers – your lost, younger brothers. And if the word integration means anything, this is what it means; that we, with love, shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it. … [W]e can make America what it must become. It will be hard, but you come from sturdy, peasant stock, men who picked cotton and dammed rivers and built railroads, and, in the teeth of the most terrifying odds, achieved an unassailable and monumental dignity. … “The very time I thought I was lost, my dungeon shook and my chains fell off.” … We cannot be free until they are free!’” (Pages 260-61; Baldwin quote comes from “The Fire Next Time” (New York: Vintage, 1962, 1993), 5-10.)

This is what the American populace must resonate within their own conscience. “The criminal justice system was strategically employed to force African Americans back into a system of extreme repression and control, a tactic that would continue to prove successful for generations to come.” (Alexander, p. 32.)

“One in three young African American men will serve time in prison if current trends continue, and in some cities more than half of all young adult Black men are currently under correctional control – in prison or jail, on probation or parole. Yet mass incarceration tends to be categorized as a criminal justice issue as opposed to a racial justice or civil rights issue (or crisis).” (Alexander, p. 9.)

What is on the table, specifically and generally, is the value of Black life in America. In America a Black man, woman or child is killed by law enforcement every 28 hours and arrested by the police every 45 seconds. This fact is more than a statistic – it is genocide!

Why isn’t the mass incarceration of Black men, women and children a civil rights issue? One reason is that CCA and CDCR expend a lot of resources in making sure that their need to fill prisons is fulfilled. And what better commodity to exploit than an ignorant, cotton pickin’ nigga raised under a Confederate flag?

Since CCA’s founding in 1983, the incarcerated population has risen by more than 500 percent to more than 2.2 million people. It seems that the chattel employees of CCA are so desperately destitute that they do not have the courage to step off of the auction block and seek more self-determined employment opportunities or to create opportunities for themselves.

Just as Harriet Tubman had to rescue her own husband from slavery at gunpoint, I am attempting to rescue the chattel employee of CCA here in Mississippi with the canon fire of my “Two Slaves” articles.

But even Harriet utilized the assistance of the Underground Railroad, and so I am calling on the American people of true merit to make a restitution to humanity and support this new underground railroad!

We are the new generation of activists emboldened by the fierce urgency of now. We are those who best understand the brutality and inhumanity of the system. We are those who have been swallowed by the monster – the prison industrial complex – but who have not gone down easily into the belly of the beast but have become lodged in his throat. And we recognize now that we are in the best position to take the monster’s pulse and gauge his strength, preparing for the day when we are organized and disciplined enough to cut the head off of the monster.

This is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen: For too long you have supported the disproportionate imprisonment and slaughter of African Americans at a rate which is genocidal in act, degree and implication. Those innocents who believe that our imprisonment makes them safe are losing their grasp on reality. As Cornel West said, “There is no doubt that if young white people were incarcerated at the same rate as young Black people, the issue would be a national emergency.”

Until we understand and admit that African Americans have been intrinsically tied to the negative connotations associated with the word “criminal” in order for the private prison profiteers to earn more and more from this recycled commodity, we will fail to see this as a civil rights movement and the arc of American history will continue to bend towards injustice.

“The fate of millions of people – indeed the future of the Black community itself – may depend on the willingness of those who care about racial justice to re-examine their basic assumptions about the role of the criminal justice system in our society,” according to “The New Jim Crow.” (Alexander, p. 16.)

“Sociologists have frequently observed that governments use punishment as a tool of social control, and thus the extent or severity of punishment is often unrelated to actual crime patterns.” (Alexander, p. 7.)

It doesn’t take much research to discern that criminal “justice” policy is not motivated by an interest in a crime-free society; in fact, a crime-free society would cause CEO profits and shareholder returns to plummet. So the interest in public safety is not the determining factor behind criminal justice policy.

In fact, CCA and corporations like it would see crime and punishment increase as a direct investment in assuring more profits.

Justin Jones writes in Prison Legal News: “Here’s how the scheme works: Private prisons create demand for their services much like drug dealers ensure that their customers are addicted … [The lawmaker comes to need the outlaw and, in needing him, he creates him.] These companies [such as CCA] inject their lobbying dollars and campaign contributions into the political world, contributing to a climate in which no one can be reelected by appearing soft on crime. The result is a machine that passes laws to ensure more and more people flow into prisons, regardless of whether society actually is made better by having these people behind bars.

