Mad Mike (the Wonder Dog) (Miguel Balderos) Interview

21st
Mar. × ’15

(A)

Hey there- (A) here. How about we start this interview by you giving a little bit of background about yourself? Where are you from, what kind of cool stuff are you interested in, what kind of music and art are you into, are there any noteworthy events from your childhood, etc…?

How was it that you became pulled toward revolutionary thoughts and actions? Do you have any specific political ideology/worldview that you generally adhere to?

I understand that you were a homeless rights activist; can you talk about that experience?

What’s the reason for your incarceration, and how long have you been in? How much longer is your sentence?

What’s the day-to-day routine for you like in your prison? What’s the labor system in there like?

Are there fellow inmates of yours who are doing anything to better/resist prison conditions? If so, what?

Thanks for the interview, and is there anything else you want to say to me and the world wide web?

(Mad Mike)
I was born and partially raised on the South-side of Chicago and New York City (until I turned 17 years old then I joined the U.S. Navy as a gunnersmate missle tech). My family was very poor mainly because of my silly ass because I burnt down our first house that my father had just bought and had paid for in cash with no insurance when I was 5 years old. That cause a lot of problems for us and we ended up living in the Projects the notorious Cabrini Green on the West side and notorious Wallgreen Building on the South side of Chicago right in the middle of Black Stone Ranger turf-where I had no choice but to join at the age of 14 (or die.) A lot of shit happened while was a teenager living in the ghetto. I had to carry a gun with me everywhere I went and often had to shoot my way to school back until finally I had enough of that stupid shit and dropped out of high school. I can’t elaborate what I did when I was a stupid gang banger but lets just say that I was the gang’s main gunman mainly because I didn’t panic under fire and my aim was true… They called me The Scientist- mainly because I was into a lot of science and things and I was very smart and knew how to make crazy shit, like pipe bombs etc…
I am totally into all kinds of music- mainly rock and roll since I was old enough to crawl. But I love classical music, jazz, old school (mowtown stuff), punk rock, like Fear, Dead Kennedys etc, Frank Zappa, Deep Purple, metallica, Led Zepplin, Pink Floyd etc etc ACDC, also some Death Metal, like Six Feet Under and all sorts of heavy metal. I have a very eclectic taste in music. I even like some rap but I can’t stand some of the misogynist shit and the Nigger this, nigger that-shit its so stupid and crazy- it is part of the reason why young black men are killing each other worse than the KKK ever did!

When I was 12 years old, my mother had a Black Panther Party boyfriend who taught me all about the Revolution etc. While the other kids were playing cowboys and Indians, I was learning about Che, Mao, Uncle Ho, Zapata, and other revolutionaries. *May he rest in peace, he’s my mentor! We used to keep most of the party’s weapons underneath my bed and they taught me how to shoot and clean guns etc. I also use to burn down a lot of shit mainly just for shits and giggles…. (I was a firebug at an early age, Pyromaniac) In my life time I’ve must have caused millions of dollars in Damage to shit. … I am not bragging just stating facts of which I can’t elaborate. I’ve also shot people, I was not a nice kid, I used to be a punk ass thug and I am not proud of it. (In fact, I hate fucking gangs now and gang bangers; they killed two of my nephews in Chicago and Milwaukee. Fuck a banger! When the Revolution Comes, we will line them all up against a wall with the fascist and the Skinheads ……)

