The Heat is On: Update on Week 1 of Operation Push!

One week ago prison rebels across Florida launched Operation PUSH. Their demands were simple: end prison slavery and price gouging, restore access to parole, and put an end to the brutal conditions they are subjected to daily.

Information has been slow to trickle out due to intense repression and communication blackouts, but we know there has been strike participation at 15+ prisons, and we know that support on the outside is growing, with 150+ organizations endorsing the action and major solidarity actions in Florida occurring at various locations, including a 5-hour long occupation of the DOC office in Tallahassee.

The repression is already starting to come down: people being thrown into solitary confinement; being threatened with violence; being bribed to end their action and inform on other strike organizers; being transferred to new facilities to disburse strike activity throughout the system and isolate people.

One disturbing feature of this repression is DOC’s focus on identifying specific groups coordinating support on the outside such as the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons and IWOC and disrupting prisoners’ communication with these groups.
Prison organizers who correspond with these groups are being targeted for having their “security threat level” increased–a practice that translates into greater isolation and harsher conditions of confinement. One prisoner was told point blank, “As long as you communicate with these people you’re always going to be labelled a security threat and you’re always going to be put under investigation.”

Communication has been curtailed so severely that it’s hard to know how much of an economic impact the strike has had so far; we do know that in some cases scab labor has been brought in to keep facilities running. This state of uncertainty is a strategy prison administrators use to sap organizing energy. As IWOC recently wrote, “a common theme among report backs is the attempt to sever communication in order to create the perception of inactivity and break the spirits of those participating in the strike.”

But strikers won’t be fooled so easily, and neither will we. We will keep showing up because those on the inside are putting it all on the line, and we are in absolute solidarity with their courageous acts of resistance.

NOW IS THE TIME TO STEP UP OUR SUPPORT!

More info

Operation Push

Operation Push Flyer

On January 15, people imprisoned across Florida will begin a “lay down” to cripple the state’s system of prison slave labor and to challenge the brutal conditions they experience daily.

Thousands across the state will not go to work, go to chow, make purchases from the prison canteen, go to visits, use the phone system, or participate in any activity that feeds or is fed by the legalized extortion racket and slave labor system that is Florida state prison!

The best way folks can help from Asheville/far away:

*1)* *Spread the word! * The media rarely pays attention to prison struggles, so getting the word out is CRUCIAL; send to any contacts you have in the media and people you know, especially in Florida; share on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (#OperationPush #layitdown #endprisonslavery)

*2) Attend a letter-writing night hosted by **Blue Ridge ABC on Sunday 1/21 (4-6pm @ Firestorm). *One week into the lay down we’ll gather to send messages of solidarity to folks who are striking–they have asked specifically for this form of support! Check out BRABC’s Facebook page for upcoming event details, updates, media coverage and more!

*3) Look out for updates from BRABC. *Prison rebels will face repression. Organizers will be posting about needs as they arise and BRABC will be sending out these updates as they occur. https://www.facebook.com/BlueRidgeABC/

*4) Get Informed! *Below, read an article from Florida prison revolutionary Kevin “Rashid” Johnson on Operation Push; and to listen to an interview with a lead organizer with the action on the outside, listen here: https://thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org/

*Links:*

YouCaring Donations to send 1000+ zines publicizing the strike into prisons
statewide
https://www.youcaring.com/operationpush-1051439

Gainesville IWOC
https://incarceratedworkers.org/branches/gainesville
https://www.facebook.com/Gainesville-IWOC-995837620542847/

Fight Toxic Prisons
https://fighttoxicprisons.wordpress.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Campaign-to-Fight-Toxic-Prisons-1744188675811724/

SPARC Network
https://www.facebook.com/SPARC-133851070619730/

Blue Ridge ABC
https://www.facebook.com/BlueRidgeABC/

———–

*Florida** Prisoners Are Laying It Down*

*By Kevin “Rashid” Johnson*

During early 2018 prisoners across Florida are gonna “laydown”
in nonviolent protest of the intolerable conditions in Florida’s prisons.

The objectionable conditions being protested include unpaid
slave labor, compounded by outright price-gouging in the system’s
commissary and package services, and the gain-time scam that replaced
parole, which, coupled with extreme sentencing, has created overcrowding
and inhumane conditions.

The “laydown” will consist of a prisoner work stoppage and
their refusal to participate in any state-sanctioned or related activities,
and is planned to last for several weeks, or perhaps indefinitely, until
their concerns are addressed.

