The key or the peephole: A look inside the prison industrial complex and where movements should go from here

August 30, 2016
Words of wisdom for Sept. 9

by Anthony Robinson
Published originally in the SF BayView: http://sfbayview.com/2016/08/the-key-or-the-peephole-a-look-inside-the-prison-industrial-complex-and-where-movements-should-go-from-here/

“Therefore my people have gone into captivity. Because they have no knowledge; their honorable men are famished. And their multitude dried up with thirst.” – Isaiah 5:13

To the prisoner or the man in prison, what is being free? For the man behind bars attempting to fight off conditions and circumstances meant to chain his mind and spirit, if he has not defined for himself what freedom means and what value it has, determined by the price he is willing to pay for it, then the circumstances of his chains have a self-efficacy so inherently designed that his causes and solutions will be written on the locked door of his plight and his prayer for relief will result in asking for a tiny peephole wherein he might peek out to view his brother’s steel cage rather than demanding a key to open his own.

“The great enemy of the truth is often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive and realistic.” – John F. Kennedy

I define the term “mythical reality” as a situation where one class of people, usually the down-trodden (prisoner class), know a reality – usually violence, racism, prejudice etc., to be true by experience – while another class, usually bureaucratic oppressors (prison officials), tries to control the perception and narrative of the other class by forms of exploitation offered by their resources and privilege.

Your confliction will direct your influence: If you are not careful to come up for air and take a moment to clear your head as you face the dynamics of “sink or swim” situations that have become the routine patterns of your existence, could it be that the California Prisoners Movement has become so bunkered down in combatting the infantry effects of the prison industrial complex that we have not considered routing our forces at the cause and finally ending or at least gaining an advantage in the conflict?

Don’t get me wrong; there have been victories in the prison movement, not just in California, but other states as well. But I often wonder, has the prison industrial complex had a hand in dictating our causes by controlling our conflictions?

The Ashker decision was great, the five core demands are all good, but how come we are not writing our own regulations and attacking the “STG” scheme in totality? We know from its inception it was designed to isolate and entrap prisoners with the God given talent to awaken the prisoner class to the exploits of the system and provide those willing to organize for change with practical alternatives to prison enslavement.

How come we are not demanding that California Prisoners serving 85 percent be given an opportunity, through practical application of rehabilitative programs, to earn milestones and early parole eligibility the same as other similarly situated classes of prisoners serving time? Why allow the 85 percent prisoners to be discriminated against and denied equal protection?

The old argument made every time violent offenders are put on the ballot for early release and time reduction opportunities, the prison industrial complex runs the same old ads about soft on crime legislators letting criminals loose to rape and pillage communities. This argument has become so cemented in the minds of prison advocates that they think they are doing the Prisoner Human Rights Movement a favor by not introducing legislation for violent offenders, once again allowing our causes to be dictated by the control of our conflictions.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is the moving force that privatizes criminal statutes for financial gain and profit, and they receive their funding from major corporations. If they can legislate for profit, why can’t we legislate for freedom?

The prison industrial complex is built upon and operates via a commercial framework. When a prisoner does any “work” or “labor” in the system, he reinforces and substantiates the prison system’s position over him. When friends, families and outside advocates do business with corporations and banks that have their hand in the American cookie jar of exploitative prison profiteering and labor, they are investing in more prisons, harsher sentences, Jim Crow laws, and tactical militarized training aimed at prisoners and urban communities.

For those of us who claim to want a solution to the problem, we have to seriously look into the mirror of reality and remove our own actions from reinforcing the problem. And if we think that the U.S. courts are not functioning to reinforce this system and cut themselves a slice of this industrial pie, then our naiveté has been one of our biggest crimes. Pay careful attention to the following excepts from a Jean Keating seminar on prisons:

“A condensed version of what is going on is that CCA as a corporation creates or issues stock certificates based on prison population – goods or chattel as they are called in commercial law. The underwriter is the one who buys the stock from the issuer, the CCA, with intent to resell it to the public or an entity or person – usually an investment banker. The investment banker purchases all or part of the shares of the stock for resale to the public in the form of newly issued investment securities based on the shares of stock. Brokerage houses and insurance companies bid on the investment securities with a bid bond issued by the GSA. The bid bond is then indemnified by a surety company through performance and payment bonds. The bid, performance and payment bonds are then underwritten by the banks as investment securities for resale to the public. …

“This system permeates the fabric of our society.

