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.

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

Published on March 3rd 2014 in the SF Bay View

by Anthony Robinson Jr.

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

Anthony Robinson Jr.

Anthony Robinson Jr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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