It is imperative that the public be aware of the prisoners’
need for resolutions and of their abuses.

A Culture of Abuse, Corruption and Inhumane Conditions

Having been confined in the Florida Department of Corruption
(FDOC) for six months at the time of writing this, and being able to
contrast conditions here with those in other prison systems (Florida’s is
my fourth state prison system in six years), I can personally attest that
conditions here are among the worst I’ve seen.

In fact, the past four months have passed without me writing
any articles, and during that time I have fallen behind in my own legal
pursuits because I’ve been overwhelmed trying to help others’ efforts and
needs to counter and challenge the extreme levels of abuse occurring
constantly around me here at Florida State Prison (FSP).

On a literal daily basis prisoners are gassed, tortured and/or
brutally beaten by guards with the full complicity of medical and mental
health staff. As part of this culture of abuse, grievance officials
routinely trash prisoners’ attempts to grieve their mistreatment. This to
eliminate any records of the abuses and to frustrate any potential attempts
at litigation (1).

These and attendant conditions illustrate the inhumane and
unjust outrages that Florida prisoners are protesting.

Take for example that FDOC prisoners are forced to work without
pay. Only one job pays a token wage (namely the prison commissary), which,
at $50 a month, is lower than 3rd world sweatshop rates.

The enforced slave labor in the FDOC is a literal continuation
of the old antebellum slave system, selectively enforced against people of
color and the poor and based upon the 13th Amendment which only modified
slavery at the end of the Civil War in 1865, to permit enslavement of those
convicted of crimes. It was under this reformed slavery that Blacks were
targeted for re-enslavement and the FDOC was established three years later
in 1868 which the FDOC proudly boasts on its seal (2).

Coupled with Florida prisoners receiving no wages, they must
purchase basic hygiene supplies, seasonal clothing, shoes and supplemental
foods and beverages from a grossly overpriced commissary and package
system, which weighs heavily on their loved ones. Otherwise prisoners must
do without.

Again, by contrasting the FDOC with other prison systems that
I’ve been recently confined to, I can readily illustrate and attest to this
pricing scam. In fact, those on the outside can compare the prices between
FDOC’s packaging system with that in Texas, by visiting access.comand
FloridaPackages.com for Florida prices and
going to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s (sic!) website and
going to Ecommdirect.com for Texas prices.

FDOC prices are literally double or more the prices of the same
or similar items sold to Texas prisoners. Here are some random examples
comparing the 2017 prices of the same or similar items sold to FDOC versus
TDCJ prisoners:

1. A Speed Stick deodorant is $2.50 (TX); while a generic Oraline Secure
roll-on deodorant is $4.00 (FL);

2. One AA battery is $.27 (TX); a pack of two AA batteries is $3.02 (FL);

3. A roll of toilet paper is $.50 (TX); $1.00 (FL);

4. Ten letter size envelopes are $.30 (TX); $.80 (FL);

5. Multivitamins—100 count—are $2.30 (TX); $7.21 (FL);

7. A 3.5 ounce pouch of mackerel fillets is $.85 (TX); $1.59 (FL);

8. A 4 ounce bag of coffee is $.85 and $1.90 (TX); $6.03 (FL);

9. One Top Ramen soup is $.30 (TX); $.70 (FL);

10. Ten individual packs of oatmeal are $1.50 (TX); $5.30 (FL);

11. A bottle of nasal spray is $1.85 (TX); $8.75 (FL), and so on.

Again, these are only random samples showing the comparative
overpricing of items sold to FDOC prisoners. It should also be kept in
mind that the quality of goods sold by prison vendors are typically
inferior to those sold to the general public.

Forced to work without pay and to purchase goods at usurious
prices, while most come from poor communities, prisoners are especially
vulnerable to such pricing scams, and most obviously cannot afford to
purchase basic necessities, supplement the inadequate prison meals and
nutrition, and acquire the few allowed amenities at the prices set by the
FDOC.

This is particularly problematic where, as the Florida media
has exposed, the FDOC has been caught denying its prisoners such basic
necessities as toilet paper, toothpaste, soap, etc. and have issued and
forced them to wear clothes that are threadbare and literally shredded.
They are also made to live in housing units that are falling apart around
them. (3)

And while prison officials love to profess their function to be
that of “rehabilitating” those they confine so that they might become
productive members of society upon release, nothing be further from the
truth. Slavery does not teach one work ethic nor how to be free.