Anyway, I became enlightened about Revolution and had been basically a sleeper revolutionary while I was in the military. I ended up going AWOL from the Navy in 1980 when Ronald Reagan became president and I traveled all around the world, to places like Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Japan, Hong Kong, Germany, Switzerland, France, Holland, Italy, Australia and other places… I’ve been around the world 3 ½ times and have sailed on private yachts around the south China seas and have had soo many women in my life, I must have kids from just about every race somewhere in the world, I was such a slut… But I digress. I KNEW the truth about the world all my life and I’ve tried in vain to wake people up as I traveled and wandered around life and people. But I was also and alcoholic and a junkie and a supersonic shit bird; I kept getting into trouble with the law. My first prison sentence was for armed robbery in Switzerland where I was on the lam from the military. I ranned into some Baader Meinhof gang members there and in Germany and in India (long story) aka Red Army Faction and Brigada Rosa (Red Brigade) I am not a nihilist or a Trotskite or a Maoist or anything like that, although I’ve been accused of being so I joined the Communist Party USA but got kicked out for being too radical and violent (they accused me of being an anarchist, ha, ha, ha) I believe that everyone has a right to do whatever they want to do with their body and their life and no one should be able to tell them what they can and cannot do, especially not some fucking government, king, queer or whoever. I believe in Self-Determination and autonomy and freedom.
I love to live out in the forest and mountains and deserts and sail on the ocean when I can be free– this is what got me into trouble with the pseudo-progressive liberals and new age Fascist in Santa Cruz, california. They believe that being houseless is a crime. If you are poor and/or homeless, they all just want you to die and get out of the way. You have no right to sleep in peace out on the streets or anywhere-according to them. They have effectively made sleep a crime in satan cruz. Since 1993, when I got out of prison in california for the first time I have been at a state of war with those assholes in santa Cruz. Whenever they fuck with the poor and the houseless, I would fuck with them right back and retaliate with Direct Action! I’ve caused a lot of Damage to their silly asses in more ways than one and not limited to just vandalizing police cars etc. I’ve caused big time Damage to their property and their way of life- which I cannot elaborate. But this is why they call me Damage Incorporated® ; I’ve earned that name and I am not through with my mission. They have won a major battle with me being locked up for 10 years, 8 months for arson of the City Attorney’s office at City Hall, but the fucking war is still on!!!! I use to protest and hold forums and meetings and participate in civil debate etc, but that shit got neither me nor the few so-called political activists, like HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom) and others satisfaction or results. The nazi assholes at city hall and the downtown association mall Merchants and Private Property owners of million dollar houses and landlords who are the clowns at city hall’s masters. They still, to this very day, are oppressing and repressing the poor and the homeless in Santa Cruz and elsewhere in California, like fucking Carmel where a fucking dog has more rights and privileges than a homeless man or woman. They can sit in an upscale restaurant , a homeless man cannot. Period!
They have wildlife sanctuaries and wilderness where animals can be left the fuck alone in peace but if you are poor and have nowhere to live, you cannot sleep anywhere, not even in the forest with the animals. They will send the nazi stormtroopers, the Police, to search and destroy your campsite and destroy your tents and sleeping bag, even in the middle of winter and in the rain. They don’t give a fuck whether you live or die, in fact they are directly responsible for killing the homeless-directly with MURDER and indirectly by forcing the homeless to camp way out in the back fortys where they are in danger of getting attacked by roaming bands of punk ass thugs called Troll Busters (mall merchant and police officers sons and other nazis and skinheads) or attacked by wild boar and mountain lions. Women have been raped brutally because way out there in the forest off the beaten path where you are forced to camp, no one can hear you scream for help…. Some have died from hypothermia and medical problems because they are too far away from town to get help. Thanks to these fuckwads. They have made the houseless basket cases- most of the homeless suffer from some sort of mental health problems brought on by chronic lack of sleep and from being shell shocked all the time because they are constantly being fucked with by fucking ‘Enforcer class’: the pigs. Who only serve and protect the rich, the mall merchants and the private property owners, and no one else. This is why I fight the good fight against tyranny and oppression and capitalist exploitation. This is why they’ve made me into an *insurrectionist anarchist arsonist! Coup de tat! Gimmie a bomb, a molotov! Masterbate, and Smash the Fascist police state, Mates! It’s right to riot! When people are (all) asleep, we must (all) become alarm clocks life is my college – Dead Kennedys Jello Biafra). You gotta all stand up for something or you are all going to fall for any fucking thing that these nazi asshole force upon you. It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees. They may get me today, but they are coming for you tomorrow all of you. You’re next! So fight the good fight and join the revolution because if you don’t they will kill you and send you to the ovens!

*This is what the police in Santa Cruz call me.

