Our finances have to be redirected from cookies and chips toward freedom initiatives

 

Bennu Hannibal Ra-Sun writes about how the “Redistribute the Pain” prison boycott initiative can help to build up movement infrastructure. This article first appeared in the San Francisco Bay View, and readers who find it useful may wish to donate to help keep the Bay View in print.

On Jan. 21, 2018, our loved elder, revolutionary leader and teacher Hon. Richard “Mafundi” Lake joined the Ancestors. Baba Mafundi left us with knowledge, love and an example of how to live a life of truth, integrity, conviction to struggle, love for his beautiful, faithful and devoted wife, Mrs. Carolyn Weyni Njeri Lake and family, and with an understanding that sacrifice is necessary.

For the many of us who had the privilege of being in the classroom of life with Ancestor Mafundi, let his transition serve as yet another lesson to us of the immediacy of our situation behind these walls and serve as a reminder of why we can’t wait to commit our all to the struggle to end slavery in America. We are, without any doubt, still slaves and chattel here in America for no reason other than the color of our skin.

While others may suffer as collateral consequences due to the class struggle, racism serves as the primary driver behind capitalism’s parasitic greed and the genocidal tendencies being waged against Black people in the U.S. and worldwide.

America has never known any purpose for Black people except domination of our labor. In the document “David Walker’s Appeal,” we learned that American slave owners devised a plan to send all “free” Blacks to the colony Liberia so that they could not mingle with or educate and influence the enslaved Blacks who were to remain in America.

The slave was to remain isolated, totally uneducated, and forever surrounded and contained by a society and system that offered only one option for Black people: forced slavery, with no hint of humanity. The only knowledge we were to have was who we were owned by and what our job was.

Very little about this model has changed under the prison slave system that has been erected under the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. As slaves, we are separated more and more from society every day.

Some states offer up to five free letters each month to indigent slaves. In Alabama, you receive two free legal letters each week – that’s it. If you can’t afford stamps to write your family and you lack legal representation, you are effectively cut off from communicating with society.

In the solitary confinement units, you get one phone call every 30 days, except in disciplinary seg, where NO phone calls are allowed. We receive one visit every 90 days in administrative segregation and one visit every six months in close or maximum custody.

Otherwise, we talk to these walls, toilets or to ourselves. The outside world is something that exists only in our heads. How can a prison system in Alabama or anywhere prepare a person to return to society by cutting us off totally from society?

The mind-altering effects of such oppressive conditions cannot be denied. In the groundbreaking book “Understanding the Assault on the Black Man, Black Manhood and Black Masculinity” by Wesley Muhammad, Ph.D., Dr. Muhammad cited from a report in the Chicago Tribune about how poverty, neglect or sensory deprivation of the kind we experience in solitary confinement can negatively affect and reset the brain’s chemistry.

Chemical manipulations of the mind and bodies plays a vital role in social control. Nowhere is that more evident than in the prison system.

The food, water and medicine that we are exposed to on a daily basis plays an important role in how we develop behind these walls. Our bodies are constantly polluted with toxic food, processed meats, genetically modified products, contaminated water, cheap or experimental medicines, etc. which adversely affects not only our physical health but also our mental health and disposition.

These chemical weapons disrupt important biological functions, including the biochemistry of the body and the endocrine system, which affects moods, stress, aggression, impulsive behavior, addiction, social interaction, violence etc.

Dr. Muhammad goes on to point out how drugs like K2, ice, marijuana and cocaine were designed and manipulated to produce a desired result. The drugs always seem to come along at the height of struggle and civil disobedience. Alas, in the midst of the current Prisoners’ Human Rights Movement, we see new drugs seeming to originate inside of the prison.

So, understanding and being involved in the movement also entails knowing the seen and unseen strategies and forces that are being employed against the struggle. Drug overdoses and suicides have gotten so bad that they are hardly news any more.

And as the death tolls continue to climb, the sedatives, downers, opioids and Flacka and Suboxone drugs are being endlessly introduced into the prisons to keep our eyelids closer to being closed. Stay woke, people. Please Stay Woke! Our survival is at hand.

As we move further along into 2018, we have to continue to plan, strategize, mobilize and bring all of our forces closer to being One. From the inside, we continue to need more artists, authors, activists and organizers to step forward.