With little to no outside support, most prisoners areforced to
hustle and scheme as a means of acquiring necessities and amenities.
Forcing people to work without pay while denying them needed and desired
things, only teaches them to becomes thieves, predators and swindlers. So
officials are actually teaching criminality. Which is only reinforced by
the culture of corruption that pervades the FDOC, which is beyond the pale.

Some of that corruption began to come out in the media during
and after 2014 when outside protests and litigation exposed patterns of
FDOC prisoners being killed by officials and covered up at the highest
administrative and investigative levels. Particularly the murder of a
mentally ill prisoner, Darren Rainey, in 2012 by guards scalding him to
death in a rigged shower at Dade Correctional Institution which was swept
under the rug until exposed in 2014.

The public exposure of this incident and the attempts to cover
it up opened a can of worms, leading to the exposure of numerous other
killings, routine malicious beatings and gassings of prisoners by guards,
systemic denials of mental health care, and more, as a deeply entrenched
statewide culture (which continues) (4).

Also exposed was a system of retaliations, firings and
harassments against investigators and other staff who tried to report or
expose such abuses, engineered at highest levels of power in the FDOC. (5)

This abusive environment has been made all the worse by such
staffing problems as frequent guard turnovers, low pay, chronic
understaffing, and a generally inadequately trained and unprofessional
staff body.

These are among the many inhumane and intolerable conditions
and abuses that FDOC prisoners suffer every day with no voice or help, and
which they are protesting for relief from. They need and deserve all
possible support.

Dare to struggle, dare to win!

All Power to the people!

*__________________________*

*1. Under federal law prisoners must exhaust any existing prison grievance
procedures before filing suit. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). This requirement
is however invalidated when officials obstruct a prisoner’s
grievances. Turner v. Burnside, 541 F. 3d 1077, 1083—84 (11th cir. 2008).*

*2. See, Jessica Lipscomb, “Unpaid Florida Prisoners Forced to Clean Up
After Hurricane Irma,” The New Times, Sept. 28, 2017.*

*3. Mary Ellen Klas, “Florida Prisons Have Toilet Paper, But They’re Not
Supplying it to Some Inmates,” Miami Herald, July 19, 2017; Paula Dockery,
“Inspector General Fiasco Adds to Prison Woes,” Florida Today, May 9, 2015.*

*4. A series of many , many reports covering these issues have come out in
the Miami Herald from 2014 to present, many written by journalists Julie K.
Brown and Mary Ellen Klas. These reports are too numerous to list here but
can be reviewed online by interested readers.*

*5. Julie K. Brown, “Top Cop Accused of Thwarting Investigations Quits
Florida Prison System,” Miami Herald, December 21, 2016; Mary Ellen Klas
and Julie K. Brown, “New Prison Policy Punishes Investigators Who Speak
Out,’Miami Herald, February 5, 2015, Mary Ellen Klas, “Florida Prison
Inspectors Detail Alleged Interference in Their Investigations,” Miami
Herald, June 1, 2016*

Ping Pong for the People: BR@BC Benefit Nov 15!

What: ping pong tournament to benefit Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross
When: Wednesday, November 15 @ 6:30pm**
Where: Standard Pizza (755 Biltmore Ave–not west side location!)
Cost: $10-30 sliding scaled suggested!
Why: Because ping pong is really fun and state repression isn’t!

**Pre-registration for the tournament is highly recommended, as space is limited**

If space allows, same-day registration will begin on a first come basis starting at 5:30pm!

Huricane Harvey Leaves Texas Prisoners Stranded In Beaumont with Unsanitary Conditions, Limited Communication with Outside Support

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 6, 2017

Contacts:
Houston Anarchist Black Cross
Austin Anarchist Black Cross

Hurricane Harvey Leaves Beaumont Prisoners Stranded with Unsanitary Conditions, Limited Communication with Outside Support

Beaumont, TX— If there is one thing those doing prison advocacy learn quickly, it’s that the official statements from prison officials never provide a full account of negative conditions and abuses. Looking into the impact of Hurricane Harvey, this is especially true; but looking out for how the aftermath will be handled, this is even more daunting for those who have no voice. Though prisoners endured Hurricane Harvey with the rest of us, aid and concern for their well-being has been slow to follow, leaving basic human needs up to the discretion of prison administrators.