I have 2 ½ years left to do on my sentence-unless, I get some more time taken off my sentence this year, then I could get out of prison this year because they are kicking out a lot of us scumbags early to ease over-crowding they are ordered by the Feds to do it now who have had enough of their stonewalling and bullshit. Because they had us all packed in here like cordwood a few years ago stuck in places like the gym where we all had to live like animals in beds that were stack three bunks high- just barely enough room to get your ass in. You couldn’t even sit up! It was that bad. Also, inmates were dying like flies because of the horrible lack of medical care they had been not getting. They’ve shipped a lot of California inmates to other prisons across the United States, like Arizona, Mississippi etc private prisons and, they just keep on stacking mother fuckers in these human warehouses, “slaveships of time”, I call them. But things are slowly starting to get a little bit better- that’s because the Feds are stepping in to Force these asswipes to get with a more humane program. If they reduce the people who have to do 80% of their sentence to 50%, like me, the, Yahoo! I’ll be outta here soon, like June or July, so I hear from rumor Control. Anyway, 2 ½ years ain’t shit for me. I could do all of this time in solitary confinement if I had to so long as they still will allow me to have by books, typewriter and let me finish College. Fuck ’em all in the necks and feed ’em refried skunk shit. It could be worse; I could be in a Mexican prison where I would have to fight every day to keep my food and to keep me from getting raped by the booty bandits. My day-to-day routine in prison starts with brushing what few teeth I have left shit, shave, shower, pray, then chow and then get my skittles (psych-meds) then I spend every waking moment of the day studying and doing college courses and reading revolutionary shit, like the zines my comrades are sending me, and books like the Red Army Faction and writing my comrades, like you back and trying hard to stay out of trouble with Gestapo here and wake some of the brain dead inmates up. Most of them all just want to be entertained-this is why all they do is watch fucking TV all fucking day and night (I would rather read all days and study) they have no life… They don’t want to be enlightened or informed and gain wisdom and knowledge, they are wasting their time doing nothing rather having time do them. “I do time, I don’t let time do me”. I am getting prepared for when I get out of this shit hole gulag. I am getting ready for the fucking Revolution! : I advise everyone I come in contact with to do the same. Because what did the monkey said before he cut off his tail? … “Won’t be long, now!”
The shit is getting ready to hit the motherfucking proverbial fan, mate. There are going to be a lot of people totally unprepared and they will all be covered with shit and they will either end up in some concentration camp, that the government is building out in the desert and elsewhere or they will die. The Government is getting ready as I write this letter to you. They KNOW that Revolution is coming! They know that the shitty Little Chickens are all coming home to roost! What are you doing to get yourself and your loved ones and family and comrades ready? If I finally finish the Agent Orange Manifesto while I am in this place, I will tell you all what you ALL can do and why and when to do it. I figure that between 9 to 14 more months the shit will start-especially once Israel attacks Iran’s nuclear facilities, or they drop an atomic bomb on them and wipe a lot of them out- like they promise that they will do. Time is rapidly running out. WE MUST GET READY TO ROCK AND ROLL! What we do in the next few years will determine the fate of all humankind. We will all become extinct if we don’t get this shit right and extinction is forever! Long Live The Revolution!

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Sean Swain Interview

10th
Sep. × ’14

(A): Hey Sean, it’s you buddy (A) here. Would you like to start off by giving a little bit of personal background (how old you are, what growing up was like, what your interests are)?

Sean: I grew up in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan. Anchorville. It’s gone now. It was “annexed” away, split between two other townships or whatever. I lived in a trailer park surrounded by woods, and when I returned in the late 80’s, all the woods were gone.

It’s as if my childhood was annexed away and chopped down. As if the Matrix occasionally erases our histories, our pasts, everything that anchors us to a place or time.

That area of Michigan is where the idea of “Reagan Democrats” came from- working class communities filled with totally class-unconscious mall zombies. I was a boy scout. Played Baseball. I stuttered and was painfully shy until about 11th grade when I guess I just decided I was tired of living in constant fear of rejection or of others’ opinions. Until then, I worked very hard at being invisible and unnoticed. I lived totally terrified until 11th grade.

Not sure what it was that triggered it, but I ceased giving a shit about what others thought. It was liberating. I gave myself permission to exist. My dad’s job transferred, so after graduation, I moved to Ohio where I ran over a mailbox, totaled my car, and let my parents talk me into joining the Army… for the “discipline.” Translate: “trauma.”
After a 2-year enlistment, my mind was totally mismanaged. The military pumps this false narrative of wolves-at-the-door… Russians or Chinese or Nicaraguans or Cubans or al Qaeda or ISIS, and on and on. Cynical manipulators run EVERYTHING.

After the Army, I felt lost, drifting, purposeless. I didn’t want more education… or some meaningless labor drudgery… I wanted to write, to feel connected to community, to feel I contributed to something meaningful. Instead, I got gas station jobs and college classes that offered senseless intellectual noise.

(A): How long have you been incarcerated and for what?

