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Inside the Prison Labor Strike, The KITE, 2018

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September
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September
2018

INSIDE THE PRISON LABOR STRIKE
NEW TACTICS PAY OFF IN MAINSTREAM COVERAGE
By James Kilgore,
Truthout - September 4, 2018
Fundamentally, it’s a human rights
issue. Prisoners understand they are
being treated as animals. Prisons in
America are a warzone. Every day prisoners are harmed due to conditions of confinement. For some of us it’s as if we are
already dead, so what do we have to lose?”
–Pre-strike statement from Jailhouse Lawyers Speak
When the 2016 US prison strike kicked
off, the media barely whispered. Despite
efforts by the Free Alabama Movement, an
organization centered around the men inside Holman prison, to spread the message
through social media and compelling video
footage taken inside prisons, mainstream
journalists weren’t biting. While independent media outlets covered the strike, an
action that ultimately involved thousands
of people in two dozen states drew virtual
silence from mainstream media.
With the current ongoing prison strike,
we find a totally different scenario. The
New York Times, the Guardian, Al Jazeera
and The Washington Post all ran sympa-

“

CONTENTS
Inside The Strike ......................1
Jailhouse Lawyers Speak ........4
Women Prisoners ....................5
Prisoners and Disabliity ...........7
Letters ......................................8
Shared Struggle .......................9

thetic op-eds at the strike’s outset. MSNBC’s Al Sharpton had a segment on the
strike in which he interviewed a formerly
incarcerated man (Darren Mack). USA
Today ran an article on support demonstrations. Suddenly, prison militancy has
become headline-worthy. As someone who
spent six-and-a-half years behind bars, I
have to wonder: What the hell is going on?

Testament to Hard Work
Several factors are at play here. First, as
prison historian Dan Berger observes, “it is
a testament to the hard work that has been
happening.” Due to the efforts of millions
of activists, mass incarceration has grown
into an issue of political importance. We
have national campaigns to end cash bail,
local efforts to close jails, networks formed
to defend the rights of LGBTQ folks who
are locked up, and massive resistance to
immigration detention and deportation. Organizations of formerly incarcerated people
like All of Us or None, JustLeadershipUSA
and the National Council of Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls continue to
proliferate.
In parallel with the growth of this movement has been a swelling in the ranks of the
Incarcerated Workers’ Organizing Committee. Closely linked to the revolutionary
unionists of the Industrial Workers of the
World (IWW), the Incarcerated Workers’
Organizing Committee has been the most
vibrant source of support on the streets for
both strikes. In its 2018 iteration, the Incarcerated Workers’ Organizing Committee
also draws activists from a resurgent left,
typified by the Democratic Socialists of
America, now the largest socialist formation in the US in decades.

As the understanding of the oppressive
nature of the prison system has grown, rebellion has begun to appear increasingly
justified. Prison strike action is almost becoming normalized, an expected part of
the social landscape. Since the first hunger
strike at Pelican Bay Prison in California,
this is at least the fifth major mass action
by prisoners since 2011. Heather Thompson, author of the award-winning chronicle
of the 1971 Attica prison uprising, Blood
in the Water, explained to Truthout that in
2016, “there was a faith among many in the
media that criminal justice reform was being handled, as it should be, by a bipartisan
political effort.” In her view, many reporters at that time “perhaps felt that prisoners
were making things worse by erupting.”
Now, with hopes for bipartisan reform solutions fading away, people “are more willing to listen to the prisoners themselves,”
the very people “whom everyone should
have been listening to all along.”
The New York Times, the Guardian, Al
Jazeera and The Washington Post all ran
sympathetic op-eds.
The killing of seven men in South Carolina’s Lee prison in April of this year provided further evidence that conditions in
many prisons are reaching the boiling point
and formal political processes are doing little to address the issue. Reports of the tragedy said the deaths occurred due to conflict
among various factions in the prison population, but that guards waited seven hours
before intervening.
An additional windfall adding legitimacy
to strike action came with the widespread
publicity given to the hundreds of incarcerated firefighters risking their lives battling
the historic blazes in California for a few
cents an hour, then facing a future where

their criminal backgrounds would prevent
them from being employed as firefighters
after their release.

New Leadership
The high profile of this strike, however, is
about more than heightened public awareness. There has also been a major shift in
the aims and tactics of strike organizers.
According to Brooke Terpstra of IWOC,
not only has their organization grown in the
past two years, but during that time, they
have engaged in an intense study program
in partnership with people inside prisons.
Their goal was to both deepen their understanding of the prison-industrial complex
and reflect on political strategy and ideology more broadly.
This shift has coincided with a re-shuffling of leadership. While the Free Alabama Movement and its charismatic leader,
Kinetic Justice, played the leading role in
2016, this time around, the overall direction on the inside has shifted to Jailhouse
Lawyers Speak. Unlike the Free Alabama
Movement, Jailhouse Lawyers Speak is not
identified with a single state or institution
but is a network of legal activists in various
facilities. Their approach is more cautious,
more oriented toward legal change and
more tightly structured.
People “are more willing to listen to the
prisoners themselves,” the very people
“whom everyone should have been listening to all along.”
Whereas in 2016 local strikers were creating their own demands, this time, Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, perhaps drawing
inspiration from the Ten-Point Program of
the Black Panther Party, produced carefully
phrased demands for the entire strike. They
called these 10 demands a “human-rights
oriented” platform. The demands focus on
systemic issues like ending prison slavery, but also target specific legal reforms.
These include the restoration of federal Pell
Grants for people in prison wanting to undertake college study, an end to racialized
over-sentencing, an increase in rehabilitation programs and several demands stressing access to legal due process, like rescinding the 1996 Prison Litigation Reform
Act. This legislation heavily restricted the
capacity of people in prison to file lawsuits.
All told, these demands reflect an abolitionist approach that sees major change in
the prison system as a long-term, deliberate
process.
Furthermore, unlike the open-ended
2

style strike in 2016, this strike set a strict
time frame, with a very symbolic beginning (August 21, the day Black prison
revolutionary George Jackson was killed
by guards in San Quentin in 1971) and end
(September 9, the 47th anniversary of the
Attica prison massacre).