“The bottom line is that private prisons’ current business plans simply cannot coexist with meaningful evidence-based sentencing reform. If we want a fair and smart system, we have to cut these dangerous pushers out of the deal entirely. We need to replace profit-seeking policies with proven, evidence-based ways to end mass incarceration while keeping our communities safe.” – Justin Jones, “How to Starve the For-Profit Prison Beast” (Prison Legal News, August 2014, p. 20.)

“Peddle pushers” is the perfect word to describe these CCA employees, and even the policies and rules can be traced to peddle-pushing tactics and transactions because CCA only enforces the rules that make them a profit. (The practice of incarcerating one state’s prisoners in a private prison in another state is sometimes called “peddling” prisoners. – ed.)

In fact, CCA and corporations like it would see crime and punishment increase as a direct investment in assuring more profits.

 

Here at TCCF (CCA in Mississippi), they are literally committing fraud and embezzlement in every department, from religious services to the kitchen (unregulated Kosher diets due to theft), to job assignments (where Jobs Coordinator J. Brady is denying inmates pay in order to receive a bonus). Due to the specific intent of this article, I will not go into specific details until speaking with attorneys, but I will be detailing these crimes in future articles!

As fantastic as the realities described herein may seem, is it any wonder (when you think about it) that a corporation which has expended so much time and resources in passing laws and regulations to induce a criminal state of nature in society – is it any wonder that this same corporation would allow that same criminal state of nature to exist in the workplace?

We have been convinced to perpetually pay homage to CCA’s interests by depending continually on a system which sets the parameters of our freedom by criminalizing our acts of defiance and demands for social equality. If they can convince you that speaking out against injustice is against the law – as in Ferguson – then they have effectively turned the law against you. And a people who are raised with the belief that the law works against them will break themselves against the law in a rebellion out of the desperation of seeing no other option for salvation.

CCA is the corporation that sent Kamala Grant to Mississippi as a cost-cutting measure, which further exposes their cancerous peddle-pushing intent and policies. Kamala Grant, as warden over inmate programs, has instituted some of the most draconian and debilitating program regulations and policies ever. Kamala Grant has been the most oppressive Assistant Warden (AW) at TCCF in regards to religious programs; she has made numerous attempts to take away our college program.

Grant is attempting now to deny religious groups who are paying for their own feast the right to choose what food items they spend their money on, attempting to limit religious feasts while at the same time applying no limit to corporate sponsored food sales where she illegally solicits funds directly from inmates.

Kamala Grant has also caused Chaplain Jacque Steubbel to have a heart attack while being bullied and harassed by Grant. Chaplain Steubbel is an elderly white veteran and ADA patient who has had to endure constant attacks and harassment by AW Grant because she attempted to bring some much needed humanity to the chaplaincy department here at TCCF.

The world needs to know about people like Kamala Grant and oppressive acts that not only inflict detriment on the lives of prisoners and their families but also the innocent civilians who work with these types of people. For this reason and this reason alone, I will start including the first and last names of these chattel employees of CCA.

With so many movements and campaigns organizing with a hands up strategy, you’d think the sky is falling, but the reality is the sky is fixed in its station due to divine order; but what is falling, what has fallen is American civil liberties. If you flip through the pages of American history – knowing that governments are instituted by the people and for the people – how is it that the American people through the consent of their raised hands are not guilty of crimes against humanity?

The biggest civil rights issue we are faced with today is the race to incarcerate millions of Americans for profit. Not law and order, but profit. Mothers are being torn from the arms of their babies, sons are following the cold links of shackles and chains, meeting fathers for the first time in a prison, grandparents grow old in houses they’d envisioned leaving to grandchildren only to find themselves isolated and alone.

Their only company: the words of grandchildren, sons and daughters written from prison. All this turmoil, all this suffering, not for the sake of law and order but to enslave and profit off of people. Is this the America we salute?

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.”