Sean:  I got locked up in 1991. The nephew of the Clerk of Courts kicked in my door and said he was going to kill me. I punched and stabbed him. Because of who he was, police and Prosecutor Kevin Baxter covered up the break-in and claimed I murdered him. This is a really abbreviated explanation of course. A higher court reversed my conviction and ordered a new trial. The trial court refused to do as it was told, and legally, after 23 years and counting, I’m still awaiting the fair trial that was ordered.

I hope to soon have lots of information about this posted at Sean Swain Defense Committee on Facebook and at seanswain.org, for anyone who is interested. At any rate, I passed a polygraph but I’ve spent more of my life locked up than free.

(A):  I understand you are a self-described anarchist; how and when did you turn to anarchism?

(Sean):  I don’t know that I “turned” to anarchism so much as I “slid” into it.

Before prison, I was an unthinking product of public schools and military mindfucking, totally lost and confused and disconnected and alienated. So, I experienced complete discontent but still didn’t know enough to reject the narrative, the mythology of our dystopic swivelization.

Even after being falsely convicted, I believed by experience to be an anomaly and while I felt the operation of the system was awful, I still did not question its legitimacy. Isn’t that crazy? So, in prison, I worked for reforms and fought in the courts and filed grievances to object to conditions or ill-treatment. A regular Pollyanna. Complete idiot.

And at each foreclosure of redress, my eyes opened a bit more and a bit more. I saw that all those lofty promises in civics classes were utter lies. I was not real to the systems that exploit and oppress.

I saw the State does not operate in good faith. It desires only to keep us all in our assigned seats. So, first came Marx. Communist Manifesto, Das Kapital, revolution. But that answer felt wrong too because the solution was more of the problem. A State, or an exploiter and oppressor, but of a new variety. Same talk, new paint job.

It’s funny too. The State pays a lot of attention to what I read. For instance, it banned “V for Vendetta.” It’s afraid of a comic book. But long before I even read any anarchists, the State had already made me its life-long enemy by making clear that it was an enemy to me.

I didn’t need Emma Goldman to explain to me that the State was a bully and an asshole. I had the bruises and scars to persuade me. I first encountered the ideas of anarchism from Anthony Rayson, South Chicago Zine Distro. In that sense, I followed Anthony, down the rabbit hole.

(A):  Through your published writings and general trouble making, the state obviously viewed you as enough of a threat to warrant transfers and solitary confinement. Can you talk about those experiences?

(Sean):  I think it was Orson Wells in defense of Sacco and Vanzetti who observed that the State is not capable of distinguishing between a thoughtful critique of its failed program on one hand, and malicious mischief on the other. I find this to be true.

If you “oppose” or “criticize” or “object” to the State’s program in any way, whatever your intellectual and logical reasoning or support, you’re nothing more than a mean-spirited, mischievous monkey throwing poop. You’re a crackpot and a wing-nut and a childish troublemaker kicking over sand-castles for spite. And to make matters worse, the better you might be at articulating your arguments, at deconstructing the logical fallacies at the root of hierarchy, and advocating an alternative- in short, the more capable you are of talking over the fascist officials’ heads- the more you provoke their rage and fear.

You are, after all, engaging the high priests of anti-knowledge. Stupidity and brutality, and blind obedience are virtues, after all.

I have been able to gauge my influence by measuring the intensity of my captors’ violence- because captivity is violence, handcuffs are violence, restraint is violence, solitary is violence, torture is violence.

In 2007, Anthony Rayson published Last Act of the Circus Animals, which I co-wrote with Trowis Washington, and his Each One Teach One interview with me. It took prison officials a year to read them and in 2008, I was tossed in the hole and slated for supermax for misrepresentations of my observations in Each One Teach One. Funny, but I always considered Last Act the most dangerous thing I ever wrote. It was read at “story time” at a collective in Chicago among young anarchists, a group that produced at least one member of Anonymous and one member of the NATO Five. It’s my understanding another copy was read by one of the future organizers of Occupy, and another was found at a squat of the Earth Liberation Front when the FBI raided.

I got mail from readers of Last Act from Britain and Russia. By 2008, it was everywhere. Incredibly dangerous, I thought. But fascists wanted to send me to supermax for innocuous observations in an interview. Ridiculous.

So, starting in 2008, the State began employing a terror campaign to get me to stop writing, which goes to show how stupid and unthinking the State is. Silence is the last thing State terror will produce. Being the target of harassment, shutting up would only make my situation worse. My writing became a method for mobilizing support that could bring pressure to put the State in check. So, in a sense, in attempting to make me stop writing, the State terror provoked me to write even more.