Our sister Queen Tahiyrah and others just launched the #BarzThroughBarz magazine. This is yet another platform that we can use to reach the people. In addition, our brother Kwame Shakur has worked to create several social media platforms, including YouTube Channel Live and a blogtalk radio show to help spread the movement.

And, as I have stated previously, we still have room for even more innovations, because we still have work to do in forming a National Coordinating Committee to establish a national organization that will be all of our factions together, as well as our need to find an app developer so that we can create an app that will make all of our platforms just one click away.

Also, we need to monetize all of our content and create an e-business so that we can sell our products, leather and crafts, books, poetry, art, cards, calendars and whatever else we create from inside these prisons so that we can finance our own operations within our movement.

One Brother who recently reached out from Missouri, C.I. Ballard, expressed frustration with the “slave mindset” that he continues to encounter: “I ain’t getting involved with that. I’m just trying to go home” or “I’m just trying to do my time” etc.

Well, while we continue to try to reach this “mindset” head-on, we also need to be constantly creating alternative content, music, books etc. to reach these people. This is the work of the National Committee, to help devise plans and tactics that can be used to recruit and help change minds.

Actions like the Campaign to Redistribute the Pain 2018 help to identify candidates who are willing to sacrifice for freedom and are committed to ending slavery and to stop funding the system. These are the people who will help lead, guide and direct the national organization and volunteer to be part of the National Coordinating Committee being proposed by Brother Kwame Shakur of Prison Lives Matter.

Those who refuse to wear the chains will not financially support the very system of slavery that, paradoxically, relies on that same financial support to afford and buy the chains. We can accomplish this only by making those tough decisions that call for separation.

Separation from the system … By doing this, we won’t get caught up in the abyss of organizing just for the sake of creating another organization, while continuing to act in ways that are counterproductive to our livelihood. We have to organize around the problem, only, and create an organization that constitutes the solutions.

I will close this article with words of encouragement to all of the men, women and young adults who have made a sacrifice behind these walls for your/our freedom, including C.I. Ballard, Kwame Shakur, Manuel “Chase” M., Omar G. (freeourbrothers.com), Kwanetta H. (Texas), Mary Shields (Mississippi) and the many others who have contacted the Free Alabama Movement at our P.O. Box.

We are four months into a one-year bi-monthly (February – April – June – Black August – October – December) boycott campaign against collect phone calls, canteen/snack line/store draw, incentive packages or visitation vending machines. Our objective is to defund prison systems by disrupting departmental operating budgets by removing these funds from government budgets and redirecting these funds towards building a national organization whose agenda and purpose will be to end mass incarceration and prison slavery.

These redirected funds will help generate and disseminate educational material and books on mass incarceration, prison slavery and the 13th Amendment; help incarcerated freedom fighters publish books, articles, poems, arts and crafts, and other material needed to fund our movement; help to develop an e-business platform to centralize funding; and, among other things, help finance development of our own app so that we can consolidate and organize all of our movement information into one click of a button. We can never be an independence movement if we don’t establish an independent structure.

Bennu Hannibal Ra Sun, formerly known as Melvin Ray

Our family at Bay View has put out a call notifying us that it costs $7,000 in printing costs each month to produce our Holy Scripture. This is a cost that we should be covering from behind these walls with ease.

The fact that we are connecting through this newspaper only shows how important it is to us. The fact that we are not supporting Bay View financially in the same way that Bay View is supporting us, while at the same time we give unconditional support to the collect phone companies and canteen to the tune of billions each year, merely shows our shortcoming as a movement and, more important, why we need to step up to another level and organize nationally.

April has ended. May is here signaling that June is near, which means that, once again, it’s time to Redistribute the Pain 2018.

Bennu Hannibal Ra Sun

Free Alabama Movement

Book of the Month – June 2018: “Understanding the Assault on the Black Man, Black Manhood and Black Masculinity” (2017), by Dr. Wesley Muhammad, Ph.D.

Newspaper of the Month: Bay View newspaper

Magazine of the Month: #BarzBeyondBarz

Send our brother some love and light: Melvin Ray, 163343, Limestone CF D-70, 28779 Nick Davis Rd, Harvest AL 35749.