In the immediate wake of Harvey’s landfall, official statements downplayed its impact. On Sept. 1, the Federal Bureau of Prisons said “power has been restored to FCC Beaumont, and generator power is no longer being used. The Inmate Telephone System (ITS) is currently operational. The FCC continues to use its own reserve of water to operate the complex. There is ample food and bottled water for inmates and staff,” while the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) social media pages read “leadership visited the facilities in Dayton this afternoon talking with staff and dropping off donations. Everyone continues to work hard to ensure staff and offenders are safe” with gratuitous photos of executive director Brian Collier talking with TDCJ employees. There’s also a donation drive and resources extended to employees impacted by the hurricane in a video featuring Collier himself, however, no direct information was provided about resources or conditions for prisoners beyond evacuations.

Five units were evacuated due to threats of flooding as the Brazos River rose to historic levels, starting on Aug. 29. These units included Vance, Jester 3, Stringfellow, Ramsey, and Terrel. Yet both federal and state-run prisons in the port town Beaumont—located 90 miles east of Houston—doubled down on their refusal to evacuate carceral facilities, nor have any clear plan in place to ensure the safety of their captives.

When Harvey made second landfall on the coast of Port Arthur-Beaumont on Wed. Aug. 30, the city of Beaumont (pop. 118,000) experienced a voluntary evacuation, those behind walls had no choice and remained subject to horrible living conditions, such as limited access to clean drinking water and food (in some cases, only eight ounces per day and one to two sandwiches), buckets to defecate in, and inaccessibility to proper hygiene. Jefferson County houses three state run facilities (Gist, LeBlanc, Stiles), three federal facilities, juvenile detention centers, in addition to private prisons.

Within the Federal Correctional Complex (FCC), Beaumont FCI Low and Beaumont FCI Medium (housing a combined total of 1,850 prisoners) operated by UNICOR and/or FPI, a wholly owned United States government corporation created in 1934 as a prison labor program for prisoners within the Federal Bureau of Prisons (a component of the Department of Justice). BASF Agriculture plant is located less than three miles east of the Federal Correctional Complex, and down the street from TDCJ facility, Stiles Unit. According to official statements from the Beaumont BASF plant,“water pollution from some facilities is also spiking: BASF’s Beaumont Agro plant, which produces agricultural chemicals,” and noted an “exceptional event” filing that its toxin-laden waste water “will continue to overflow to the ground until the rain stops.” Note: Kinder Morgan (gas refinery) and Sunoco Logistics are within a three mile radius of the prisons (see map below).

FCI Beaumont Low went on lockdown from Aug. 27 through Sept. 2, when incarcerated persons were let out of their cells for about an hour. Many called outside to talk with family and friends about conditions, and said some cells were flooded, they were not getting sufficient food or water, medicines were not being distributed, and unsanitary conditions persisted due to the inability to flush toilets. During the chaos, many units remained on lockdown, meaning prisoners were not allowed to access commissary or leave their cells, and in some cases were denied phone access.

In a report conducted by Left Voice a week after Harvey hit, a woman whose husband is incarcerated at Beaumont Federal Prison said, “they are using the restroom in bags so they can save the toilet water. They all have been drinking the toilet water since they have been low on water supply. He said that even though the toilet water has bacteria, at this moment he didn’t care and the other prisoners didn’t care either. They are really thirsty. He said he would drink anything. He told me that if this water didn’t kill him, the conditions were going to kill him. That’s how bad it is.”

Communication with prisoners has slowed down significantly. The TDCJ Mail System Coordinators Panel said mail was suspended until further notice for any units impacted by Harvey, contrary to the Ombudsman 24 hour hotline which said the suspension was state wide due to the main mail distribution hub being located in Houston. Additionally, visitations were cancelled the weekend of Sept. 2 for 29 units, and 14 units have cancelled visitation for the weekend of Sept. 9, with 13 additional units subjected to decreased visitation time. Phone privileges have remained inconsistent, or revoked entirely.

Similar stories have come from state units. The TDCJ Stiles Unit also reported inadequate food and water, lack of access to medical needs and staff shortages. One incarcerated person at Stiles said water in the building was up to his knees during the worst flooding, and as of Sept. 4 leveled at mid-calf. TDCJ spokesperson Jason Clark denied any flooding.

In the days and weeks ahead, unsanitary conditions alongside water shortages will likely continue and worsen, inevitably leading to illnesses and dehydration for many. Limited communications from inside the units will exacerbate confusion about conditions. Staff shortages will likely mean a continuation of lockdown conditions and failure to provide for medical needs such as heart and asthma medications and treatment for other chronic conditions. Prisoners will continue to lose hope as officials refuse to provide accurate information to media.