As a result, we have this cycle where the State commits atrocities, I describe them, others empathize and offer support, the State gets scared of the influence of my writings, and the State commits more atrocities to shut me up… and on and on. As a consequence, I now have far more visibility, and influence than my limited imagination deserves.

The creation of seansswain.org in 2009 and its relaunch in 2012, however, triggered a whole new level of fascist fear and loathing. My ideas, the ideas they irrationally fear, were projected into a medium beyond their control. It drove them bonkers because they couldn’t pull the plug on the internet. But it wasn’t until I challenged the legality of their corporate masters, when I wrote about the illegality of outsourcing-for-profit to the JPay Corporation that they decided to pull the plug on me. They confiscated my typewriter and destroyed it, tortured me, terrorized me for a year, and then sent me to Ohio’s supermax for a year of mind-mangling isolation, along with the promise of future continuances by the parole board for pretextual and nonexistent “rule violations” that justify all this repression. I have an attorney challenging all this, but as of now I potentially face dying in prison for a non-crime because I told the truth about the corrupt profiteers holding me captive.

I am the egg they cracked to make an omelet.

The State is under the delusion that it is the authority and I am the subject, that its actions (whatever they are) are legitimate and I am to seek their favor through obedience and subservience. Reality, we are 2 parties at war. War. And I think I’m winning. I will never settle for anything short of their unconditional surrender.

(A):  What are the conditions and daily routines of someone in solitary? How did you deal with it to maintain sanity?

(Sean):  Solitary confinement is sensory trauma. The CIA wrote the handbook for disassembling the human personality through sensory deprivation. Those strategies are now employed domestically, everywhere, sometimes arbitrarily and capriciously. I know of a guy sent to solitary for bumping into a container of kool-aid and spilling it. Long-term solitary, for a year or years.

A cell contains a bed, a toilet-sink combo, a steel stool, and a steel slab for a desk. Here, we have 3 shelves. At Lucasville, you don’t get a TV. Here, you do. The TV is a selling point used after a major lawsuit, needed to get prisoners to opt to come here rather than Lucasville, thereby keeping this place open. If not for TVs, no one would come here instead of Lucasville, and the place would be 74% empty.

Here, 3 meals are delivered thru a food slot in the door. Five days a week, you have a chance once a day to get cuffed and go to a fiberglass fishbowl with a pull-up bar in it, and stand around for an hour and a half. Or, you can spend an hour “outside”, in a space with 20 foot cement walls, cement floor, and steel grating for a ceiling.
After recreation, you get cuffed and locked into a shower the size of a phone booth. You then return to your cell. You have no direct human interaction.

Prisoners often scream conversations from cell to cell, adding to the discomfort for others like me. Many of the prisoners become nearly infantile in their neediness, reduced by sensory deprivation. The yelling, arguing, pounding, and noise is inescapable and constant, with the deteriorated contributing to the deterioration of all.

Though the daily routine is defined by the absolute absence of activity on stimulation, the internal experience of it produces an opposite reaction. In the midst of all this mundanity is a growing sense of the importance of the mundane. You begin to worry and fret and rehearse and exaggerate the urgency of the smallest things, until the urgency feels totally overwhelming. This is all perfectly symptomatic of deprivation, of course… Of being totally powerless over all the aspects of life… Of a mind grasping for meaning and input.

An example. At mail delivery, the guard handed me a huge pile of mail. My initial response is excitement, followed by a sense of panic that I will never be able to timely respond to all that mail… followed by a sense of impending doom. So, it helps of course if you know that what you experience is symptomatic of the deliberate trauma the State inflicts. If you know, then you can identify it as a symptom, box it up, rationally talk your way through analyzing it.

Rationally, I know that all this mail is good. I know I am locked in a box with days and weeks of free time. I know that nobody demands an answer immediately. I know that this manicky- panicky reaction is symptomatic of this trauma, and I must talk my way through it until the way I feel is rationally connected to my objective reality.

Irrational rage is another predictable symptom. In fact, exaggerated emotional response, period- but rage, for obvious reasons can be particularly problematic.

I experience “rage days.” Days when I would get angry because my pen ran out of ink, and I had to grab another. Or I dropped something. Or my laundry for the week comes back damp. “Rage Days,” the days when minor irritations make you want to destroy shit with a battle axe. But again, if you can identify the experience and analyze it, you detract from its power.