New Messaging
The emphasis on universal demands
went hand-in-hand with the adoption of
new approaches to messaging and methods
of mobilization. The media messaging of
2016 centered on ending “prison slavery.”
Moreover, the rhetoric of organizers implied an insurrectionary stance, emphasizing in their initial announcement that the
strike would “coordinate and generalize
these protests, to build them into a single
tidal shift that the American prison system
cannot ignore or withstand.”
Underlying that approach was the notion
that most people in prison were in the employ of major corporations, laboring under
semi-feudal conditions for a few pennies an
hour. While a number of Southern prisons
still resemble plantations (and some, like
the notorious Angola Prison in Louisiana
are actually sited on former plantations), in
many states, jobs and paid labor are scarce.
In some prisons, es-pecially those at the
higher security levels, only a small percentage of people actually work. Warehousing
of bodies has replaced cheap labor regimes.
Renowned Chicago radical lawyer Alan
Mills’s observation about Illinois likely applies in many places: “Unlike many states
where the problem is prisoners are forced
to do jobs that are horrible with very little
money, in Illinois prisoners are made to sit
in their cells with nothing whatsoever to
do.” Mills said that many feel that “even if
a job is poorly paid it’s an improvement to
confinement.”
There has been a major shift in the aims
and tactics of strike organizers.
Journalist and current strike media committee member Jared Ware told Truthout
the recognition of the varying work regimes across prisons prompted a re-think
about how to connect with people. Darren
Mack, who spent two decades in prison

and is now a leading member of decarceration advocacy group JustLeadershipUSA,
echoed Ware’s observations. “Incarcerated
people have learned lessons from the previous strike so they actively engaged supporters on the outside by giving them clear
directions on ways to support bringing attention to their policy demands,” Mack told
Truthout.
Amani Sawari, the official spokesperson for Jailhouse Lawyers Speak on the
outside, told Truthout how this new orientation drew recognition from around
the globe, with solidarity statements coming from people in prisons in Germany,
Greece, Canada and from a group of Palestinian political prisoners. She also noted
the changed tactics led to a different approach to mobilization. “Some prisoners
don’t have the privilege to have a job,” she
told Democracy Now!, adding that they
could participate through sit-ins as well as
boycotting purchases of prison commissary items or using the phones. Even those
without funds, she stressed, could take part
via hunger strikes. After the first week she
reported to Truthout there were strike actions confirmed in 11 facilities, with solidarity actions in 21 different cities. Since
prison officials try to suppress information
about strike actions by cutting off communication, she said she expects to get reports
of many more facilities having taken action
once the strike is over.
In diversifying courses of action for their
mobilization, the strikers drew inspiration
from a set of essays called “Redistribute
the Pain,” written by Brother Bennu aka
Hannibal Ra-Sun of the Free Alabama
Movement. His work called for people on
the inside to use their economic power as
consumers to hold back the money they
spent in the system, pointing out that these
funds were often used to purchase the
equipment used to punish people inside —
items like Tasers, pepper spray and stun
guns.
Creative uses of cellphones, Facebook
and other social media have helped project the analysis and culture of those inside
prisons.
Apart from acknowledging the variety of
prison work regimes, the messaging of the
2018 strike by allies and accomplices also
shows a less defensive stance. In 2016, organizers on the outside placed considerable
attention on data and headcounts, trying to
prove the success of their actions statistically. Such an approach had an inherent
weakness in that prison authorities control
The Kite

the data and are not susceptible to factchecking. While Brooke Terpstra provided
no analytics, she said the strike was a success for three reasons: 1) the media were
covering it; 2) people in prisons were coming together in coordinated action; 3) the
people on the inside were controlling the
information and narrative.

Solidarity: Making New Allies
The 2018 strike represents a qualitative
and quantitative leap forward in both organizing and messaging. A critically important aspect of the 2018 actions has been
connecting with resistance in the immigration detention centers. In fact, some of the
most militant and effective actions have
taken place in the Northwestern Immigration Detention Center, where hunger-strikers declared their actions were specifically
in solidarity with efforts to “end prison
slavery.”
In turn, organizers in Jailhouse Lawyers
Speak have fully recognized the similarity
in the plight of immigrants facing deportation. As an anonymous incarcerated Jailhouse Lawyers Speak spokesperson told
Jared Ware in an interview: “As far as the
connection and why we’re in solidarity, the
biggest reason is because we understand
those cages .. it’s all the same system.”
How to deepen these connections is an important issue not only for prison-focused
organizers, but also for social justice movements across the board.
As Dan Berger suggested in a phone conversation with Truthout, it is worth looking
at the present prison uprisings through the
lens of the 1970s when “a broad popular
front against prisons,” was a reality. Another key aspect of solidarity in the strike
has been the relationship among Jailhouse
Lawyers Speak, the Free Alabama Movement, the Incarcerated Workers’ Organizing Committee and other organizations on
the street. This raises the question of how
people on the street support actions by
those inside prison without upstaging them
and silencing their voices, especially given
Volume 1, Number 3

