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Friday, September 17, 2010

Prisoner Support As Civil Rights Activism (2005-6)

Prisoner Support As Civil Rights Activism (A 3-Part Series)
By Kirsten Anderberg (www.kirstenanderberg.com)

Part 1
Prisoner Support may not be something you think about very often, but if you ended up being jailed due to a mistake or unfair sentencing due to politics, such as racism or classism, Prisoner Support organizations could literally be your only lifeline. Part of the frightening aspect of prison is the isolation. As human rights activists, the prison situation is pertinent on many levels. First of all, a very disproportionate amount of black males are in jail, which is a red flag for racism. Secondly, a disproportionate amount of those charged with crimes require a public defender (a PBS special I saw said 90% of those charged with crimes nationally in the U.S. need public defenders, which also shows who they are charging with crimes). This is a class issue. Thirdly, the human rights conditions within prisons are atrocious and violate laws. Enforcement of the human rights laws within jails is the issue there, and it is prison solidarity groups that are pushing for human rights enforcement within the jails from outside. So I just outlined three reasons to get involved with prisoner support: Racism, Classism, and Human Rights Enforcement.

As a young child, the Pete Seeger "Live at Carnegie Hall" album was played often in our house. During the "We Shall Overcome" portion, two things struck me as a young child. One was he had the audience sing "We are not afraid." And then he said, "We sing "We are not afraid" even though we are afraid." That statement has stuck with me my whole life. We make sure to sing "We are not afraid" and in unison, *even though we are afraid.* Another thing he said during that song on that album was, in essence, if you are feeling like your life is meaningless, you need to go down to places where people are dealing with serious issues of racism, classism, civil rights issues, and he promised you that if you went down to Mississippi and Alabama and got involved in the civil rights struggle, putting your body on the line, that the meaninglessness in your life would go away. That also struck a chord in me, even as a very small child. I saw that my own mother was most alive when she got very active in political struggle, whether that was in feminism , anti-classism, or anti-racism protest.

Right now, one place you can guarantee your work will be appreciated is in the area of prisoner support. If you are feeling your life is meaningless, if you feel you just work, buy, consume and get ready to die, you can change that today, by getting involved with prisoner support. As I said, people are jailed for their race and for their social class in America, and these people need the support of people outside jails. The Anarchist Black Cross/ABC (http://www.anarchistblackcross.org) is a prominent prisoner support organization. I interviewed 4 members of the ABC about issues ranging from public defenders to women prisoner needs to political prisoners we should know about now. The answers the ABC Network (ABCN) provided were so informative that I felt I needed to publish all of their answers, so this article is broken up into a three part series. Part One explores how ABCN volunteers first got involved in prisoner support, what the ABCN is, how human rights and prisoner rights activism are related and what has touched these activists most about their work with prisoner support. Part Two explores the issues of public misconceptions about prisoners, women prisoner needs, public defenders, and state harassment for prisoner support work. Part Three gives current information about how to get involved with prisoner support now, including the names of individual prisoners, different ways to get involved, and prisoner support resources to further your education on this subject.

I interviewed Mr. Twitch (ABC Legal Services), Anthony Rayson (ABC Network), and Tony Young and Chantel G., both from the Lawrence ABC in Kansas. I asked what the ABC prisoner support network is, as it appears to be a network of smaller ABC groups. Mr. Twitch said "the sizes and continuity of the groups vary like the breeze at times unfortunately. I am an entity of one here at the ABC Legal Services myself, and truly autonomous, as a current ally-member to the ABCN. Mainly, we try to focus on Anarchist Political Prisoner support, and the eventual abolition of prisons as they are, period. We are also involved in Prisoner Book programs, and attempt to educate other prisoners to politicize themselves through zine distribution and correspondence. I supervise a small prisoner legal network mostly within the state of Texas."