The most important weapon, however, in combating the mental, emotional, and psychological disorganization caused by solitary is purpose. You have to have purpose. You live with purpose, that give life meaning. And what you experience can be understood in relation to your purpose and meaning.

In “Colonizers Corpse,” I argue that the only psychologically healthy orientation in solitary is one of resistance. From this orientation, one sees oneself in an adverse conflict with those inflicting the trauma. Survival is an act of defiance. Maintenance of self is defiance. From this outlook, the purpose in life is to survive (physically, emotionally, psychologically, intellectually) and contribute in whatever way possible to the resistance- the resistance that aims to bring down those who engineer this trauma.

From this, a resister recognizes that the isolation is only physical, but each of us is part of something greater, all contributing, all connected though separated by more geography. This is really the only “sane” approach. To work instead to reconcile oneself to one’s torturers, I think, is pathological at the outset. Self-hating and self-destructive. So, considering this, solitary confinement can only create two things: the mentally ill (the broken who seek to hug their torturers) and the revenge-driven guerrilla who desires the total destruction of the State’s mindfuck machine.

I’m now out of solitary. My status was reduced. But I emerged from it with what sanity I have because of my connections to the outside world, relationships, involvement, engagement… keeping my “head” in the struggle and out of the mundane, immediate deprivation I experienced. While many prisoners use sleep as escape, I found myself going to bed later and getting up earlier in order to tackle more projects. I still have 17 books on my shelf I haven’t had the time to read, even though I routinely get up at 5:30 am and went to bed at 11:00 pm.

I was locked in a room by myself.
I was never alone.
(A):  Another thing I’d like to touch on is prison labor. What are the wages and hours of laborers and about what percentage of inmates perform prison labor? What kind of work is being done/products being made in Ohio prisons? Are there any big corporations profiting that the average consumer might have heard of?

(Sean):  A general principle necessary for any non-prisoner to understand before talking about prison labor: everything in prison is a fuckin’ lie.

For instance, “security” isn’t really security. It’s really some combination of freeloading and unnecessary provocation. “Disciplinary processes” never instill discipline. “Programming” never yields any programmatic adjustment. “Food service” never makes food.

And generally, prisoner labor is not labor. In Ohio, every level, 1, 2, and 3, prisoners must have a prison job assignment. There are a small number of Ohio Penal Industries jobs or OPI jobs – “factory” jobs. We’ll talk about those in a minute. But apart from those, the vast majority of prisoners at any given prison are assigned jobs in some kind of sanitation with a few dozen more assigned to maintenance crews… and yet, most prisoners are filthy and everything is broken.

Some jobs I had: I worked at recreation. I had to sweep and mop an area between two sets of doors, about five feet by five feet. I did that once a day, about 10:30 am. I did that 5 times a week. I had 2 days off so I wouldn’t get “mop elbow” from all that work. Another job, I had to sweep an emergency stairwell. I did that once every 2 or 3 months. I was assigned to “community service” for more than a year after the program was shut down. Nobody noticed. So, the vast majority of the time, the vast majority of the time, the vast majority of Ohio prisoners are “functionally unemployed,” their official “job status” notwithstanding.

Now, anyone involved in educational programming, their education is their job. You see a lot of prisoners whose official assignment is “student.” You’ve got the Adult Basic Education, and pre-GED classes, which is a cash-cow for federal funding laundered through the Ohio Central School System, which is an office at the prison system’s central headquarters. The prison system gets X dollars per student. Needless to say, the ODRC made a GED mandatory in order to force prisoner drop-outs to enroll in the cash-cow programs. And because most of the drop outs don’t want a GED, and because they have only a short time to serve, those prisoners are just butts in seats and the prison gets to dump the consequent funding into operations budgets.

Cha-ching.

College, of course, is a scam of another variety. College students sign over their grant money to whatever college is present at the prison. At Mansfield and Richland, it’s Ashland University. At first glance, a prison attending college as a “student” feels like he or she just won the lottery. With Ashland, we’re talking about an academically respected university. Good deal, right? Well, no. For a few reasons.

First, you don’t get the same education in prison as on campus. Tenured professors don’t roll the dice on becoming hostages in the next prison riot, so instructors are low-paid hacks who teach to the tests and grade on a curve. You’re dumber at the end of the course than at the start.