America has been guilty, and suffering in its guilt, for too long, for coddling the system of slavery. Rather than seeking to be totally exonerated from such an abomination, America sought to preserve slavery via the penal system. It is time now that we as a people bend the arc of history towards justice and say no to slavery in any form.

The new underground railroad needs all the energy, love and support of those citizens who will not pass on to the next life with bloodstained hands. Take action now: Starting with the re-evaluation of how you see the prison industrial complex and “justice” system, dare to question why prisons are being built and bought more rapidly than colleges. Last but not least, STOP supporting the profit margins of this system: Demand that your taxes be put to better use.

Boycott all companies, businesses and corporations that do business with CCA, CDCR, Trinity, HIG, Swanson etc., if only for a week.

Until we put more value in rehabilitating human beings rather than exploiting them, the system of slavery will go on. And for those who don’t deem it a problem because ethnically you feel you are exempt: how long once all the niggas and minorities are locked up until CCA comes for you and yours? The system has to feed itself if the people won’t starve it.

How frightening indeed it is to see people choose not to see what’s in front of them.

Until we put more value in rehabilitating human beings rather than exploiting them, the system of slavery will go on. And for those who don’t deem it a problem because ethnically you feel you are exempt: how long once all the niggas and minorities are locked up until CCA comes for you and yours? The system has to feed itself if the people won’t starve it.

Send our brother some love and light: Anthony Robinson Jr., P-67144, TCCF MC-67, 415 US Hwy 49 North, Tutwiler, MS, 3896. Anthony is also the author of “Incarcerated Tears: Book of Poems Volume 1,” which can be purchased at buybooksontheweb.com or by writing to him. After reading Part One of this story, “Inside a CCA private prison: Two slaves for the price of one,” a filmmaker contacted Anthony and they are working together on a documentary on private prisons. Read Part Two here. This story was edited by Tynan Krakoff.

Inside a CCA private prison: Two slaves for the price of one, Part Two

Published in the SF Bay View on July 25, 2014

by Anthony Robinson Jr.

“The slave went free, stood a brief moment in the sun, then moved back again towards slavery.” – W.E.B. Du Bois, “Black Reconstruction”

Anthony Robinson Jr.In 1973, the National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals issued a report which stated in part:

“The prison, the reformatory and the jail have achieved only a shocking record of failure. There is overwhelming evidence that these institutions create crime rather than prevent it.”

This same report stated directly:

“No new institutions for adults should be built and existing institutions for juveniles should be closed.”

It is interesting to note that since the 1980s, California has built 30 new prisons and only one new university, blatantly revealing the state’s intentions for poor people of color.

In an America where commodification is the new religion, a few have sold the public on the need for prisons while selling actual prison labor to corporations. Crime and punishment have become a necessitating cycle of control and disenfranchisement of poor people, measuring the will, grit and audacity of its victims on one hand, while also measuring the hope, nerve and humanity of the public on the other hand.

CCA was founded on the principle that you could sell prisons “just like you were selling cars or real estate or hamburgers,” according to a statement by Tom Beasley, one of the co-founders of Corrections Corporation of America. Since the company’s founding in 1983, the incarcerated population has risen by more than 500 percent, to more than 2.2 million people.

The 2005 annual report for the Corrections Corporation of America matter-of-factly explained the vested interests of private prisons in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission: “Our growth is generally dependent upon our ability to obtain new contracts to develop and manage new correctional and detention facilities. This possible growth depends on a number of factors we cannot control, including crime rates and sentencing patterns in various jurisdictions, and acceptance of privatization.”

The damning report went on to say: “The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction and sentencing practices, or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.”

In 2012, CCA’s revenue exceeded more than $1.7 billion. We would be foolish not to assume that an efficient amount of this revenue isn’t being utilized to ensure that for-profit prisons are perpetuated as relevant commodities woven into the fabric of America. Prison profiteers are writing laws, signing bills, passing legislation and handing out sentences that take us back to the auction block as they price and sell our humanity.

As I said in Part One of “Two slaves for the price of one”: “If they can convince you that speaking out against injustice” – even in the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility (TCCF) workplace – “is against the law, then they have effectively turned the law against you. And a people who are raised with the belief that the law works against them,” even employment policies and regulations, “will break themselves against it in a rebellion out of the desperation of seeing no other option.”