Anthony responded that "the ABC Network is a collection of autonomous ABC chapters focusing on open-ended prisoner support. We want to learn from and help educate prisoners (mutual aid) in order to strengthen awareness and resistance to the prison system. We want to support resisters, be they anarchist, New Afrikan or whatever. We want to make connections with the most oppressed sectors by working with those held captive by the state. Our goal is to provide the most insightful material, inside and out, often written by prisoners, to help swell the ranks of those in resistance to the state, to work towards the abolition of prisons, capitalism, governments and other oppressive systems. Also, we want to make the human connections with prisoners, educate those on the "outs" about the evils of this slave-based system of repression. As serious anarchists, we think it is tactically necessary and important to focus on the massive incarceration industry in the U.S. A main tenet of anarchism is prison abolition."

The ABCN Mission Statement of the U. S. says, "ABCN is a network of anarchist prison abolitionists…Through solidarity work with other groups and the ongoing work to help serve the needs of our locked up brothers and sisters, we seek to overcome fear, ignorance, and apathy." Chantel said "each ABC group affiliated with the Network makes its own decisions about what projects to undertake and what prisoners to form relationships with. There is no ABCN central office telling groups what to do."

I asked these activists how they got interested in prisoner support. Mr. Twitch came into ABC through his affiliation with Pirate Radio in Austin, TX. in 1999. He became an official member of his local ABC collective in Spring 2002. Anthony Rayson got involved with prisoner support after he began the South Chicago ABC Zine Distro in 1998. He said it was the responses from the prisoners that were most compelling. He said he was mentored into prisoner support work by Sean Lambert, a bi-sexual prison abolition anarchist out of New York and continues to work in prison support as he sees it as "ground zero" in "the struggle at home." Tony Young's first experience with prisoner support was in 2002, when he wrote a political prisoner in Nebraska named Mondo We Langa. Later, he moved to Kansas and got involved with anarchist-activists and "began thinking about the importance of prisons in sustaining the State and capitalism. After several months of varied involvement, I decided that my activism would be aimed at destroying the belief that locking people in cages makes us safe and I would do my part to tear down the prison-industrial-complex."

Chantel said she heard an anarchist who had spent several years in prison speak at the 2002 North American Anarchist Gathering. She said she had not really thought much about prison issues before that, and the speech really moved her. Chantel said the ex-prisoner spoke of the "way white supremacist groups recruited men in prison by having people on the outside correspond with them and send birthday cards. I was struck by the fact that anarchists need to be doing the same thing, not just as a way to recruit for our "cause," but because we really care about people and want to reach out to them." She ended up being one of the founding members of the Lawrence ABC in the Fall of 2002.

I asked how human rights activism and prisoner rights activism are related. Mr. Twitch said "As you may or may not know, the state of Texas, being one of the largest prison populations in the world, equally alongside the state of California, has perhaps the most egregious and human rights abusing forms of isolation imprisonment formats in what they call here, "Administrative Segregation"; this is a 23-hours a day total maximum security prison-within-a-prison solitary confinement. Much of what has been publicized in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo, goes on daily in our countries maximum security facilities. Just the dietary needs are at times barely admissible as humane treatment in the name of budgetary austerity; illness, contagious disease, and sanitary conditions are rampant problems inside."

Anthony responded that "Prisoners are human beings, ensnared by a criminal government. The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution specifically designates prisoners as slaves. Slavery - economic, prison, sexual - is the bedrock of capitalism in America. Prisoner "rights" (and lack thereof) goes to the core of the modus operandi of this government. The most important resisters to the government are often prisoners. Laws written by predators are not legitimate. Prisons are how America keeps poor people down. The world gets bombs and we get bars." Tony responded, "One cannot talk of defending human rights while supporting a system that depends on psychological, sexual, and physical torture." And Chantel said, "Prisoners are human beings. As human beings, they are entitled to the same basic rights as other people. Being in prison is punishment enough; having their human rights stripped from them is a double punishment."