Second, with the certificate you “earn” you can go to any diner in the U.S. And get a cup of coffee for less than a dollar. Of course, you can do that without the certificate. So, the certificate is useless.

End result, you get college credit that does you no good and actually harms you because you cannot take graduate-level courses without the knowledge-base you lack, and you can’t re-take the lower level courses because all your grant money is gone. If you get a job with your prison education, you’ll soon lose it when employees find you lack the necessary knowledge-base.

The university? They get guaranteed funding from the government for every prisoner student, for more than to pay the low-level hack instructor, and in addition they count all the minority enrollment in prison toward the university total, allowing universities like Ashland to keep tuition elevated for white suburban conservative protestants, discouraging the poor and minorities.

The end result, over the long-term, is a slight contribution to the educational imbalance in favor of wealthy whites while sucking up all the poor and minority grand funds. So, universities benefit greatly from exploiting prisoners.

All these “jobs” I described pay peanuts. Level 3 security makes $19 per month; level 2, $21; level 1, $23. Peanuts. This creates a desperate pool of prisoners willing to slave away at Ohio Penal Industries. One of the factories is at Mansfield, producing parts for Honda cars. Honda pays minimum wage for each worker. The State collects that and gives each worker pennies per hour. Prison laborers end up with a maximum of about $90 per month and lungs full of rubber dust, while Honda cuts labor costs drastically and the State runs the prison for free off the surplus it pockets. Win-win-lose.
But, that’s what stagnant state-pay is designed to do. The schedule of pay hasn’t changed since the early 1980s. To have the same spending power as prisoners when state-pay was established, prisoners would be making more than $300 a month, and nobody would destroy their health working for Honda/YUSA.

Just an observation, but the current situation really socks it to so-called free-world folks too. Free-world workers sleep in their cars while prisoners conduct slave labor at slave wages, and free-world folks foot the bill when these former prisoners develop long-term health problems due to the shoddy conditions they worked in.

(A):  Regarding conditions of work, isolation, and general daily life, how are inmates fighting back? What strategies and tactics are being used?

Unfortunately, resistance to oppression and exploitation is rare. There are lots of dynamics that militate against it. But when it happens, it typically takes one of two forms. You’ve got the “lone gunman” spontaneous reaction, and you’ve got reformist appeals.

The “lone gunman” is typically a prisoner provoked by staff to an individual act of violence, which always ends badly for the prisoner. Pepper spray, cuffs, beatings, the works. Some guards slobber in anticipation of a chance to brutalize a captive.

Reformist appeals include hunger strikes and attempted work stoppages– tactics that say “We will return to our assigned seats if…” They seek concessions, reforms. Prisoners’ imaginations rarely venture past these kinds of approaches. There was, however, one event that I personally witnessed that broke out of this cycle of failure. But, before I talk about that, it’s important for me to state unequivocally that I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the Army of 12 Monkeys.

The ODRC has accused me of being Monkey #4, one of the founders of the group. I have consistently denied all involvement and my legal council is now preparing a legal challenge in federal court.

Having said that, check this out:

September, 2012. Mansfield Correctional. Out of nowhere, thousands of pages of 12 Monkeys flyers flooded the compound with cool graphics and calls to attack the prison with sabotage- staples in locks, clogging drains, destroying machinery, cutting phone cords, disrupting the OPI factory. There were also manuals, computer generated with explicit instructions on how to organize and how to disrupt the prison. And it happened.

No case worker or unit managers could get in their offices because of the jammed locks. The chow hall plumbing collapsed and after it was replaced at a cost of six figures, someone poured dry cement down the drain and collapsed it again. Staff assaults increased. The number “12” was tagged everywhere. Prisoners smashed windows over areas where staff would get rained on.

Total madness.

People participated, regardless of gang affiliations. Black, white, Hispanic… For all appearances it was apolitical. No argument, no theory. Just action. And everyone joined.

Why? Because it was fun. Catharsis. A way for everyone to channel effectively what they kept bottled up. One of the flyers showed a helicopter thru the sites of a slingshot with a caption : “JUST DO IT.”

This shit was so serious, the FBI was on site within 2 weeks… at a podunk prison in nowhere Ohio.