CCA is the villain they follow out of that desperation. CCA seeks to train the humanity out of their employees to the point where poor people of color become so confined in their thinking that they adopt such a meager perspective and vision of the world, their aspirations in life rarely step outside the gates of the plantation.

Prison profiteers are writing laws, signing bills, passing legislation and handing out sentences that take us back to the auction block as they price and sell our humanity.

CCA shareholder Alex Friedman denounced an executive decision by CCA board chairman John D. Ferguson to refuse his request for a moment of silence to remember 24-year-old CCA employee Catlin Carithers, who was killed May 20, 2012, during a riot at CCA’s Adams County Correctional Facility in Natchez, Miss. Friedman said the denial “speaks volumes about how the company thinks of its employees and how it treats them,” according to a Clarion Ledger article reprinted in Prison Legal News.

What else are we to expect from this master vs. slave relationship?

 

CCA’s cost-cutting measures have frequently resulted in practices like reducing employee benefits and salaries, operating on routinely low and dangerous staff-to-prisoner ratios, and not offering sufficient staff training.

In 2011, CCA purchased Lake Erie Correctional Institution from Ohio for $72.7 million. According to Chris Kirkham’s Feb. 2, 2013, Huffington Post article, “Lake Erie Correctional Institution, Ohio Private Prison, Faces Concerns About ‘Unacceptable’ Conditions,” state audits found staff mismanagement, widespread violence, delays in medical treatment and “unacceptable living conditions.”

Neither Part One nor Part Two of my essays, “Two slaves for the price of one,” was intended to be an attack on the poor and oppressed prisoners who found themselves auctioned off and sold out of state, or the employees who migrated to the plantation seeking employment inspired by the need to escape the shackles of impoverished circumstances, opportunities and job markets.

This work is intended to resurrect the rebellion of Harriet Tubman and Nat Turner situated somewhere deep within the heart of both slaves, so that they measure their lives against the index finger of God, which directs them towards a purpose and gives value to their lives by allowing them to be of service to themselves and each other.

CCA has perfected the art of selling the downtrodden the masquerade of the veneer of success on a material basis alone. People will butcher their lives and the lives of others in order to “get theirs” by any means necessary, even if it means selling prisons to their own brothers and sisters. We have become so used to tasting blood from being hit in the mouth by oppressive realities that we are the tangible vampires – of our people’s blood – that were only mythical in origin.

We have seen in Part One that slavery is about cheap labor rather than race. So if you refuse to prepare your mind for the opportunity to earn a “living wage,” forcing yourself to work for others as cheap labor, aren’t you, and will you not remain, a slave?

CCA, whose power, prestige and interest rely on slave (cheap) labor, has created a system which entices its employees to submit to the idea that the bondage, oppression and exploitation of other poor and oppressed people are acceptable. My question is this: If you work at a prison for over 12 hours a day, go home for a few hours to eat, rest, bear children, etc., only to come back to the slave plantation or prison day in and day out for years upon years, how free can you be?

This perspective is analogous to the Nazi slave camps, or internment camps. Do you really think that those who worked in the Nazi slave camps could claim to fit the humane definition of freedom that Americans take pride in – just because they were allowed to go home and rest a few hours? Would you consider a Nazi free?

To the employees here at TCCF: You must ask yourselves, is this the fate you wish for your children? No longer is it feasible to hang onto the excuse that “I’m doing this so they won’t have to.” Children often follow in the footsteps that their parents thought they covered up.

The nature of CCA implicitly wants your children to enter its gates as well; but if you think CCA would rather have them as employees instead of convict laboring slaves, then you need to educate yourself on the prisons-for-profit corporation that you work for. While Blacks make up about 14 percent of the U.S. population, we are over half the prison population. Look at your child; is he or she Black?

CCA is currently lobbying politicians and writing legislation to ensure that the prison population is comprised of more, not fewer, Blacks. Do you think they have any sympathy because it’s an employee’s child? Of course not. They hope that they have trained you so well that you will be working right alongside your child: one a ward of the system and the other an employee of the system, both slaving away to protect the corporate interest.