“Go to a search engine and type in U.S. courts. Go to the court links and click to see a map of the circuit courts. Click on 7th Circuit, and a list of the 7th and 8th Circuit Courts will appear. Click on Illinois Northern District Court, then click on Clerk’s Office, then go to Administrative Services, then to Financial Department. You will see Criminal Justice Act, Post Judgment Interest Rates and a list of sureties. Click on Sureties; it will take you to fms.treas.gov. There on the left side you will see the sureties listing, admitted reinsurers and forms. Click on forms and you will see Reinsurance Agreement for a Miller Act Performance Bond SF 273, and a SF 274 Payment Bond and a Reinsurance Agreement in favor of the United States SF 275 and a list of admitted reinsurers, pools and associates. You will also see a list of the Department of the Treasury’s listing of approved sureties.

“U.S. District Courts are buying up the state courts’ default judgments, where you refuse to pay or dishonor the debt. …

“(P)risons are repository institutions or facilities for securities (prisoners) as collateral for the public and national debt. The prisoners represent asset or repository money for the bid, performance, and payment bonds. The prisons are referred to as credit facilities, institutions or repositories. They function essentially the same way that a depository bank does under 17 CFR Sec 450. The prisons are acting in the capacity of a fiduciary or custodian over government securities. …

“(I)n addition to being a repository bank with prisoners being the assets, collateral or securities of the bid, performance and payment bonds, the prisoners are the actual reinsurance or surety and their sentence represents the valued and marketable risk involved with the materials, supplies and cost factors involved with the guaranteed performance and payment relative to the bonds. This is termed ‘assumed risk’ in insurance and represents a present peril, hazard or danger of loss, due to their dishonor and default judgment in court. That is why there is penal sum or clause attached to each bond for non-performance and payment of the bonds. …

“By legal definition all of your federal and state ‘statutes’ are bonds or obligations of record and are represented in the courtroom by the recognizance bond, which is a bond of record or obligation for the payment of debt.” (See Jean Keating’s “Prison Treatise.”)

And here we are as a prisoner class investing our energy and intellectual capital in studying and researching their copyrighted federal statutes/bonds to petition the courts to overturn intentionally exploitative sentences. Remember, a prisoner’s “sentence represent the valued and marketable risk involved with the materials, supplies and cost factors involved with the guaranteed performance and payment relative to the bonds.” Why would they willingly let you go when your sentence represents “valued” and “marketable” risk? Marketable means they are still utilizing it for sale, trade and exploitation. Why would they let you go?

While it is true that a small fraction of prisoner petitions are granted relief, that is nothing more than a ploy manufactured to convince the masses to put their faith and credit in the “justice” of the system. Even the majority of prisoners seem to have fallen for this tactic. For every 10 petitions that get granted, 10,000 get denied.

My own case provides a perfect example. Locked up at the age of 18, too indigent to afford my own counsel, I was exploited by a public defender, Keith Arthur, who signed my plea two months before I did, and rabid dog Deputy District Attorney Victoria Rose. I was coerced to sign a plea that waived Penal Code 654.5 Multiple Punishment/Double Jeopardy Prohibition in order to be punished for both robbery and carjacking and given an enhancement (use of firearm) for both, even though by the penal codes, statutes, and legislature’s intent, this is fundamentally against the law. What type of counsel coerces a client to waive a penal code in order for them to be punished for more time on their sentence and be given two strikes when they had none?

I’ve put in six petitions or writs with sound, on-point arguments showing a prima facie cause for “relief.” All have been denied. I even challenged the plea as an invalid contract because “The Declaration in Support of Plea” was never signed by the judge. The judge never signed the contract to substantiate the “Court’s Findings” which reads: “The Court having reviewed this declaration and questioned the defendant in open court, finds that the defendant has voluntarily and intelligently waived his constitutional rights, that these pleas and admissions are freely and voluntarily made, and that the defendant understands the nature of the charges and the consequences of these pleas and admissions. The Court finds a factual basis for the pleas and admissions, accepts them, and the defendant is hereby convicted on his plea.”