I asked what had touched the ABC activists most deeply about their ABC work? Mr. Twitch said, "The strength of some of these people to keep going and resist the oppression and the sheer constant feeling of despair that pervades prison life; the relentless ingraining of the institutionalized mindset; I don't know how I would hold up emotionally knowing that much of my intense love for freedom was taken away. I have a lot of respect for that in some folks I represent." Anthony said, "I guess I would say the most heartfelt benefits from this work have been the outpouring of guidance and affection I have received - especially in the aftermath of my father's death in January of '01. The courage in the face of brutal repression they are forced to endure is very inspiring, too. When a prisoner we have supported is finally freed, it is a very exhilarating feeling! And, the electrifying brilliance of their artwork and political analyses is awesome, as is the stellar quality of the writing. To me, it is the most remarkable and vibrant and useful information being created dealing with present-day conditions. Plus, the realness, genuine warmth and honesty of our relationships, and the humor and soul-searing truthfulness in the midst of such Dante-esque living conditions, provides motivation for strong resolve. Every day, many new situations arise."

Tony said, "I have been writing to two men on death row regularly for over a year now. It can be difficult at times. It's hard knowing that two people I consider to be my friends may be executed for acts of harm that they quite possibly did not even commit." Chantel commented, "I am touched whenever a prisoner sends us a couple of stamps or a few dollars to help us with our literature distribution. I know these people don't have many resources, so I am deeply appreciative when they share what they have so that we can continue to get reading material to other prisoners. I was also touched when I helped organize a prisoner art show last summer. There are many talented people in prison, and I was grateful for the folks who were willing to trust us with their work."