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REDISTRIBUTE THE PAIN CAMPAIGN Boycott, Defund, Bankrupt – Say NO to canteen, incentive packages, collect phone calls and visitation during February, April, June, Black August, October and December in 2018

Boycott, Defund, Bankrupt – Say NO to canteen, incentive packages, collect phone calls and visitation during February, April, June, Black August, October and December in 2018
Part VI: Campaign to Redistribute the Pain 2018
by Bennu Hannibal Ra-Sun, fka Melvin Ray, Free Alabama Movement

Published in the January 2018 issue of SF Bayview

Fire burns off the dross of the hidden gem to reveal the precious metal. In struggle, it is the call to action that burns off the negative habit, distorted values and laziness of those who answer that call to reveal the precious jewels of humanity. With 2018 just a few days away, the call to action that is the Campaign to Redistribute the Pain 2018 is set to kick off Feb. 1, 2018. Let the fire burn bright.

Queen Tahiyrah of the National Freedom and Justice Movement, F.O.M., and Sign o’ the Times blogtalk radio has created a flier for the campaign, in addition to our https://redistributethepain.wordpress.com blog, and our redistributethepain@gmail.com email. Queen T can be reached on Facebook in the SignOTheTimes group (https://www.facebook.com/QueenTahiyrah), by email to signothetimes19@gmail.com, or call 513-913-2691. You can also write to her at 1623 Dalton St. #14393, Cincinnati, OH 45250.

As 2018 draws near, over 2.5 million people remain behind bars, walls, steel and cages. The burden of changing our circumstances remains squarely on our shoulders. We have to change our thoughts about how freedom is possible to attain, then change our actions.

Many of us know about completing our sentence as a way to freedom, or an appeal, post-conviction petition or parole. We have to amend this paradigm to include the collective actions that we can take as a unified body to bring about freedom as well.

There is no escaping the fact that we, as a body, constitute a significant sector of the economic pie chart that funds and fuels mass incarceration and prison slavery. For purposes of this call for a nationwide boycott campaign, we have identified four sectors of the Prison Industrialized Complex that serve as some of the main economic drivers for prison budgets, which generate billions of dollars annually to fund prison operations:

  • Collect phone calls
  • Canteen / store / snack line
  • Incentive package purchases

Visitation vending and electronic visitation

The collect phone call industry is, by far, the most exploitive monopoly of the four enterprises. I don’t want to speculate on the amount of money we spend nationwide on phone calls, other than to say that this figure has to be in the billions of dollars.

The prison companies contract with the phone companies to carry out this extortion scheme through legal kickback schemes. We are locked up in these closed environments. If we want to maintain contact with our families, we have to pay a ransom to the phone company.

The prison system charges the phone company a cut (kickback) for being able to set up shop inside of the prison. The prison system’s cut or kickback percentage becomes part of the overall operations budget used to pay salaries, buy equipment, pay for water, electricity etc.

So, not only our slave labor, but also our financial contributions are helping to keep this empire running. Therefore, we have to boycott these ventures to help defund prison operations budgets.

Just as easily as a habeas corpus or appeal can free you, so, too, can you gain your freedom if a DOC has to close down prisons due to insufficient funds in their budgets to fund operations.

The fact that these industries generate billions of dollars each year merely attests to the enormous power that our families have over U.S. prison operations. Every time that they reject a collect call, they empower themselves by sending a message to the phone company that they will no longer assist in funding prison operations costs.

For those of us on the inside, when we stop picking up those phones, we send the message that we are ready to talk to our families at home in the living room and on the porch. These conversations are free and priceless.

The distinctively unique feature about these prison monopolies, as I’ve stated before, is that as incarcerated and enslaved people, we are their only customers. This makes it clear, without any doubt, that as much as organizations and groups grapple and fight with the FCC and the phone companies over prices, the POWER to effect change, immediate change, lies exclusively in our hands alone.

And always keep in mind that while it may cost $5, $10 or $20 to make a call, it don’t cost a penny to boycott for a month.

Casting a wide net!
Many of the owners of these cottage industry companies are former corrections officials. They either own the companies outright or are major investors. Others are family members, business associates or political contributors.

So, boycotting incentive package company Union Supply, for example, has ripple effects on many balance sheets. In addition, the employees of these companies feel the heat from participating in this evil industry. There’s plenty of pain pent up and caged inside these prisons, and we need to #RedistributeThePain in 2018 so that others can feel its intensity.