the repression of communication by prison
authorities. Creative uses of cellphones,
Facebook and other social media have
helped project the analysis and culture of
those inside prisons.
Resistance is a permanent feature in
women’s prisons, but the weapons are not
typically strikes or insurrections, but rather
daily acts of rebelling by asserting one’s
humanity.
The strike media committee has made
enormous efforts to ensure the amplification of the voices of those on the inside.
The interviews conducted by Jared Ware
with Jailhouse Lawyers Speak have been
exemplary in bringing the voice and views
of people who are locked up front and center. Given the difficulties of communication across the razor wire, these have been
remarkable. Nonetheless, the presence of a
group largely made up of white activists directing the media traffic, rather than family
and community members of those inside,
represents a source of tension in the legitimacy of representation, a topic to be examined when the dust from this period settles.
Another source of concern has been the
virtual absence of action in women’s prisons during the strike. While some of this
may be due to more sophisticated responses
by authorities, there are other issues. In an
interview with the Chicago Reader, activist
Monica Cosby, who spent 20 years in Illinois state prisons herself, stressed that resistance is a permanent feature in women’s
prisons, but the weapons are not typically
strikes or insurrections, but rather daily
acts of rebelling by asserting one’s humanity. The organizers of the strike, as well as
many activists on the issue of mass incarceration, have much to learn from Cosby’s
observations.
While the high points of strikes and overt
rebellion help draw attention to the problems of mass incarceration, there is a need
to think about ways in which people in
prison engage in what labor historians refer
to as “informal resistance.” This resistance
may range from defying rules to asserting
one’s right to be human by engaging in
activities like sharing meals (what we call
“spreads” in prison) or getting involved in
sports, music and graphic arts. While such
acts don’t rock the prisons to their foundations, they are the kernels of positive
spirit that keep those inside strong enough
to be able to endure, carry out actions like
the 2018 strike and withstand the horrific
repression that unaccountable authorities
visit on organizers and rebels.

Outcomes of the Action?
As with any mass action in a repressive
setting like a prison, there will be backlash
from prison authorities. From the 2016
strike, leaders like Kinetic Justice of the
Free Alabama Movement and Malik Washington, founder of the End Prison Slavery
Texas Movement. have suffered long periods in solitary confinement. Already, those
identified as “instigators” in Texas, Ohio
and South Carolina reportedlyhave been
sent to isolation. No doubt there will be
more efforts by authorities to punish, vilify
and isolate those they identify as leaders.
Optimistic outcomes of the 2018 actions
would be the restoration of Pell Grants, a
measure already partially in motion, and
a repeal of the Prison Litigation Reform
Act. As Darren Mack said, “It’s urgent that
elected officials respond to the 10 policy
demands in order to tackle the systemic
problems of mass incarceration and racist
criminal justice policies that have led to
tragic events like the Attica massacre and
devastated millions of lives.”
But regardless of actions by elected officials, as Heather Thompson observed,
“No matter how many folks were actually
able to sit in or stop working or not eat, on
the outside, vital attention was drawn to
the issue of how horrific prison conditions
are and also the longer history of prisoners
standing up to be heard at places like San
Quentin and Attica.” 

A National Treaty Ignored
2.2 Million US Slaves
'“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a
punishment for crime whereof
the party shall have been duly
convicted, shall exist within
the United States, or any place
subject to their jurisdiction.”
'Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution
“No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery …
shall be prohibited in all their
forms.”
Universal Declaration of
Human Rights, Article 4,
a treaty the US is a signatory to.
3

JAILHOUSE LAWYERS SPEAK

J

LS is a national organization started by
Jailhouse lawyers. Our primary focus
is to challenge laws that are dehumanizing to prisoners and educating prisoners
about these laws. We are also focused on
educating and engaging the public at large
about prisoners’ human rights violations.
We are abolitionist and believe that the current model of how we deal with those that
have fallen short must be dismantled. This
can only be done by prisoners speaking
out. Prisoners must use their own voice and
organizing skills to connect with the world
for change. The current project of JLS is
the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights
March on Washington, to abolish (in part
or whole) the #13th amendment. Here’s a
little about the organizing body for this historic event.

Millions for Prisoners'
Human Rights
As the momentum of the National Prison
strike continues to unfold, so are the next
stages of prison resistance. Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, has announced plans to have
a mass Demonstration on the Washington
DC Mall, August 19, 2019. With the imprisonment numbers being at 2.4 million,
and climbing, we believe a million plus
of this Nations citizens will participate.
We are not even calculating in the citizens
with loved ones in county jails, youth halls,
or on probation and parole. The numbers
are shocking. When viewed as a whole,
we see that the Nation has indeed created
another class (the prison class). Made up
of mostly the poor and people of color. It
is this prison class and all those connected
to them that will shake this country to its
foundation.
Since the inception of the lie that slavery was abolished, amerika year after year
has ignored prisoner complaints of the
13th amendment’s punishment exception
clause. Instead states and the government
monopolized the slave trade and contracted
out humans convicted of crimes to private enterprises. Today, the Prison Industrial Complex is estimated by some to be
a trillion-dollar Industry. The Prison Industrial Complex is so interwoven in the basic
functioning of the amerikan economy, that
many believe to end free prison labor, or
profiting off crime could cause an economic collapse.
It is not our goal to cause an economic
4

collapse, but to shift the economics from
the human exploitation of prisoners. We
do this by abolishing/amending the 13th
amendment exception clause. A prisoner’s
“time” is solely based on economics, as
corporate lobbyist persuaded lawmakers to
push bills to keep prison beds filled. Filled
prison beds equal easy pickings for corporations of taxpayers’ dollars, and cheap labor
where needed. With no incentive through a
13th amendment clause, the course on how
the Nation regards those that have fallen
short and the releasing of those in the prisons will change completely.
Join us as we move forward into another chapter of prison resistance. Spread
the word in your cell block, through your
collect phone calls, on visit, letters, have
people to be on the Washington Mall. In
one voice we can change the Constitution,
forcing cell doors open in every state. Let’s
demand an end to these economic driven
prison sentences and pointless parole hearings. Time to dismantle the Prison Industrial Complex.
• The MPOC (Millions for Prisoners Human Rights Organizing Committee) is
the voice of the prisoners outside the
walls.
• The MPOC is not an organization, but a
Coalition title to recognize a Collective
committee function.
• This mission has been in the works for
over a year now. Actual work started a
few months ago when iamWE Prison
Advocacy Network took on the leading
organizing efforts outside the wall.
• The Demonstration will be used to expose the 13th worldwide, expose exploiting companies, re educate the
people, promote abolition and organize
stronger prison resistance outside the
prisons to dismantle the Prison Industrial Complex. 
-JLS

day of the prison strike.
For every day of the prison strike at the
Central California Women’s Facility, the
prison system lost $24,132 in revenue or
$5,946 in profit.