Part 2
I interviewed 4 members of the ABC (http://www.anarchistblackcross.org) about issues ranging from public defenders to women prisoner needs to political prisoners we should know about now. The answers the ABCN provided were so informative that I felt I needed to publish all of their answers, so this article is broken up into a three part series. Part One explores how ABCN volunteers first got involved in prisoner support, what the ABCN is, how human rights and prisoner rights activism are related and what has touched these activists most about their work with prisoner support. Part Two explores the issues of public misconceptions about prisoners, women prisoner needs, public defenders, and state harassment for prisoner support work. Part Three gives current information about how to get involved with prisoner support now, including the names of individual prisoners, different ways to get involved, and prisoner support resources to further your education on this subject. I interviewed Mr. Twitch (ABC Legal Services), Anthony Rayson (ABC Network), and Tony Young and Chantel G., both from the Lawrence ABC in Kansas.
I asked the interviewees what is the most common misconception they find people holding about political prisoners, and/or prisoners, in general? Mr. Twitch said that this was a complex issue, as there were factors involved, such as deeply seated, and institutionalized, racism. He said it was impossible to talk about prisoners without also discussing the social factors involved. Anthony said, "people are afraid of prisoners and can't conceive of "prison abolition." They see vicious criminals menacing society. We are not in favor of letting criminals endanger citizens. That's what our government does, but people do not realize that as criminal behavior. Murderers, extortionists, thieves, bullies, liars - these are how business, the police, government and the military operate - with impunity. We already have criminals menacing society at every turn! Incarceration is a crime against humanity in and of itself and does not solve any problem a prisoner may have. Nor does it do society any good. There are alternatives to deal with aberrant behavior that do not "pour gas on the fire" as the punishment industry does."
Tony Young said, "I do not think that most non-anarchist people I know believe that there are political prisoners in the U.S. As for other prisoners, most people seem to have bought the propaganda and believe that only people who deserve to be in prison go there. Some anarchists, on the other hand, romanticize political prisoners and prisoners of war, especially those who were captured and enslaved for participating in armed struggle." Chantel said, "the media has lead people to think that prisoners are horrible people, monsters. People on the outside forget that prisoners are human beings with feeling and emotions, hopes, fears, and ideas. People on the outside forget that prisoners are our mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends and neighbors. They forget that nice people they know can and do end up in prison. They forget that they themselves could end up in prison."
I asked the ABC activists how they responded when people said the only people in jail are criminals, so who cares? Mr. Twitch said "The police-state is a reality right now in this country, just judging from the Grand jury activity against political dissent out on the west coast now, it is a clue McCarthyism is in vogue, and I'd worry about goin' down for casually knowing someone being investigated by the government under the ever-expanding language and enforcement of the Patriot Act." It all starts "when someone knocks a little too loud unexpectedly at out doors. When 70% of prisoners are in for non-violent drug offenses, that makes you wonder, where people's priorities on the logic-meter are. I think the word "crime" is criminal, and should be ejected from the dictionary." Chanel said, "I think the most important factor in dealing with comments like that one is reminding people of their basic humanity and the basic humanity of prisoners."
Anthony said, "those people are ignorant and self-centered - just like the government wants people to be. If they are not afraid to learn the truth, we will try to help educate them. Those too close-minded, we don't waste our time with. Testimony from prisoners who are mothers and incarcerated because of economic "crimes" can reach the hearts of most people. This is just a fear-induced argument and appeals to the heartlessness and callousness of people - "sheep" in the government's flock. I suppose the slaughter in Iraq is all about "democracy" too?"
"There are a few things that could be said to counter this. One would be that no judicial/penal system is without fault and that, even in the U.S., innocent people go to prison. There are many stories of people being released from death row, even in the corporate news. So one could ask, if the U.S. system murders innocent people on death row, then how many others who are not guilty of the crime they were convicted of, are there in general population? It could also be pointed out that many people locked up right now are there because of crimes that did not cause physical harm to anybody. Arguing the "drug war" point is very useful because it's one that a lot of people can agree with, because a lot of people use drugs. I also like to say that the "real bad criminals" are those in society who will never by imprisoned in their lifetimes. They are the police, guards, judges and corporate executives. Some people will also agree with this statement because of experiences they've had with police brutality or distrust in corporations. I have found that the productivity of these conversations depends on the economic status of the person being talked to or their personal experiences."
I commented that I have noticed a predominant amount of the people receiving high profile support in jail seem to be men. I asked to what that was attributed? Is it just a tremendously disproportionate amount of men are incarcerated? Or is it mostly men running the prison support networking? I asked for resources that specifically address women prisoners' needs. Mr. Twitch said, "the prison populations are still predominantly male; though don't forget also the underserved "transgendered" peeps either. I think there are a lot of men doing the prison support work, and that is a difficult obstacle to transcend in attracting and holding a more gender-balanced activist makeup in radical political groups; because due in part to the nature of male assertiveness and tendency to dominate group dynamics. I think a lot of men aren't sensitive to this happening within a collective, and it is definitely a part of the problem. The women I notice who are outstanding in their work, are the ones who have found a way perhaps to find a group that respects women to include them equally. There is a WABC ( Women's Anarchist Black Cross ) collective, headed by a former Oregon prisoner "Sixpack," who co-produces a community TV show in Portland, Oregon. The women's populations are beginning to increase dramatically…Lydia Bartolow at the Break The Chains prisoner support collective in Eugene works with the Coffee Creek Correspondence group that supports that Oregon Women's facility. Mostly the non-violent check-writing and drug offenses; sometimes the spousal abuse, and rare cases of self-defense murder."