The reason I contend the 12 Monkeys were a critical disjuncture from the reformist tactics we normally see is that the 12 Monkeys did not have a list of demands, for one. There were no concessions that would normalize relations. The 12 Monkeys sought the collapse of the prison system. Their sole demand, it seems, was for the prison industrial complex to cease to exist. Also, all the promoted actions were totally unmediated. That is, no “leadership” to “direct” the “movement” or centralized shot-calling or reminders to stay nonviolent… It was direct action. War.

As one participant later shared with me, he said, “The 12 Monkeys had two rules, and two rules only. Rule Number One: Fuck shit up. Rule Number Two: Don’t get caught… And not necessarily in that order.”

It was a whole new model of prisoner resistance. A whole new orientation. It even departed from the logic of the riot, in that the 12 Monkeys did not seek to gain control of the prison. They simply wanted it to descent into total disorder.

Four months after it emerged at Mansfield, a weekend riot occurred at Lake Erie Correctional and 40 prisoners were emergency bussed to Mansfield and held in quarantine in the same Special Management Unit housing Mansfield’s accused 12 Monkeys. Since then, 12 Monkey literature has surfaced at several other prisons, but information about events is impossible to confirm because the ODRC denies that anything is happening.

I understand 12 Monkey literature is online at

http://ge.tt/2ckaeFO/v/0

http://ge.tt/6UJJ4xP/v/0 and

http://ge.tt/6UJJ4xP

It’s still a mystery how it got into the prisons, but I guess where there’s a will, there’s a way.

(A):  Thanks for the interview, and is there anything else you’d like to say?

To close, I’d like to share a quote from Meir Berliner, who died fighting in resistance against the SS at Treblinka death camp. And in sharing this, I think it is important to note that the survival rate of those who resisted in the death camps was higher than those who cooperated. Something to keep in mind as we consider that our world has been turned into a giant death camp. The quote from Meir Berliner: “When the oppressor give me two options, I always take the third.”

May there always be those who, like Meir Berliner, choose the third option.

They can’t get us all.

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Jerome White-Bey 2014 (Missouri Prison Labor Union)

25th
Jul. × ’14

(A):  I’m glad you said you’d be interested in doing an interview. I guess, let’s start with background: How old are you, what was growing up like, how long have you been incarcerated, and what did you get convicted of?

Jerome: Well, I am 58 years old. I was born in St. Louis MO. Growing up for me was like a two fold measure for the family support was always present. I was raise up by my Mother and Grandmother. They was of the working class, I never went to bed hunger, or without clothes or shoes, I was the oldest out of 6 siblings and the only one who been in and out of prison. I was always in trouble with the law, I have always rebel against authority. At a very young age of 17 years old I was introduce to true revolutionary ideas of George Jackson “Prison Letters”, I fall in love! I have been in prison for 36 ½ years, and was convicted for 32 armed robberies and a second degree murder case on a government agent.

 

(A): I understand that you are an anarchist who was involved in establishing the Missouri Prison Labor Union. How did you come to radical/ revolutionary politics?

Jerome: As as prisoner, I also was a jailhouse lawyer. I always felt that as prisoners we need to have some form of protection against the powers that be, we are force into free slave labor and if we don’t work in prison we are punish by being thrown in the hole and in some cases even beaten. I believe that a prisoner’s labor union is the one thing that will bring all of us together throughout the whole country. Can you picture such a force fighting on the inside of prisons in every state throughout the USA.

(A):  When did you set up the union and what initially provoked it? Is the union still active?

Jerome:  The MPLU was set up in Aug 1998 and yes we are still active, but things are now on low key until I am release from prison for obvious reasons. Working condition was the cause for setup the MPLU.

(A): Has the union achieved any victories?

Yes we have force some rule changes here in prison, but nothing major, our struggle is still on going.

(A):  Can you give a brief (or lengthy- it’s up to you) description of the labor conditions in your prison or Missouri prisons in general?

Jerome:  (A) can you picture you having a job out there without any benefits, no retirement plans, no nothing. Prisoners are force into work until we die, there is no such thing until retirement age, there is no vacation time, as property of the state we are told that we have no such rights. If a prisoner get hurt on the job, to were he loss a leg, finger or hand there is no compensation. In the summer months the shops and work place are extremely hot and in the winter its cold and the food we are fed is foul. Prisoners, we are force into 8 hours to 12 hours work shifts. The State is making millions of dollors off our slave labor, and it is all free money from free labor. Prisoners are human beings, but in the eyes of the State we are sub-humans, slaves, dogs, nothing!

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