QUICK FACTS
California earned $207 million in revenue or $58 million in profit from the labor
of incarcerated workers in 2014-15.
5,588 incarcerated workers in state prisons are forced into labor in 2016.
34 state prisons operate California Prison
Industry enterprises in manufacturing, services, and agriculture.
Last year, 4,848 incarcerated workers
were forced to work for state prison enterprises. Each incarcerated worker generated
$12,037 in annual profit for the prison system. Yet, each worker earned only $445.
September 9, 2016 was the start of the
largest prison strike in U.S. history. Over
72,000 incarcerated workers in 22 states
refused to provide their labor to profit
the prison industrial complex. California
forced 5,588 incarcerated workers to labor
in exchange for little or no compensation.
Another 4,000 earn $2 a day fighting Californian wildfires with inadequate training
and equipment. The prison system in California reaped $207 million in revenue and
$58 million in profit from forced labor in
2014-15.
Each incarcerated worker in California
generates $41,549 annually in revenue for
the prison system, or $10,238 in profit. The
financial losses to the California prison sys-

If you want to become a JLS member or
join the movement, write to:
Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, P.O. Box
58201, Raleigh, NC 27658
For people that would like to support or
join this Historic March contact:
millionsforprisonersmarch@gmail.com
iamweubuntu.com
The financial losses to the California
prison system are as much as $636,068 in
revenue, or $156,736 in profit, for every
The Kite

tem were as much as $636,068 in revenue,
or $156,736 in profit, for every day of the
prison strike.
September 9, 2015 was the start of the
largest prison strike in U.S. history. Over
72,000 incarcerated workers in 22 states
refused to provide their labor to profit
the prison industrial complex. California
forces 5,588 incarcerated workers to labor
in exchange for little or no compensation.
Another 4,000 earn $2 a day fighting Californian wildfires with inadequate training
and equipment. The prison system in California reaped $207 million in revenue and
$58 million in profit from forced labor in
2014-15.
Each incarcerated worker in California
generates $41,549 annually in revenue for
the prison system, or $10,238 in profit. The
financial losses to the California prison
system were as much as $636,068 in revenue, or $156,736 in profit for every day of
the prison strike.
Prison industries are managed by the
California Prison Industry Authority
(CALPIA)p which was created in 1983
based on model legislation written by the
right-wing American Legislative Exchange
Council (ALEC). CALPIA operates manufacturing, service, and agricultural enterprises within 34 state prisons. CALPIA is
restricted to selling its goods and services
to state agencies—Pelican Bay State Prison has a contract with Del Norte school
district to provide laundry services, for
example. However, since 1990’s Proposition 139 (Prison Inmate Labor Initiative)
passed, private businesses can also set up
shop in prisons and subcontract incarcerated workers.
Data for incarcerated workers in private
prisons and county jails are difficult to obtain. Prison administrators have responded
to nonviolent resistance by locking down
facilities, cutting off access and communication to the outside world for incarcerated
workers. IWOC has ascertained that three
locations went on striker based on news
reports and phone calls to prisons: Central California Women’s Facility (CCWE).
Merced County Jail, and Taft Correctional
Institution. Approximately 212 incarcerated workers are employed in CCWF,
through CALPIA.
Each incarcerated worker at CCWF generates $113 daily in revenue for the prison
system, which amounts to $28 in profit.
For every day of the prison strike at CCWE
the prison system lost $24,132 in revenue
or $5,946 in profit. 
Volume 1, Number 3

‘NO LONGER HUMAN’

I

Women’s prisons are a breeding ground for
sexual harassment, abuse

ncarcerated women and gender minorities are largely left out of the #MeToo
discussion. Stacy Rojas wants to
change that.
Marisa Endicott Aug 29, 2018, 8:00 am
Stacy Rojas can still smell the chewing
tobacco from the prison guard who spit on
them three years ago during an incident in
which guards allegedly subjected Rojas
and their two cellmates to hours of sexual humiliation, harassment, and physical
abuse.
“For me, that was torture, and it still is
torture,” said Rojas, who is gender nonconforming. “I still have bad dreams about it.”
Rojas was released from Central California Women’s Facility, a state prison in
Chowchilla, one and a half years ago after
a 15-year term. Along with their female
cellmates who are still inside, Rojas filed
a lawsuit over the episode in November
2017. The case was referred to Magistrate
Judge Jennifer L. Thurston in July and a
hearing is set to take place Wednesday.
During the ordeal, which took place in
November 2015, guards allegedly stomped
on one woman’s breast, cut another’s
clothes off, left them in isolation cells so
long they had no choice but to soil themselves, and berated them with graphic sexual insults and suggestions.
While this was an extreme example, sexual harassment and abuse of women, transgender, and gender nonconforming people
in women’s prisons and jails are anything
but rare. Rojas had documented guards’
denigrating and sexual comments for
weeks, a fact they think inspired the hourslong attack which occurred four days after
they demanded to report the verbal abuse.
“This is not something that happens once
a month or even once a week. This is an everyday thing,” Rojas told ThinkProgress.
“This is what goes on, and this is how
they speak to you. They refer to women
as bitches and hoes, and if you’re not, then
they’re going to make you their bitch.”
While incarcerated people across the
country are currently striking to demand
improved conditions and better channels
for reporting mistreatment, few are aware
of the extreme abuse rampant in women’s
prisons and jails. These institutions are
breeding grounds for the type of harassment that has become a national focal point