If there was a “factual basis” for the plea, why would a Judge not sign the declaration of the court’s findings? He didn’t sign it because he didn’t want the bond liability on the waiver of Penal Code 654, which is illegal. This type of exploitation by those who are supposed to be the “custodians” of justice is all too common in their system on a daily basis. They have the whole country fooled into thinking it’s about crime prevention, law and order, when in fact it’s about exploiting an “underclass” and sending them to their repository warehouse facilities where we can be investment securities to finance public debt!

Now we understand why prison officials are allowed to add time to our sentences just by writing “rules violation reports” with no preponderance of evidence substantiating the charge other than the “report” itself. Any “hearing” procedure empowered with the ability to add time to your sentence should be upheld by exercising judicial standards, but we know from experience that these kangaroo “hearings” have no standards close to judicial. You are already found guilty based on the “report” before stepping into the hearing. Just like on the streets, you are found guilty when the indictment (commercial investment) is signed. Remember, the more time they give you in any of their courts, tribunals or hearings, the more they can value and market the investment securities.

In light of gaining some insight on what kind of system we are dealing with, where do we go from here, in terms of a practical strategy of shutting down the prison industrial complex? When presenting demands, rights, propositions etc. to an industrial juggernaut, the only way that you are going to make it truly pay attention is to stop his industries. Thus, when he looks out into the landscape of his empire and doesn’t see the polluted smoke clouds which indicate to him that his industries are producing comprehensively, then he will be concerned enough to climb down from his ivory tower and see about the problem. We must leave the crops in the field and let them rot!

The New Underground Railroad Movement supports the Free Alabama Movement and those states – Texas, Mississippi, Ohio etc. – that are organizing for the work strike and boycott starting Sept. 9, 2016. I pray that California inmates and those leaders taking responsibility to organize on behalf of the struggle do not miss an opportunity to participate in this historic labor strike.

I don’t want my energy used for paving the way to live comfortably in prison and call that victory. We have an opportunity to demand freedom from prison and institute policies that will pave the way for a restructuring of the system, but only organized, disciplined, drawn out labor strikes and boycotts will achieve this. Anything else is a pipe dream dictated by our afflictions.

I don’t want my energy used for paving the way to live comfortably in prison and call that victory.

For those seeking more information on any part of this article or how you can support the New Underground Railroad Movement, contact Mr. Anthony C. Robinson, Jr., Coordinating Founder.

Note: To those brothas and sistas of true merit, who have written me from your facilities, know that I never abandoned you in practice or in spirit. The corporate dog who is trying to trump up “BGF activity” confiscated the letters before they reached or were delivered to me. They can’t stop those letters if they come from friends and family to me.

Chino

Poem by Anthony Robinson Jr.

“What quality of will must a Negro possess to live and die with dignity in a country that denies his humanity?” – Richard Wright

There is a psychosis lurking in the understanding
that prison is a culture and not a civilization.
It seems that poor oppressed people
cling to things that are for them emotionally true,
because they so desperately need a truth to protect
them from their harsh reality.
We measure lies, not by fact or fiction,
but by how conveniently they secure our
relationship to our environment.
There is a process in life where
somewhere along the way you have to
invent yourself and try to reach a compatible
identity to your vision of life and where you fit in it.
A vision molded by a trail of tears that leads
you to an expectation of yourself not necessarily
of your own making.
I stare out through these bars
into dreams unfulfilled, and I wonder
if it was ever considered as the juncture
of their design what aspects of humanity
would be confined as well with the person.
Keep from the world like a secret
that can never be revealed because it was
spoken in a language that cannot be translated
by the ears that received it.

Anthony has finally won his way back to California after years in private prisons, used by CDCr to alleviate overcrowding in California prisons without freeing anyone. Send our brother some love and light: Anthony Robinson Jr., P-67144, CMC E6-28L, P.O. Box 8101, San Luis Obispo, CA 93409.

Parole threatened for organizing and writing for Bay View

by Anthony Robinson Jr.
May 30, 2016

The Code of California Regulations (CCR) Title 15 defines a Security Threat Group (STG) as “any ongoing formal or informal organization, association, or group of three or more persons which has a common name or identifying sign or symbol whose members and/or associates, individually or collectively, engage or have engaged, on behalf of that organization, association or group, in two or more acts which include planning, organizing, threatening, financing, soliciting or committing unlawful acts, or acts of misconduct.”

The interesting thing about this definition is that it does not specifically use the word inmate or prisoner, but identifies any individual, group or association engaging in unlawful acts.