To the other slave who comprises the inmate population, have the courage to get serious about your life. Stop contributing to the “death blossoms” by watering the seeds of your own oppression by shooting up, throwing up and essentially giving up. Make the decision to no longer be a cog in the wheel of the prison industrial complex. “It is our duty to fight for our freedom,” said the sista Assata Shakur. “We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

Will you continue to applaud a system that sends you to a plantation hundreds of miles away from your community, strips you of basic human rights, brands you a slave, exchanges your natural name for a prison number and provides you with fewer calories a day than what was given to slaves on plantations in the 1700s during chattel slavery?

It is time for the slaves to wake up and see that you are standing in the crossfire with your neck in a noose. Only you can decide enough is enough and save yourself through constructive, practical application. As a result of choosing not to market death and imprisonment, you save not only yourselves and immediate family, but generations whom CCA and CDCR would prefer to be the slaves of the future.

“We have a momentous historical role to act out if we will. The whole world for all time in the future will love us and remember us as the righteous people who made it possible for the world to live on. If we fail through fear and lack of aggressive imagination, then the slaves of the future will curse us, as we sometimes curse those of yesterday.” – George Lester Jackson

The noose has you in its line of sight. Will you voluntarily walk up and put your head in it just to experience what it feels like? That’s what you are doing with your actions every day that support the continuity of this system of mass imprisonment of poor people of color for profit.

“Because slavery is the basis of the U.S. prison system, as embodied in the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, this same resort to brutality and violence to exert ‘control’ pervades it,” writes Kevin “Rashid” Johnson in “Razor Wire Plantations.”

“So as was done with the slaves, U.S. prisoners are projected to the public as objects of suspicion, fear, ridicule and hate. In this sense, we are the new ‘niggers.’ And when guards wish to demean us, we’re often told we’re only ‘inmates,’ ‘offenders’ etc., which means something less than human. …

“Once U.S. prisons are recognized to be a system of enslavement and the lie is exposed that slavery in America was ever abolished, the abusive conditions that pervade them make perfect sense.”

The “American dream” for an inordinate number of Black men and other people of color is becoming a pipeline to prison. They have devised a system through policies, regulations and laws that allow them to hunt, stalk, round up and target poor Black and minority men and women at will, shackle them and ship them off to plantations hundreds of miles away from their communities. All in the name of capitalism!

It is interesting how we can be so disenfranchised from our humanity as a people that we can watch “society” celebrate a movie like “12 Years a Slave” and not make the connection to the fact that Solomon Northups are still being hunted and placed into slavery, considering the number of Black men who are put into prison every day.

In order for CCA to profit, they need to maintain the ability to build or buy prisons. But more compelling than their need for prisons is their need to fill these prisons with not only poor, uneducated prisoners, but poor, uneducated staff to operate and facilitate these plantations. And because it is easier to train the humanity out of a people who never had a high estimation of themselves to begin with, CCA builds its plantations in rural areas where the pool of potential employees is desperate for work of any kind that can provide some sustenance for their families.

“Men are so constituted that they derive their conviction of their own possibilities largely from the estimate formed of them by others. If nothing is expected of a people, that people will find it difficult to contradict that expectation.” – Frederick Douglass

Will the two slaves continue to allow CCA to profit off of them by selling them such a low estimation of themselves that they labor to perpetuate an inhumane system profiting from the imprisonment of poor, oppressed people of color who look, act, talk, walk and pray like you?

We can help get rid of the lawmakers by making the necessary adjustments in our lives that make it difficult for them to create the outlaw.

Employees of TCCF: Please unwrap the Confederate flag off your mind and consider the fact that when you write up an “inmate resident” for minor offenses like clothing lines, window covers and crossing red lines, you are adding 30 days or more to that man’s sentence; this not only extends CCA’s profit by perpetuating the imprisonment, but it also increases your own oppression by extending the lease of your cheap labor on the plantation.

To the “inmate residents” at TCCF, stop putting yourself in the mouse trap by not being organized enough to control your behavioral patterns which allow you to be targeted for “serious rules violations” that add days to your sentence. You must keep in mind, “It is impossible for us to break the law. We can only break ourselves against the law.” – Cecil B. DeMille

Not all employees at TCCF are so enslaved that they take pride in extending the oppressive measures of inhumanity that CCA trains them to applaud – just as not all prisoners here at TCCF contribute to the degradation and oppression of this environment.