thanks to the #MeToo movement. But behind bars, so far from the public eye with
so few checks and balances to hold staff
accountable, the problem becomes more
blatant and extreme.
“You have people who are primarily men in positions of basically absolute
power over a captive – literally captive –
population,” said Diana Block, founding
member of the California Coalition for
Women Prisoners, which is helping with
the lawsuit. “All the dynamics of sexism
and patriarchy and sexual violence that are
very prevalent in the society as a whole are
translated directly into the conduct and behavior within prisons with very little protection or surveillance or recourse.”
Between 2009 and 2011, women represented just 13 percent of the people in jails,
but they accounted for 67 percent of all
staff-on-prisoner sexual victimization, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
In the context of incarceration, sexual
harassment takes on a much more violent, humiliating, and dehumanizing quality than what is typically discussed in the
#MeToo movement, almost as if it’s part
of the punishment for committing a crime,
Block explained.
“All the dynamics of sexism and patriarchy and sexual violence that are very
prevalent in the society … are translated
directly into the conduct and behavior
within prisons.”
Rojas said part of what is most misunderstood about incarcerated women, and
especially transgender and gender nonconforming people behind bars, is the sense
that they chose to break the law or be different, and so they may not be worthy of
the same attention or protection.
It’s like “we made that choice to get
treated like this,” Rojas said. For “the
women there, I feel like people also look
at them not as mothers, not as sisters…
and they should just think a little bit more
about why they’re there, what went wrong,
instead of ‘they’re there, and now they’re
no longer human.’”
Incarcerated women have largely been left
out of the #MeToo discussion, just as they
are left out of many conversations.
Part of the reason may be that incarcerWomen ..................... Continued on page 7
5

PRISONERS AND DISABILITY
by Janine Bertram
ears ago I lived in Washington DC
and DC jail staff killed a newly arrested, pre trial prisoner with a spinal cord injury. They threw him in a cell to
die without the medication, wheelchair and
supports he needed to survive – despite the
fact that his family members and some advocates were calling writing and virtually
begging staff to get him what he needed to
keep alive. I’d been working in disability
rights for years and still do but that’s when
I really tuned into the tortuous and sometimes deadly abuse faced by prisoners with
disabilities.
Here's an introduction to your author.
I’m Janine Bertram and work with The
Kite. In 1976 I was a member of The
George Jackson Brigade. Arrested in 1978,
I served 52 months as a political prisoner in
federal prison. So while I don’t have near
the knowledge and experience of Co-editors, Comrades and friends Mark Cook and
Ed Mead, I have experience and knowledge of prisons. They’ve gotten far more
brutal, oppressive and exploitive since I did
time. When I was locked down, I was nondisabled. Then a few years ago I sustained
a spinal cord injury in my neck and now
experience disability too. I had surgery and
can walk short distances using canes or a
walker. I hope to be giving you more info
on disability in future issues. But before I
get back to disability, I want to send solidarity and respect to everyone who participated in the recent national prison strike. I
know how hard that is and that retaliation is
often brutal. But life in prison will never really change until prisoners come together,
lead the way and stop the prison slavery
that makes billions of dollars for the prison
industrial complex.
But back to disability, 1 in 4 people in the
US have a disability. The number locked up
prison is 3 times higher. This includes convicts with physical, intellectual and mental
illness disability. That’s a big percentage
and it makes me think of how important for
all prisoners to stop abusing and exploiting vulnerable prisoners. Instead we need
everyone working for real change, Like
George Jackson said “Settle your quarrels,
come together, understand the reality of
our situation, that fascism is already here,
that people are already dying who could be
saved, that generations more will live poor
butchered half lives if you fails to act...”
Here are a few oppressions happening to

Y

6

disabled prisoners, It’s common for Deaf
prisoners to be denied interpreters for their
legal cases, for prison rules and orders so
they have no idea what is expected or required. They and their families are charged
higher costs than non disabled to communicate and we all know prisons and phone
companies already have ridiculously high
charges that impoverish non disabled prisoners and their families. It’s not uncommon
for guards to take away a prisoner’s wheelchair for fun, punishment or because they
just got up on the wrong side of the bed that
morning. That prisoner can’t move -has no
toilet access, nothing. The list of atrocities
on disabled prisoners could fill several issues of The KITE.

In a 2012 Bureau of Justice Statistics report, 40%
of state and federal prisoners reported currently
having a chronic illness...
Prisons are breaking the law. The ADA
and several other federal laws require disabled prisoners to be treated with parity and
have access to whatever non disabled prisoners have access to (It’s called programs
and services). These laws are ignored by
prisons and rarely enforced though backed
up by a US Supreme Court decision. The
few places left that help prisoners get their
rights (like ACLU Prison Project, Protection and Advocacy groups in every state)
are overwhelmed with cases and under
staffed).
In each state there are Protection and Advocacy groups who have the federal legal
right to enter a prison or other institution,
investigate conditions and bring legal challenges about disability oppression in prison
and prisons not following relevant laws
Here is contact information for disabled
prisoners in Washington and Oregon. (Of
course they are overburdened too).
Disability Rights Washington:
206-324-1521 or 800-562-2702 use 711
for Washington Relay Services
Collect calls from correctional facilities
are accepted.
315 5th Ave S, Suite 850
Seattle, WA 98104
Disability Rights Oregon:
Voice: 503-243-2081 or 800-452-1694
TTY Users dial 711
511 SW 10th AV, Suite 200
Portland, OR 97205

The following information is excerpted
from a longer article from the Prison Policy Institute titled “Police, courts, jails, and
prisons all fail disabled people. Disabled
people are overrepresented in all interactions with the criminal justice system, and
at all points, the system is failing them.” by
Elliot Oberholtzer, August 23, 2017. It has
partial but important info about abuse of
disabled prisoners once we are locked up
(post arrest and trial).