The Anarchist Black Cross calls for immediate action to take place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of those imprisoned in Beaumont.

Demands:
1. Evacuate all units in Beaumont until proper steps are made to address contamination, mold, and other health hazards, as well as accessibility to clean drinking water.
2. Publicize all data documenting decisions regarding the Hurricane that took place between August 25, 2017 to present.
3. Resume communications between prisoners and outside supporters, including media.
4. Allow reporters to tour facilities to foster transparency.
5. Cease the operation of all institutions of confinement.

###

A Night Of Benefit Comedy for J20 Defendents

An evening of comedy by some of #Asheville‘s leading comedians: Minori Hinds, Kelly Morgan, Moira Goree & Dana Williams! 9pm, Labor Day 2017 at The Mothlight in West Asheville The proceeds will go to help cover legal and travel costs for defendents from the mass arrest at the protests against Donald Trumps inauguration in Washington…

September 3rd, Prisoner Letter Writing Night

This month we continue our first-Sunday-of-every-month get together at Firestorm at 5pm EST to write letters to prisoners.  We’ll have addresses for political prisoners in the U.S. and will provide paper, pens, envelopes and postage. Come out and meet BR(A)BC members and reach out to those behind bars with us! Prisoners with birthdays we’ll be…

Asheville Solidarity Rally with Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March on Washington DC

The 13th Amendment of the US Constitution still allows slavery, creating an increasing population of caged people who provide free or near-free labor to stockholders of the Prison Industrial Complex and profiteers of mass incarceration. As a result, American jobs are lost and job-seekers are victimized because private industry cannot compete with involuntary servitude.

Therefore, citizens of Asheville North Carolina invite you to a Solidarity Rally with Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March on Washington DC. There, we will peacefully assemble to let Congress know, it is time to end slavery once and for all, delete the exception clause in the 13th Amendment authorizing prison slavery, and stop profiteering in its tracks – because all workers deserve living wages. All Asheville and Buncombe County residents are invited–especially our elected representatives and those running for office this election season. Voters, your constituents, want to know where you stand on this matter.

When: August 19th at 11:30 AM

Where: Pack Square Park (In front of City Hall)

This event is organized by Asheville Black Lives Matter, Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross (BRABC), and Zamani Refuge African Cultural Center, with more endorsements forthcoming.

For more information, please check out this Fedbook link.

Show Some Birthday Love for Malik Washington!

Friends,

Support for long-term political and politicized prisoners is a crucial part of building a revolutionary abolitionist movement. We owe it to our friends on the inside not to lose track of them, and to show we care about their lives. Wishing someone “Happy Birthday” is a great way of doing that–which is why Blue Ridge ABC holds monthly political prisoner birthday letter-writing nights–and we appreciate everyone who has attended one of those events!

For those who are able to do a little bit more, a small birthday gift goes a long way and means SO MUCH. Comrade Malik Washington, a radical prison activist who is incarcerated in Texas, is turning 49 in a few days (July 19), and he is running low on funds in his commissary (the account at the prison where he can spend money to get things he needs). If there is any little amount you could throw Malik’s way, he would be so grateful! It’s very easy to do online, just visit here to buy items or post money to his account using his name (*Keith H. Washington*) and inmate number (*TDC#1487958*).

Malik is one of the chief spokespeople for the End Prison Slavery movement that launched last year’s prison strike on September 9. One of the reasons it’s so important to support people like Malik is that he truly demonstrates what “mutual aid” looks like in action. He wrote in his last letter, “Anything you send is a blessing because some guys get absolutely nothing but please know I always share with my fellow prisoners. We are in this together–no time for selfishness!!” That’s what it’s all about!

Hope you can support, and thanks for all you do to build this movement!

In appreciation & solidarity,

Blue Ridge ABC

PS – If you want to write Malik a happy birthday greeting or send a card,
here’s his mailing address:

Keith H. Washington
TDC# 1487958
Eastham Unit
2665 Prison Road #1
Lovelady, TX 75851

June 11th, Asheville, 2017 flyers and events

June 11 is celebrated in solidarity with Marius Mason and other long term anarchist and ecological prisoners in the U.S. and around the world. There’ll be a vegan cookout and potluck, with discussions on the history of the #GreenScare, info on specific prisoners and ways to plug in locally as well as on queer and…