We each must decide individually the impact we would like our conduct and humanity to contribute to in freeing or further imprisoning future generations. Until a people can see themselves in the context of how their behavioral patterns reveal the direction their lives are headed, they will never have the intellectual and emotional courage to truly march towards freedom in the exercise of their daily lives!

My hope is that the two slaves will take an introspective look in the mirror of reality and determine if their conduct has contributed to the solution of seeing a society not reliant on profiting off of imprisonment or the problem of policing plantations, which carry on the work of the racist plantation owner Willy Lynch.

The slaves went free, stood a brief moment in the sun, then refused to move back again towards slavery.

Send our brother some love and light: Anthony Robinson Jr., P-67144, TCCF MC67, 415 US Hwy 49 North, Tutwiler MS 38963. Anthony is also the author of “Incarcerated Tears: Book of Poems Volume 1,” which can be purchased at buybooksontheweb.com or by writing to him. After reading Part One of this story, “Inside a CCA private prison: Two slaves for the price of one,” a filmmaker plans to include it in a documentary on private prisons.

 

Inside a CCA private prison: Two slaves for the price of one – Pt 1

Published on March 3rd 2014 in the SF Bay View

by Anthony Robinson Jr.

“We will now criticize the unjust with the weapon.” – Comrade George Jackson

Anthony Robinson Jr.

Anthony Robinson Jr.

I write this essay with a gripping ambivalence: Admittedly I am both haunted and inspired, desperate for solutions, yet hopeful. I am a new found political prisoner within the grips of one of CCA’s slave camps, Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility, here in Tutwiler, Mississippi. [CCA, Corrections Corporation of America, is the largest private prison owner in the U.S. – ed.]

For years now I’ve known that prisons are the new legalized plantations wherein the institution of slavery is celebrated. The 13th Amendment states in part: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist, except as punishment of a crime.” But CCA has trumped the 13th Amendment by creating “employment opportunities” and policies that implicitly state: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist except as punishment for a crime or desperation for employment.”

As the sister Michelle Alexander so eloquently stated and proved in her book, “The New Jim Crow”: the system of slavery has always been about cheap labor rather than race! CCA, knowing this in the fullest extent, has purchased two slaves for the price of one.

Their contract with CDCR allows them to earn about $23,000 for each “inmate resident,” as they have coined it. In addition to the $23,000 they receive for inmate residents, they profit inordinately by marking up commissary prices, serving cheap byproducts of food in scanty portions with little or no nutrients, using run down facilities with haphazard utilities and, most of all, employing cheap labor.

CCA, especially here at TCCF, has mastered the art of purchasing two slaves for the price of one – the two slaves being the inmate residents and the bottom rung correctional officers, providing cheap labor at minimum wage.

“The entire colonial world is watching the Blacks inside the U.S. wondering and waiting for us to come to our senses. Their problems and struggles with the American monster are much more difficult than they would be if we actively aided them,” wrote George Jackson.

“We are on the inside. We are the only ones who can get at the monster’s heart without subjecting the world to nuclear fire. We have a momentous historical role to act out if we will. The whole world for all time in the future will love us and remember us as the righteous people who made it possible for the world to live on. If we fail through fear and lack of aggressive imagination, then the slaves of the future will curse us, as we sometimes curse those of yesterday.”

So from the inception of this facility, created according to the blueprints of the plantation, CCA sought to exploit warehoused commodities legally designated as chattel – at the same time seeking an opportunity to exploit cheap labor in the form of poor, disenfranchised Mississippi residents desperate for employment. In perfect similitude with plantation dynamics, CCA has cast the “inmate residents” as the field nigga and the correctional officers, sergeants, lieutenants and captains as the house niggas who will put their lives and livelihood on the line to oversee what CCA has trained them to secretly consider us, the “inmate residents,” as their true interests.