Prisons abuse and isolate
their disabled populations
Less than half of jails are equipped to offer mental health treatment. Just 21% have
programs to support mentally ill people
upon release.
Disabled people are also disproportionately incarcerated in state and federal prisons. According to the Center for American Progress, people in state and federal
prisons are three times more likely than
the general population to report having at
least one disability. In a 2012 Bureau of
Justice Statistics report, 40% of state and
federal prisoners reported currently having a chronic illness, a significantly higher
rate than the general population. (While not
everyone with a chronic illness considers
himself or herself disabled, many chronic
illnesses cause serious inabilities to complete necessary tasks; for example, about
44% of people with arthritis report that it
limits their ability to do things like climb
a flight of stairs, bend over, or grasp small
objects).
Medical care for these conditions is inconsistent: while two-thirds of participants
in the BJS study were being treated, 11%
reported that their illness was not being
treated because the facility would not provide medication. The Amplifying Voices of
Inmates with Disabilities (AVID) Prison
Project reports cases of prisons ruling accommodations such as exercise equipment,
specialized diets, prosthetics, wheelchairs,
and other assistive technology no longer
“medically necessary” for disabled people
in an effort to cut costs. And with medical co-pays costing as much as a month’s
worth of labor in some states, including
states where prosthetics and other accommodations for disability incur an additional
fee on top of an existing co-pay, many disabled people in prisons simply cannot afford to access the care they need.
Denying medical care is not the
only
abuse of disabled people in prisThe Kite

on. 
Human Rights Watch suggests
that
use of force abuses against disabled
people in prisons is “widespread
and
may be increasing”. The AVID
Prison Project reports that disabled
people in
prison, particularly those
with mental illnesses, are disproportionately disciplined
with segregation and solitary confinement, which have been linked to suicide,
self-harm, and other serious mental health
consequences. Incarcerated people are a
particularly vulnerable population to malpractice and abuse of authority: they have
little or no ability to leave a bad situation or
demand better treatment. Already in a position of deeply unequal power simply by being incarcerated, disabled people in prison
are then further disadvantaged by systemic
ableism.

Inadequate re-entry support
undermines opportunities
The AVID Prison Project also reports that
disabled people are often denied access to
vocational and release planning programs
while incarcerated, or placed in programs
without accommodations for their disabilities. “The way it is now, I’m just basically
going back out there with no skills,” said
one man from Washington with a visual
impairment; his facility had placed him in
a community college course without giving him the visual aids he needed to keep
up with the class. Another person reported
that they had asked for information on how
to apply for Social Security benefits once
released, and been denied because their
counselor thought they should seek employment instead.
Incarcerated people already face significant barriers upon re-entering society, including housing restrictions, employment
discrimination, and ongoing fines and fees
that represent a significant financial burden.
When those difficulties are compounded by
disability — especially if that disability has
been worsened by neglect and abuse while
incarcerated — a disabled person attempting to re-enter society after a prison stay
faces almost insurmountable obstacles.
At every interaction between disabled
people and the criminal justice system, it
is evident how ill suited the system is to
respect disabled people’s needs. Along
with widespread reform of our courts and
institutions, we need to shift from viewing
disabled people in crisis through a crimianalization and incarceration lens to a community health approach.
Volume 1, Number 3

A note about language:
1. This article uses “disabled person/
people” as the term of choice, sometimes
called identity-first language. I respect the
right of any person to choose how they
want to be referred to, but when speaking
about disabled people as a broad category, I
have decided to adhere to the social model
of disability, acknowledging that disabled
people are disabled by societal ableism,
and that their bodies and abilities are not
inherently less. 
Women ................. Continued from page 5
ated women disproportionately come from
the most vulnerable and overlooked communities. In jails, the majority of women
lack full employment prior to arrest and a
third suffer from serious mental illness, according to a 2016 report by the Vera Institute of Justice. Two-thirds of jailed women
are people of color.
“As the most marginalized community,
this is just something else where it’s not
discussed and that we are the last to be
talked about,” said Topeka Sam, a former
prisoner and the founder of the Ladies of
Hope Ministries, an organization that helps
formerly incarcerated women transition
back into society.
Sam pointed out that while the #MeToo
movement was founded by a black woman,
Tarana Burke, over a decade ago, the mainstream media and public didn’t start paying attention until more affluent and white
women started speaking out.
Even within criminal justice circles and
reform efforts, women and gender nonconforming individuals are often left out, according to Elizabeth Swavola, a senior associate with the Center on Sentencing and
Corrections at the Vera Institute. Women
make up a much smaller proportion of the
overall incarcerated population, making
them less of a focus.
But, over the last several decades, the
incarceration rate of growth for women
has been double that of men’s, according
to The Sentencing Project. Since 1980, the
population of women in jails and prisons
rose from about 26,000 to almost 214,000
in 2016, a stunning growth rate of about
800 percent.
The population explosion means that
women have been funneled into systems
that were not built for them. Even supposedly standard correctional practices like
shackling, observing prisoners changing
and using the bathroom, or performing
body searches can take on an especially
sexual and violating nature when per-

formed by male guards on female inmates.
This is particularly true for the shockingly
high proportion of women prisoners who
are already survivors of sexual violence, as
Rojas and their cellmates are, a reported 86
percent of women in jails, the Vera Institute
report showed.
“All of that can be incredibly traumatic
for any person but particularly for women
knowing how high the rates of trauma are,”
Swavola told ThinkProgress. “Most of the
people in jail are men, and that’s how systems and practices have been designed, and
so it’s absolutely easy to miss that women
may be triggered by some of the standard
practices.”
In general, support services and training
are lacking in jails and prisons for both the
prisoners and the guards.
“It’s not rehabilitative,” Sam said. “It’s a
dark place, for everybody. And they’re not
getting the type of treatment that they need
either…So it’s just this constant violence
being perpetuated over and over.”
The especially closed system and lack
of accountability for reporting abuse is a
major factor in continuing the cycle. To report staff misconduct of any kind, prisoners
can file an administrative appeal (a 602) to
request an investigation. But the problem
is “you are filing the 602 basically with,
if not the actual people, the friends of the
people, the coworkers of the people, who
have abused you,” Block said.
“It’s a dark place, for everybody. And
they’re not getting the type of treatment
that they need …So it’s just this constant
violence being perpetuated over and over.”
Rojas and the other plaintiffs filed multiple 602 grievances that were for the most
part ignored or left unresolved. “You want
to make someone laugh in there? You want
to tell a joke,” Rojas said. “You tell them
you’re filing a 602.”
And when Rojas and their cellmates dialed a hotline meant for reporting sexual
harassment at the California Department of
Correction and Rehabilitation’s Office of
Internal Affairs, the number was no good.
“It is so discouraging…You’re hopeless.”
The sense that there will be no recourse
or, even worse, that there will be retaliation,
can have a chilling effect on reporting. And
the utter isolation factor can leave incarcerated women feeling all the more helpless.
Sexual assault of inmates by staff is
prevalent and often goes unpunished
“That’s one of the things we are really
Women ..................... Continued on page 9
7

A Rap?

