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.

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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.