Anthony responded that "94% of America's prisoners are men. Getting women prisoners to open up and trust prisoner supporters is difficult. Overwhelmingly, these prisoners have been victims of sexual &/or physical abuse. And, they are still preyed upon by guards, the system, sick predators on the "outs" and so forth. As well, most of these women are mothers of small children. The authorities threaten these women with the loss of custody of their children, if they get seriously political. There's a group called P.A.C.K. (People Against Court Kidnapping) that deals with this dreadful phenomenon. Contact Kebby Warner #259737, Scott Correctional Facility, 47500 Five Mile Road, Plymouth, MI, 48170 for more information. I'm not denying sexism plays a part in this, too. Our collective (ABC Network) has some tremendous women members in it and I guess they could answer this question better. I have some zines dealing with women prisoners. Here are a couple of other sources: Break the Chains, P.O. Box 12122, Eugene, OR 97440, Breakthechains02@yahoo.com, Break the Chains Women's committee, Breakthechains03@yahoo.com and Chicago Books to Women Prisoners c/o Beyond Media Education, 7013 N. Glenwood Avenue, Chicago, IL 60626, http://chicagobwp.org, jackslowriver@yahoo.com.
Chantel responded by saying, "The majority of correspondence our group receives is from male prisoners. We are often working so hard to answer the letters we receive that we don't have a lot of time to do outreach to women. The ABCN discussed this problem at our recent network meeting and brainstormed some ways to let female prisoners know about the resources we have available. We are trying to balance outreach to women with not taking on more than we can handle. Lawrence ABC has sent letters and e-mails to a couple of books to prisoner programs that focus on women, as well as other woman focused prisoner supporters. We are trying to find ways to get our literature list to female prisoners in the hope that those prisoners will contact us if we distro something they want to read."
"Part of the reason for the situation is that as far as sheer numbers go, there are more men than women in prison. That means we probably will get more letters from male prisoners. Another part of the problem is that in this society, men typically get more attention than woman. Men are also socialized to be assertive and ask for what they want, where women are socialized to be passive and not ask for things. I think all of these factors play into why most people hear more about male prisoners. I don't know that I would agree that there are "mostly men running the prison support networking." I just don't know enough about the broader picture of prisoner support to know that there are more men involved than women. While there are more men than women in the ABC Network, I would not say that men are running things in our group. The women I know who are involved in the ABC Network certainly make their voices heard."
"As a woman, I think I am keenly aware of the fact that women prisoners do often seem to take a back burner to male prisoners. I try to always address that in my support work and think of ways we can assist female prisoners. However, often I feel like all the prisoner supporters I know are constantly just trying to keep on top of the letters that are coming in and the immediate work that must be done. Often outreach gets put on the bottom of the things-to-do list. Check out the following organizations that focus on female prisoners: Women's Prison Book Project, http://www.prisonactivist.org/wpbp/." She also recommended the Chicago Books to Women in Prison, http://chicagobwp.org/ and California Coalition for Women Prisoners, http://womenprisoners.org/.
I asked these activists if they had any opinions about the American public defender system. Mr. Twitch responded, "Wow! Well, it seems they are too much interested in the deal-making, and rarely are concerned with personally helping to get a person off, or putting any research time into a case; it's definitely a risk. It's almost as if they are working with the prosecution sometimes." Anthony said, "The public defender system is a joke. Only they are liable to being sued - not judges or prosecutors, so they walk on eggshells and don't "rock the boat." They're trained lawyers, brainwashed into being indifferent functionaries in this rip-off system - this meat market over human lives. Many aspire to become prosecutors and judges and are part of the "game." They dutifully railroad poor blacks into prison. It's all a sickening scam. The police come in and do their "testilying" and the public defenders go through the formality of "defending" the accused - because they don't have the money to afford a sharpie lawyer. They're just an adornment to make it look "legitimate."" Tony replied, "I am experiencing the system now. I was arrested recently and the guy who was appointed to me is so swamped with work that he could not possibly provide me with adequate counsel. I think this is common."
I asked the ABCN folks if they ever feel/get hassled by police or the state for their work. Anthony said, "We need people willing to put their anarchist principles to task. This is very demanding, nose-to-the-grindstone work that requires long-term dedication. It's extremely rewarding, stressful, emotional and complicated. It can be dangerous, too, as the authorities are intent on infiltrating our groups and disrupting our work. We need people to stop being lazy and to reprint our zines and generate supplies, and help us put pressure to bear where and when it is needed." Tony responded, "I have not personally been hassled by the police for the work I do to support prisoners."
I said it was my belief that the jails are filled with poor people, and that white collar criminals and the serious global corporate criminals walk the streets daily, free, threatening every bit of life on the planet, for their individual profits. I believe it is an inaccurate statement to say only criminals are in jail. No, only poor people are in jail. A PBS special said that 90% of those criminally charged require public defenders. Doesn't that clearly say who is being charged with crimes and who is not? My contention is jail is not about crimes, jail is about class. I asked these activists what they thought about that statement. Mr. Twitch said, "I absolutely agree, that is correct; I'll say no more." Tony's response was, "I think this is a correct statement." Anthony responded, "I agree with it, totally. Prisons are meant to keep the poor in check. With 2.2 millions prisoners, they are overwhelmingly poor and being warehoused for a super-lucrative for-profit punishment industry. Profits are guaranteed as all the money to run these gulags has been extorted from taxpayers. As well, prisons are being "privatized" for profit and companies employ prisoners at sweatshop level wages, which drives wages down for all workers. This is a country of "extreme" capitalism - virulently racist and internationally predatory."