“What white Americans have never fully
accepted – but what the Negro can never
forget – is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions
created it, white institutions maintain it,
and white society condones it.” National
Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders
(from 1965)
I’ve lived in towns/neighborhoods all
over Washington/Oregon where shootings
are frequent
In East Pasco the come back to back in
perfect sequence
In Tacoma, Spokane, Yakima, Sunnyside, and Portland Juvenile Delinquents
Believe the best way to be distinguished
Is by making their enemies become extinguished
The gangs tend to pick up beefs that they
refuse to relinquish
For us violence has been normalized,
we’ve become desensitized
Therefore the streets ain’t no place for no
sensitive guys
A Top Dawg’s descent & demise, comes
for cents on those dimes
So many senseless crimes take citizen’s
lives Witnesses cry when watching innocents die
Some murderers & shooter get arrested/
sentenced to life
Most other crimes go unreported and
therefore unresolved
Citizens chose to remain uninvolved
So guilt/blame/complicity, & stigma of
snitchin will be absolved
As the madness/chaos/craziness in the
streets evolves
LawmaKKKers who war on Afrikan/
Latino Americans stick to their “tough on
crime” script with no iota of vacillating
Man it’s so fascinating how we all can sit
so placid, waiting
For some law to all of sudden come &
magically rescue us
We look for the incestuous RedneKKKs
you trust who live amorally & indecorous
While chilling in capitol buildings at
their desk, the Jew fuss
Demanding they spit out more edicts and
decrees
That bring Afrikan/Latino Americans to
their knees
So the rich and poor will keep stratified
Keep racial/religious/economic tensions
8

magnified glad with pride
The YanKKKees and their LOYAL Jewish bankers
Finance the media’s propaganda, blood
diamonds, & oil tankers
Their wars and distribution of drugs – for
the money they hunger
The Europeans is securely anchored
To the cults/secret societies
Backed by the Vatican and arKKKdioceses, who piously
Pretend to unbiased/pristine, what a sight
to see
Lying that they can rule over ALL MANKIND/judging righteously
Axing God outta the equation, controlling subjects fiscally
And with militias enforcing their agendas/policies physically
Motivated by greed, intrinsically, The
Oligarchs change policies to suit their
agenda whimsically
And usually the poor people get the brunt
of it
The prosperity and growth stunted,
above it
The Government places themselves –
taking Black/Brown community’s access to
resources, funding, jobs, healthcare, education – right in front of it
With the utmost smugness, pride, and
gumption
While urban decay, violence, poverty,
and drug consumption
Is the consequences, man it ain’t no
questions, or assumptions
About it, the future of youngsters in the
trap is clouded
Their schools is underfunded, understaffed, and classrooms is over crowded
Superintendents rule over militarized
school districts
Once the proverbial “CHOCKHOLD” is
inflicted –
Then substandard education, outdated
text books, expulsions, and droppin out
keeps our kids constricted
See-through
bags/pat-downs/stripsearches/metal detectors

LETTERS

LETTERS

allocate and appropriate it all to
themselves while advocating
the advent of new atrocities
asserting their will against
agronomical agrarians ameriKKKan arrogantly fight antiglobalists who acquiesce in the
face of active assinations that
affirm arch-rivalries as ample
people are associated with ages
old asinine misnomers made by anti-god
and anti-christ autonomies who anticipate
anti-immigrant anarchist’s alliances won’t
accept asylum seekers and immigrating
people across borders of america
if we’re kept abreast of why arising arrest
are always attributed to african latino and
Asiatic descendents with accents we see
how antiquity reflects the anewed antiquated creeds aimed at antagonizing attendees
who attend funeral of associates and family who are arbitrarily killed by accused
cops who are on administrative paid leave
only to have actual innocence announced
by away of acquittals from all-white juries
amazingly it’s an anomaly that’s atop the
itinerary of abusers whose astute accusations are accentuated to acclimate residents
to alienation and annihilation while animated activists ask for answer to absolve
the afflictions like how to stop
abusive and abrasive cops who leave
abrasions abdication of the government’s
throne is called for by abductees
criminally convicted of crimes cause
convictions come from coerced confessions extracted by crooked cops while
credibility of crack and crystal addicts is
crude and usually criticized yet it’s convincing enough to carry enough weight to
crucify in a court
that creates crowded conditions in prisons where people who are confined to cells
consume copious amounts of unsafe unhealthy comida and commissary under care
of corrections officials who certify their

anglo saxon armadas arrive in arid and
tropical areas of africa and asia with appointed agents and agenda of accumulating agriculture and access to all natural
resources and acquire accounts by way of
aggressive aristocrats and accountants who
The Kite

cannibalistic cops by way of core training so they can crease constituents who
they don’t consider as human or civilized
so civilians with badges have cohabitate in
communities where crazed c/o’s conspire
to carryout sadistic plots courteous of being
protected by brass and racist creeds
corrupt cowards on crucial collision
courses converging to contact point between free citizens of a communist beauracy and caged up captives whose catapulted
into capitulation
contracts become convoluted as condoning the criteria that cuts nexuses off in order to cripple the community’s communications they censor calls cancel visitation
and collapse collective endeavors to collect
cold hard cash
when thrown curveballs from competition, the courage to stay composed coupled
with contingency plans to stay calm and
composed in the chaos is critical to being
conducive in constructing connections with
worthy causes
companions and contemporaries contemplate carefully calculated exercises to hone
crafts with convert currency so creative
consumers with clearance will cleanse the
slate and circumvent the casualties and cremating and conflicts against their comrades
by positively contributing to a common
struggle against the continually oppressive
control mechanisms contrived to cool currents of coalescing cliques and cool off the
conjuring of coups de etat and coup de gras
committed conformists congregate in
convocations to commemorate career candidates in court costumes who try cases and
casually refuse to commute the committed
persons sentences while the country’s patriotic classes clearly choose not to close
the gaps between colors and castes so they
come up with codes that cede rights from
coast to coast and cleave cultures and customs from people
colleges, corporations and companies
concerned with monopolizing on capital
confirm to jim crow laws by calling for cessation of the racially construed chiding and
a ceasefire so colleagues in cahoots with
the klan and their consorts can cancel caucasians’ obligations to constitute corporation’s cubicles with chink coons and crossbreeds who are considered by consensus to
be condemned because copulation between
conflicting colors compromises correct
combinations of dna sequences and codes
destructive devils deflect equality in demographics denoted 
Jon Gordon
Volume 1, Number 3