Photo of Anthony Robinson Jr in 2015

Anthony Robinson Jr in 2015.

The majority of employees at La Palma Correctional Center who work on Compound 3 fit the description of a Security Threat Group due to their unlawful conduct, but who investigates them or makes them answerable? Certainly not themselves. Yet I am being targeted for my work; a work that was created to build a constructive Humanity; while these prison officials are rewarded for work that assaults the very fabric that makes us human and seeks to destroy lives.

The subjective nature in which prison officials design and define prison regulations is intended to create a barricade around themselves whereby they can target and freely fire upon prisoners – hitting them with rule infractions that add time to their sentences, taking away privileges that help connect them to their families etc., all the while, protecting themselves from the ricochet of fairness that keeps them safe from their own bullets when they conduct themselves in a likewise unlawful manner.

I am being targeted for my work; a work that was created to build a constructive Humanity; while these prison officials are rewarded for work that assaults the very fabric that makes us human and seeks to destroy lives.

“Consciousness is the key to one’s deliverance from oppression of all types. Prison writers are the visionaries who take the prison experience and translate it to others in prison and outside of these concentration camps. The prison theoretician sees those paths which are not yet cut and injects theory into our world so that others can build on these thoughts.” – Jose H. Villarreal

We cannot ignore the continued torture existing in facilities that are operating in cruel and inhuman ways and whose actions are not just targeted against prisoners but the public as well. Case in point: The STG coordinator, Nathaniel M. Freeman, has informed me that the beautiful sista A. is a target. She is con­sidered a BGF “facilitator” because she writes and corresponds with some prisoners who they considered to be affiliated. This is a great miscarriage of justice as it is used to further isolate those prisoners who A. seeks to help in work that seeks to uplift.

STG Coordinator Freeman asked me the other day as he came to hit my cell again: “Are you still going to publish any articles in the Bay View and organize work strikes?” he said, hinting at the reason I was being targeted in the first place.

For those of us who have faced the definition of our inflictions through the experience of our treatment in prison, we are striving to come up with practical strategies to bring about results that add meaning to not only our lives but the lives of others.

“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who do evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” – Albert Einstein

The man in prison who has the courage to see past the barb wired dynamics of his circumstances and bring his humanity to the surface to be of service to a cause beyond himself is a standing miracle against a strong current. And we can’t stand alone.

For too long we have been isolated even when articles are read or voices are heard and responded to. Isolated in terms of results, because as many of my ideas and articles that are read, the work requires the ability to procure human resources. Without funding for The New Underground RailRoad Movement, we are stuck on one track.

In my experience, the “enemies of humanity” are the good people who have become comfortable reading and listening, but never doing. Those prison officials who are oppressing us have amassed a huge stockpile of resources and it would be impractical for us to assume that we can combat them without a remnant of the same.

Our biggest resource has always been the faith of the people who know that the historical arc will bend towards justice. But we are tasked with putting forth an effort to help it along the way.

Right now I am at a pivotal moment in my time in regards to having an opportunity for early parole consideration under the Youth Offender SB 261, and the mere scrutiny of this STG retaliatory witchhunt has the potential to greatly hinder any chance that a board will release me to parole, and the officials targeting me know this.

This is the assistance I need in moving forward: I need to raise funds in the amount of $500 to pay the cost of registering my non-profit The New UnderGround RailRoad Movement, and I need any volunteers who are good at researching to contact me. The material I will be needing is commercial liens process, how to set up a charitable trust, secured party filing, and tracking down bid bonds.

Thanks in advance those supporters who will reach out and do! Please contact Mr. Anthony Robinson Jr., P-67144, LPCC MB-119, 5501 North La Palma Road, Eloy, Arizona 85131.

For those wishing to donate funds, go to: westernunion.com/corrections, pay to: ConBfections Corp of America, code city: Trustcca, state: TN, senders account: ROBINSON 1548443.

Power to the people who recognize their power!

Corporate in-humanity

It’s hard

when on your journey

you have to walk around yourself

so that you won’t fall into the holes in your heart.

I feel every engagement concerning another

human being as intimate, but find that people are more

comfortable being wedded to insecurities that guard

them from expressing God.

Most friendships are temples made from mud

and are exposed when the dry season ends and the rain

marches in …

I pray to chains about my dream of walking

on the sunny side of a better vision, and these bars

answer, quoting some policies that were written when man’s

mind was separated from God.