Part 3

I interviewed 4 members of the ABC (http://www.anarchistblackcross.org) about issues ranging from public defenders to women prisoner needs to political prisoners we should know about now. The answers the ABCN provided were so informative that I felt I needed to publish all of their answers, so this article is broken up into a three part series. Part One explores how ABCN volunteers first got involved in prisoner support, what the ABCN is, how human rights and prisoner rights activism are related and what has touched these activists most about their work with prisoner support. Part Two explores the issues of public misconceptions about prisoners, women prisoner needs, public defenders, and state harassment for prisoner support work. Part Three gives current information about how to get involved with prisoner support now, including the names of individual prisoners, different ways to get involved, and prisoner support resources to further your education on this subject. I interviewed Mr. Twitch (ABC Legal Services), Anthony Rayson (ABC Network), and Tony Young and Chantel G., both from the Lawrence ABC in Kansas.
I asked these activists what they needed most, as far as support, to expand their work. Mr. Twitch said that they needed money, as he was paying out of his own pocket and it was truly a strain. He said it is a challenge to get enough time to organize benefits to raise enough money for all of their postage expenses that require daily upkeep. He said there was also a need for more committed prison support workers. Tony also echoed that money was crucial, but also echoed, "but what I think we really need are more anarchists to be doing this type of work. I think most of the work being done against prisons right now is not coming from anarchists." Chantel also said money was a need. "because we run a literature distribution, we use a lot of stamps and paper and photocopier toner and other things that cost money. Those costs add up. However, for the long-term success of the prison abolition movement, we are going to need a larger number anarchists getting involved with the movement and doing the hard work required to bring down the prison industrial complex. Every group of anarchists in this country needs to be doing some sort of prison abolition work. Individuals can make an effort to educate themselves so they are able to educate others. Groups can make sure that they show the links between whatever issues they are addressing and the prison system. We can all be doing something to help destroy the prison system."
I asked what three things people could do right now to educate themselves more fully on this topic? Mr. Twitch recommended visiting the ABCN website, as well as the Prisoner Aid and Resource Center. He also recommended checking out Anarchist People Of Color/APOC (http://www.illegalvoices.org/), the Chicano Mexicano Prison Project (http://uniondelbarrio.org/cmpp/) in San Diego and the MPLU-support website in Belgium run by ABC Antwerp. Anthony runs a vast distro of zines, with tons of contact information in them. You can write him at South Chicago ABC Zine Distro, P.O. Box 721, Homewood, IL 60430, and if you give him an idea of what you are interested in, he can hook you up with zines to meet your interests. Another thing Anthony recommends is writing letters to prisoners. This will prove to be a most compelling area of education - and humanization! Get the truth out of the gulags from those most oppressed - not the liars in the government and sycophantic media! Thirdly, check out the wealth of documentation on the prisons from other solid sources, AK Press (http://www.akpress.org/), and so forth.
Tony said "the best way for someone to learn about life inside prison is to contact those who are there. I try to encourage people (especially anarchists) to write to prisoners. But writing letters isn't always easy. The ABCN website has lots of info about prisons. Critical Resistance (www.criticalresistance.org) is a strong, prison abolition organization that published a really good organizing tool-kit. It is highly recommended for anyone interested in working against prisons. I just learned of the Friends and Family of the Incarcerated (www.journeyforjustice.org), a group that is organizing an August March in D.C. Both Tony and Chantel recommended the books, "Lockdown America" by Christian Parenti and "Are Prisons Obsolete?" by Angela Davis. Chantel recommended Prison Sucks (www.prisonsucks.com) for statistics about prisons and prisoners, and also encouraged people to write prisoners to learn more about prison issues.