Beginning Feb. 1, 2018
When the campaign kicks off, I recommend that we invest approximately 25 percent of whatever you/we save into a fund to purchase books, stamps, newspaper subscriptions and office supplies to help print material, all to support the campaign. IWOC has indicated that their main body has donated $4,000 for book purchases.

Free Alabama Movement is contributing $750 to T-shirts, plus $250 to help purchase ink. If you have a submission for a T-shirt design, please send it to: Free Alabama Movement, P.O. Box 186, New Market, AL 35761 or email redistributethepain@gmail.com. If we choose your design, you’ll win $50 for books or newspaper subscriptions, tuition payment or other educational need.

Book of the Month – February 2018:
Prison Profiteers: Who Makes Money from Mass Incarceration” by Tara Herevil and Paul Wright

Newspaper Subscription of the Month – February 2018:
SF Bay View, one month $2, one year $24

Publication of the Month – February 2018:
Prison Legal News, six months $18, one year $30

These are just a few of the recommended reading materials that you will find on our WordPress blog. I suggest that those who can, make these purchases, and those who can’t, reach out to FAM, IWOC, Queen T or Bay View, and collectively we will try to handle the request or send it to someone who can.

One other request that I would like to put out there personally is the need of assistance in developing an app that helps us to better analyze and break down each state’s prison system, each individual prison, and each prison’s industry and labor force, just to name a few. A person should be able to click on an app and at least get the following information at any time:

  • Population
  • Total jobs worked by incarcerated
  • Each job description
  • Paid jobs / amounts
  • Unpaid jobs
  • Total canteen sales
  • Total collect calls
  • Total incentive packages purchased
  • Total visitation vending
  • All products made by prison labor
  • All services provided by prison labor
    (Other factors may be included)

Creating our own app in aid of our movement is not cost prohibitive. We already have the funds to pay for it, but we are spending it on potato chips, cookies, candy, collect phone calls and processed food instead. For the most part, all of this is public information that is available to us through Freedom of Information Act and Open Records Act requests. In addition, we can use survey questionnaires, civil litigation, and other methods to start culling information out of these prisons and start painting a picture of what the business of prisons is really all about.

Wherever there is unity, there is power. So, let’s utilize 2018 as the year to continue to strengthen our unity, so that we can make 2018 a very powerful year for our movement, while also making it a very painful year for prison profiteers, human traffickers and the institution of slavery.

Our circumstances absolutely will not change until our thoughts and actions change. We have been spending, funding and enriching the system long enough. Now it is time to Boycott, Defund and Bankrupt.

Stop financing our own oppression. It’s time to Redistribute the Pain in 2018.

Bennu Hannibal Ra Sun, Free Alabama Movement

Send our brother some love and light: Melvin Ray, 163343, Limestone CF D-70, 28779 Nick Davis Rd, Harvest AL 35749.

A small but increasing amount of attention over the past decade is being paid to the increased use of private prisons in the U.S. Statistics are now showing that locking people up for profit is overriding the concept of jailing people in the name of justice.

A recent Associated Press investigation has determined one of the causes for a sharp increase in private prisons is the rise in the number of people locked up on immigration charges. In reaction to the 9/11 attacks, the country made changes to immigration laws that made it easier to detain more people and ended up being a major source of increased revenue for the country’s private prison companies.  The federal government uses contractors to keep nearly half of the 400,000 people being held on immigration charges. The AP also reports that “nearly every aspect” of a huge budget increase to house those charged with immigration violations in 2005 was given to private prison companies.

There exists a “mutually beneficial and evidently legal relationship between those who make corrections and immigration policy and a few prison companies,” the report concluded, adding that there’s essentially no cost savings being achieved, the main selling point used by those advocating for private prisons. The cost to house a prisoner being held by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has risen from $80 per person, per day in 2004 to $166 today, with the government refusing to provide details explaining the difference.

According to the AP report, “A decade ago, more than 3,300 criminal immigrants were sent to private prisons under two 10-year contracts the Federal Bureau of Prisons signed with [Corrections Corporation of America] worth $760 million. Now, the agency is paying the private companies $5.1 billion to hold more than 23,000 criminal immigrants through 13 contracts of varying lengths.”