When I arrived at this facility on Aug. 8, 2012, pulling up to the institution – plantation – I could see the confederate flag proudly flying high over the front lawn. My disbelief at such a blatant showing of racist, oppressive, emblematic colonialism made me attempt to create a mythical rationalization for the reality I was facing: “Maybe I was seeing things; they’ll probably take it down in the morning,” I tried to reason through my confusion.

But the reality is this: CCA knows exactly what it intends to convey by making an employee population composed of 90 percent Black workers salute a confederate flag every day they drag their poor spirits in poor bodies in poor health to work in assisting tradeoffs of humanity for minimum wages. As Michelle Alexander observes in “The New Jim Crow”: “Before democracy, chattel slavery in America was born.”

CCA has positioned itself nicely in gaining a controlling interest in one of the oldest businesses in America, i.e., slavery through cheap labor. And the icing on the cake for them is that they get two slaves for the price of one: one to be kept chained and the other grateful for the opportunity to watch, control and oppress the first.

The downtrodden must be careful not to be so caught up in their gloom that we can’t organize within our own conscience the tools needed for our own self-determination. We have depended and continue to depend on a system which sets the parameters of our freedom by criminalizing our acts of defiance and demands for social equality.

If they can convince you that speaking out against injustice is against the law, then they have effectively turned the law against you. And a people who are raised with the belief that the law works against them will break themselves against it in a rebellion out of the desperation of seeing no other option for salvation.

“You have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the Blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to,” said President Richard Nixon.

As God is my witness, as many times as I’ve read over the above quote by Comrade George, it never impacted my spirit so hauntingly until I witnessed the context of that quote in the actions of these correctional officers here in Tutwiler, Mississippi. I’ve been in prison 15 years and have never witnessed such unprofessional indifference and incompetence. I’ve been in the world 33 years and I had no idea that Black people could be so uncouth, ignorant and vile. I’m talking about the behavior of the majority of employees here at TCCF – not all, but the majority.

There is such a culture of Black ignorance and uncouth behavior that you would wonder how a corporation would allow such a dynamic in the work environment. Upon my arrival here in Tutwiler, the first person I heard use the word “nigga” was a correctional counselor. The first groups of people that I ever witnessed literally shooting dice on their knees with money on the ground were correctional officers. I promise you, the reality here at TCCF is so devastatingly colonial that I can’t make this stuff up.

Beyond being embarrassed and shocked by the behavior I’ve witnessed on the grounds of this plantation, a question began to burn in the revolutionary canals of my spirit. How can Corrections Corporation of America not know of the devastatingly virulent behavior of its employees? And upon knowing of such behavior, why doesn’t CCA take active measures to change the environment?

Then I came to realize that CCA allows such a vile work environment to exist for two reasons: One, 90 percent of the employees here are Black and CCA has never utilized resources to save Blacks from acting out the haunting behavioral narratives of slaves; two, CCA keeps cheap laboring slaves as employees by allowing them to create a subculture of conduct that is familiar to them so that not only do they stay happily – although not very gainfully – employed, but they recruit their family and friends into the haunting gates of the plantation as well.

Mississippi is one of the poorest states in America. The poorest in health, poorest in education and, although in the Bible belt, poorest in spirituality. From the vantage point from which I am able to view the actions of many residents of the state of Mississippi, I can honestly say that it is no wonder Mississippi is failing not only in the areas that make a state prosperous, but also in the areas that history has proven are essential for a people to have any chance at self-determination and a progressive vision.

I think we can all agree that CCA expends a lot of research before they allocate millions to build their prison industrial complex plantations. So I’m sure CCA knew Mississippi is one of the poorest states in the union. Tutwiler is in an area not only poor in education, health and resources, but it also lacks opportunities for employment, especially gainful employment.

The prison industrial complex plantation has become that system. And CCA and CDCR not only recognize and pay homage to such a system, but recruit, employ and train neo-slaves – i.e. cheap labor – to guard and perpetuate such a system.

Ignorant parents will most likely raise ignorant kids; and an ignorant Black man or woman in America is a death toll waiting to be rung. Will we as Black people not wake up and demand back our inheritance of self-determination before it is too late?

“Blacks here in the U.S. apparently do not care how well they live,” George Jackson wrote, “but are only concerned with how long they are able to live. This is odd indeed when considering that it is possible for us all to live well, but within the reach of no man to live long!”