It’s hard when on your journey

you have to guard your mind from the acidic

perspectives of custodians who are profiting

off of men losing their faith; they would rather

build prisons than bridges,

bars than scholarships,

fences than faith,

barbwire than bonds,

laws than love,

jurisprudence than justice,

regulations than realities,

sentences than sincerity,

populations than persons,

penalties than penance,

guards than grace,

recidivism than relationships,

policies than philosophy,

slaves than survivors.

I fight every day to keep God relevant

in a prison that feeds on the hymns of

humanity like breadlines that stretch for miles

and invite employees to line up with bowl in hand

to catch the prayers of prisoners that the

corporate hand smacks down …

An open letter to the enemies of humanity

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – Irish statesman Edmund Burke

“Constructive notice” is a term used in law that explains or proclaims: Ignorance of the law may not be used as a defense for breaking the law.

Well, what of humanity? If a construct such as the law, which was created by man, can set a bar for such a standard of bearing responsibility in a legal sense, should not humanity’s bar be at least met at the same level or a higher one – a level that proclaims “Constructive Notice of Humanity”?

It is a term in society where the people are expected to take notice of the atrocities and inhumanity being perpetuated around them and act in responsible ways to end oppression where they see it, enabling the values that they deem fundamental to be expressed beyond the myopic extension of their own doorstep and into the field of dreams of their neighbors and fellow human beings.

Responsibility means the ability to respond. People are under the false assumption that going to school, working a 9 to 5, and “staying out of the way” is being responsible. No, in this day and age where the dynamics of exploitation and oppression are so prevalent in society, “staying out of the way” is part of the problem.

“Constructive notice” is a term used in law that explains or proclaims: Ignorance of the law may not be used as a defense for breaking the law. Well, what of humanity?

When a cause comes along or when an issue needs to be addressed, too many people in America are “staying out of the way,” only to live long enough to see that same issue adversely affect the lives of their children. Oppressive realities do not go away because we ignore them; they, like cancer, only metastasize when we do nothing about them. Oppressors – and prison officials – like bullies, only become more aggravating when no one stands up to them.

In February STG Coordinator Nathaniel M. Freeman, along with SORT officers Reed and Francisco, ran up in my cell armed with pepper spray, excessive shouting designed to intimidate or threaten, and the musk of inhumanity, forcing me to crawl from my bunk to the floor, placing my arms and legs behind my back in hog tie fashion, at which point they placed plastic restraints on my hands excessively tight, cutting off blood circulation, dragging me out of my cell in my socks.

STG Coordinator Nathaniel M. Freeman took personal property, letters, literature, address book and paperwork outside of my presence without properly inventorying items and allowing me to sign off on verifying them, as the California Code of Regulations dictates.

They are reviewing material to see if they can trump validation charges against me, the supposed reason being that a Mr. Terrance White had written me in response to one of my articles. This letter I never received because the corporate carpetbaggers in the mailroom, B. Triplett and P. Hirsh, confiscated it.

Send our brother some love and light: Anthony Robinson Jr., P-67144, LPCC MB-119,  5501 N. La Palma Rd., Eloy AZ 85131.

Food for Thought

July 22nd, 2015

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…


 

July 21st, 2015

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.

The biggest crime in this country is the ‘lock em up throw away the key’-profiteering agenda of the prison-industrial complex. Help us rebuild humanity and stop the auxtioning of prison slave labor.
THE NEW UNDERGROUND RAILROAD MOVEMENT!


 

July 17th, 2015

In my adolescence I was too young to comprehend the wisdom in which God had made me and too old to listen to anecdotal wisdom conveyed by people who had no face that I’d remember past tomorrow.

Now I am blessed to be connected to work that is aligned to ameliorating one of the greatest Civil Rights issues today i.e. The Institutionalization of Mass Incarceration. Thank God for the progress of Faith in our hearts.
THE NEW UNDERGROUND RAILROAD MOVEMENT!


 

July 10, 2015

In recognizing that we are created through Gods energy, it would behoove us to understand the function of energy. Energy is The ability to do work. Get in, Get involved, and Get it done.
THE NEW UNDERGROUND RAILROAD MOVEMENT

 

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.

https://i1.wp.com/sfbayview.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Black-Lives-Matter-Trayvon-Melissa-Oscar.jpg

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.