Women ................. Continued from page 7
grappling with is what system can we ask
for that would be better? What does it mean
to be a whistleblower and have any type of
protection when you’re in prison,” Block
said.
That’s why, beyond seeking damages,
Rojas’ lawsuit is seeking injunctive relief
in a number of areas, including the development of a whistleblowing process managed by an external agency. The goal is to
be able to hold correctional officers and
staff accountable for mistreatment, excessive force, and the use of solitary confinement cages, claiming officers violated the
prisoners’ Eighth Amendment rights to be
free from cruel and unusual punishment.
The lawsuit also aims to ensure prisoners
can access proper medical care, food, and
clothing.
There is reason to be hopeful. Despite
the many deterrents, reporting of sexual
victimization has increased in recent years,
according to new Bureau of Justice Statistics findings. Nationwide, grassroots efforts
have increased public and media awareness about women prisoners. At the federal
level, several members of congress have
introduced legislation around the dignity of
incarcerated women, and there is hope that
such efforts might increase as more women
take on legislative positions.
“I think just as the #MeToo movement
represents some level of evolution or culmination of struggles and consciousness
that has been developing over decades,
so too within the prisons, there has been a
changing at least awareness that that imbalance and power dynamic and that status
quo is not acceptable,” Block said.
Now on the outside, Rojas often feels a
sort of “survivor’s guilt” when they think
of their former cellmates still inside. It
makes them depressed, but also even more
determined.
“That’s why I really have that fire inside
me,” Rojas said. “I want to let the world
know and get whatever help I can.” 

SHARED
STRUGGLE

S

ince 2014 there have been a dozen
hunger strikes at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA, an
immigrant prison privately owned by the
corporation Geo Group. There have been
two strikes already in 2018. These strikes

co-exist with organized, persistent resistance from outside activists and supporters.
The following is a statement released by
hunger strikers on July 16, 2018:
“We decided to begin a hunger strike
on Saturday July 14th in the morning once
we heard our supporters would be outside
the facility on Saturday afternoon, to show
we also support them, and to expose the
problems in here, problems with food
getting worse, and in support of the families
separated at the border and the children in
detention.
We want people detained to know we are
not alone, to know that by being united in
here our voices can be heard outside. So
that everyone knows of the assaults and
harassment we suffer at the hands of Geo
guards. All of us men and women.
People have joined the hunger strike to
demand better pay for the daily jobs we do,
because we are tired of family separation,
and because of the lack of nutritious food.
We will remain in hunger strike as long as
necessary until our voices are heard.
Saturday in the late afternoon about 70
people from one of the pods in hunger strike
were taken outdoors saying there was a fire.
It was a lie there was no fire. Geo lied so we
would be taken to intake to be interrogated
asking us about this. No one spoke. We
know of past retaliation for joining hunger
strikes. There are not leaders here, we are
all united.
We are thankful to people outside
helping us, volunteers, and lawyers for
their support. It’s hard for us having to do
this because we have families outside, but
when we see what the government is doing
to other families, it gives us energy to fight
for change inside and out. We don’t want
more family separations. We want respect,
we are not animals. For example, the
hygiene here is the lowest possible. If we
request new underwear all we get is used
stained old underwear worn by someone
else. Towels are not changed for over a
month, even if towels are taken to the
laundry, are still dirty.
We are given for lunch a bag of chips,
cookies, a slice of ham and a slice of bread.
And then we have to wait until 6 pm to eat
again. We are still hungry.
We are also tired of medical abuses;
here they only give you Tylenol or sleeping
pills for whatever illness we have. Only
until you are dying you will be seeing by
a doctor. We want good medical care. We
Shared Struggle .....Continued on page 10
9

Solid Black Fist
A new Seattle-based newsletter
for prisoners. A Solid Black Fist
can be reached at the following
address. Write for a sample copy:
Solid Black Fist
14419 Greenwood Ave. N.
Suite A #132

Seattle, WA 98133
I am no longer accepting
the things I cannot change,

Free Electronic Copy
Outside people can read, download, or print current and back issues of The Kite newsletter by going
to https://thekite.info and clicking on
back issues of The Kite newsletter
they'd like to read.
Outside folks can also have a
free electronic copy of the newsletter sent to them each month by way
of email. Send requests for a digital
copy to contact@thekite.info

Message Box
The only way to end slavery
is to stop being a slave.
Chris Hedges

I am changing the things I
cannot accept.

Hopeful for unity...
Eager for change.
David Carr, Oregon SHU

Shared Struggle ... Continued from page 9
are always told to wait until the next day
at 5am to receive medical attention, or you
will be seen until you faint.
We know everyone here is fighting their
own cases, but we all must remember we
are not alone and we won’t be silenced.
If a CO mistreats you, send a letter to
the outside or to your family so they can
help. When we complain inside nothing
happens. They call us illegals, but we still
have rights. Don’t be afraid, we can win.
Don’t let the guards intimidate us.
We all should be given the opportunity
to stay. Many of us can’t go back to our
countries because we could die. We would
rather be detained here than being sent to
our deaths in our countries.
We will continue in the struggle here
detained.
We send greetings to you all in the
outside; all of you that stop doing your
daily activities to support us because you
agree no one should be separated from their
families anymore.” 

Kite Newsletter
P.O. Box 46745
Seattle, WA 98146

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