We must reverse this genocidal mentality by seeking first to live well amongst each other and refusing to live long enduring lives of imprisonment, suffering and self-hate. Black history is not a month; it is a lifestyle that can’t be paraded on screens and transfigured on posters. It must be lived and lived well within the mind, body and soul of each of us who will see the progress of humanity.

Send our brother some love and light: Anthony Robinson Jr., P-67144, TCCF G12-212, 416 US Hwy 49 North, Tutwiler MS 38963.

Also, Anthony is an outstanding poet and the author of “Incarcerated Tears: Book of Poetry, Vol. 1,” which can be purchased from your local Black book store or on Amazon, at http://www.amazon.com/Incarcerated-Tears-Book-Poems-Vol/dp/0741455390.

Settle your quarrels, come together!

Published on March 8, 2012 in the SF Bay View

by Anthony Robinson Jr.

Photo of Anthony Robinson Jr.

Anthony Robinson Jr.

Do not ask your brother to shake hands with illusions! We must genuinely put away our differences – which seems to be a more daunting task than a hunger strike – or be faced with indifference by our oppressors.

Those who oppress us will continue to rationalize their oppression both consciously and unconsciously by pointing to the fact that we continue to fight, disrespect, denigrate and oppress each other.

As of this writing, Black and Southern inmates in out-of-state facilities like NFORK and Mississippi – and a few prisons in California – are at war with each other. I can’t think of any dispute large enough to justify picking up weapons against those you would ask to stand with you and make the ultimate sacrifice with you: hunger.

I would like to set the record straight regarding the Blacks’ non-participation in the hunger strike here at NFORK: It was not because we were faint of heart regarding sacrificing for progress. My observation and experience of the dynamics lead me to the conclusion that we couldn’t organize because of a lack of communication and knowledge of what the strike was about. We had no idea at the time what the core demands were. No other race seemed like they knew either or were willing to articulate it to us, from my knowledge.

The institution, of course, did everything they could to disenfranchise the people, including mail tampering. My Bay View paper from around August-November was delayed, pages missing etc. I did not receive the issue explaining the strike and the date it was to begin until two months later – and the article about Comrade was missing.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t write this article to make excuses. My heart is pure in the struggle; progress is not made by excuses. I just think if given the proper information in a timely manner, we would have had more of a chance to lend our hearts to the beat of the drum.

My call to arms is this: Until we are organize in consciousness as one class, which we are as prisoners, and eradicate the petty politics that give the illusion of security but only act to strangle our solidarity, we are hypocritical in our demand for CDCR to take the boot off our neck and the knife out of our backs. Let’s not excuse our responsibility to take our hands off the knives in each other’s backs and give ourselves a real chance to stand tall like trees in our march towards freedom.

“Never retract, never explain, never apologize; get things done and let them howl.” – Nellie McClung

I still open up the Bay View and read about the progresses and continued struggle of the hunger strike and my heart rejoices like thunder clapping in the sky. But soon after, the reality that we are not truly united as a prisoner class and any progress we seem to make will eventually be eaten away like acid rain falling on black rocks forces a short sigh in my heart and I know there is still work to do.

Cover of Incarcerated Tears, Book of Poems Vol. 1, by Anthony Robinson Jr

Incarcerated Tears, Book of Poems Vol. 1, by Anthony Robinson Jr

It is interesting that in California prisoners who participated in the strike are still being punished, while at the same time, here in NFORK, Blacks who unfortunately missed an opportunity to participate in the strike are being punished all the same. I wrote a grievance asking the administration for a legitimate penological reason why Blacks are on lockdown, but I already know: Oppression never misses an opportunity to put us under the boot and in the same class. They are conscious of the fact that a prisoner is a prisoner is a prisoner; when are we going to realize the same?

“Settle your quarrels, come together, understand the reality of our situation … that people are already dying who could be saved, that generations more will die or live poor butchered half-lives if you fail to act.” – Comrade

In solidarity.

Anthony is the author of “Incarcerated Tears: Book of Poems Vol. 1,” available from BuyBooksontheWeb.com or Amazon.com.