Three companies receive the bulk of the prison contracts in the U.S.: Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), The GEO Group, and Management and Training Corp. Private prison companies now house about half of the country’s prisoners, up from only about 10% a decade ago. The money these companies have spent on lobbying and campaign donations is estimated to be at least $45 million over the last decade, the AP found.  The result has been hundreds of millions of dollars in yearly profits.

Despite industry assurances to the contrary, a report from the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) last year indicated that lobbying efforts and campaign donations by private prison companies and their employees are done in order “to make money through harsh policies and longer sentences.” Similar to the conclusion of the AP investigation about the relationship between lawmakers and private prison companies, the JPI report concludes “the relationship between government officials and private prison companies has been part of the fabric of the industry from the start.”

A primary fear of this kind of relationship—a direct connection between those with power to send people to prison and the prisons themselves—has already happened. In Pennsylvania a judge has been given 17 years in prison for sentencing juveniles to a private facility in a “cash for kids” scandal. Many of those sent to private facilities were locked up for minor offences not normally subject to incarceration.

In another instance of abuse, it was reported that CCA was charging inmates five dollars per minute for phone calls at one facility in Georgia.

It’s not only immigration and juvenile detention scams that are allowing private prison companies to record millions of dollars in yearly profits. Drug users are another huge source of people to fill the growing number of private prison cells.

In a 2008 New York Times story titled “U.S. prison population dwarfs that of other nations,” it was pointed out that there were about 40,000 people in jails for drug offenses in 1980, much less than the 500,000 that were currently in jail on drug charges at the time. According to The Sentencing Project, those in federal prisons on drug charges have risen from 4,749 in 1980 to 97,472 in 2010. Over half of all people in federal prisons are there for drug crimes.

The Times story puts the number of prisoners at 2.3 million and points out it  is even more that the 1.6 million people China has in prisons, despite the fact that they have a population four times as large as the U.S. The reasons given by the Times for the huge numbers of people in U.S. jails and prisons are varied, but they include “higher levels of violent crime, harsher sentencing laws, a legacy of racial turmoil, a special fervor in combating illegal drugs, the American temperament, and the lack of a social safety net. Even democracy plays a role, as judges — many of whom are elected, another American anomaly — yield to populist demands for tough justice.”

Stevenson adds that the increases also come from our response to poverty, mental illness, and race, among other factors, including “misguided three-strikes laws” and harsh penalties for minors—things hardly any other country does.  The Times story points out that Canada’s incarceration rate has remained stable while its crime rate has closely paralleled the U.S. For example, the average prison term for a burglar in the U.S. is 16 months while in Canada it’s only five months.

In addition to investors in private prisons pushing for their increased use to increase revenues, prison guard unions are lobbying to stop reforms that would allow for more early release eligibility and shorter sentences.  If there are fewer prisoners, there is a reduced need for guards which reduces the size and strength of the unions, providing a motivation to work against any move that would reduce the number of those behind bars.

There are efforts to challenging the move toward private prisons and maintaining long prison sentences for more people. The National Prison Divestment Campaign, launched in 2011, is one example. It is a coalition of groups pushing to get investors to pull out of private prison companies. The campaign is made up of religious groups, immigrant rights organizations and others with a criminal justice focus. The campaign has seen some successes in getting financial managers to pull funds from the private prison companies, as well as getting other companies, such as food suppliers, from not doing businesses with them.

A profit motive is always going to influence public policy, which means justice and simple fairness can easily be overrun by those looking to make money, especially when lawmakers are looking out for a company’s profits, not its country’s citizens. With our country being a world leader when it comes to the numbers of people we put in prisons and jails, it’s an obvious target for those looking to make money, the same as it would be for any growth industry. Because businesses are in place to make money for its owners, any conflict with other factors—like justice and fairness—are secondary at best.

If we want to save money in the prison system while working to advance a system of reasonable justice, the answer is not to privatize our prisons—adding the additional costs of maintaining large profits and funding lobbying costs—but to reduce the number of prisoners and the sentences they serve. It is immoral to create a system that has within it the motivation of money when it comes to taking away anyone’s freedom. No matter how many safeguards are promised, the greed brought to life by guaranteed profits paid for by taxpayers will always win. The only solution is to remove greed as much as possible from the structure.

Brian Magee is the communications associate for the American Humanist Association.