I asked for the names of prisoners these activists would like us to get educated about. Mr. Twitch recommended "Alvaro Luna Hernandez, anti-imperialist Chicano-Mexicano Texas political prisoner, (www.freealvaro.org), and Jeff "Free" Luers, eco-tage political prisoner in Oregon (www.freefreenow.org). Anthony said, "I guess I would say, first and foremost, is Kevin (Rashid) Johnson (Kevin Johnson #185492, Red Onion State Prison, P.O. Box 1900, Pound, VA 24279) locked down in a brutal supermax hellhole in Virginia. Not only is he the most awesome political artist in the world today, but he is also one of the most brilliant revolutionary tacticians, analysts and strategists. The other prisoner I feel offers such incredible insights is Clarence Anthony (Talib Y. Rasheed) Taylor locked up in Indiana (Clarence A. Taylor #13606 / 17-63, Indiana Department of Corrections, Pendleton Correctional Facility, P.O. Box 30, Pendleton, IN 46064-0030)."
Tony said he has been writing Josh Gunter, who is a Buddhist punk anarchist. You can write Josh at Joshua Gunter #697357, 264 FM 3478, Huntsville, Tx. 77320-3322. Tony said he also writes Hyung-Rae, who is an amazing revolutionary artist. You can write Todd (Hyung-Rae) Tarselli #BY-8025, 175 Progress Drive, Waynesburg, PA. 15370-8089 or contact Lawrence ABC at tearthemdown@riseup.net to view his artwork.
Chantel recommended Cassidy Wheeler. She said Cassidy "is an anarchist prisoner who was convicted under Oregon's Measure 11 sentencing policy. He basically shoplifted a pair of socks while he was drunk. Once he was in the store's parking lot, he pulled out his camping knife and yelled some things at a few workers who had come out of the store. He wasn't even close to the workers! For this mistake, he was convicted of two counts of Robbery in the First Degree and got a seven-year sentence. Since he's been in prison, Cassidy's been talking about anarchy every chance he gets and working to make radical reading material available to other prisoners. Because of his outspoken anti-racist views, he is a target of white supremacists. Last year he was identified by the prison officials as one of the "leaders" of a boycott of the chow hall, commissary, and phone system by the prisoners. Because he is seen as a leader, he has been in solitary confinement for over a year. He is housed in the IMU, the most locked-down area of Oregon State Penitentiary, the prison within the prison. Despite all this, Cassidy is a positive and upbeat guy who finds the best in every situation. He truly cares about his fellow prisoners and about people in general. He enjoys reading zines, writing letters, and receiving photographs of nature." You can write Cassidy at Cassidy Wheeler #14282456 OSP, 2605 State Street, Salem, Oregon 97310.
Chantel also recommended we learn about Charles Hoke. "Charles is also an anarchist prisoner, convicted of committing various kinds of robbery and using the money to help pay the mortgages of family farmers who were in danger of losing their homes or land. Charles has also come under the fire of white supremacists because of his anti-racists views, but he is adamant that he is a to friend people he likes, despite the color of their skin. Charles loves animals and tries to eat a vegetarian diet, no easy task in prison. He loves birds, reading, and corresponding with folks around the world. He really enjoys receiving photographs of nature and can receive three photos per envelope of correspondence." You can write Charles at Charles Hoke #475420, LeCI, P. O. Box 56, Lebanon, OH 45036. Chantel points out that "neither of these fellows has a website and most prisoners don't. It has been extremely difficult for Lawrence ABC to find people willing and able to build and maintain websites for prisoners."

Kirsten Anderberg. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint/publish, please contact Kirsten at kirstena@resist.ca.

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