My name is Rob and I’m serving a life sentence here in Oregon. I am currently being housed in the mental health facility here after several failed escape attempts and an attempt at suicide. Having failed in those endeavors, I’ve set off on another one. Now that I’m locked down 22 hours a day I’ve started studying the rules, regulations, and laws pertaining to inmate rights and I’ve begun filing grievances wherever I see that they’re being violated by prison officials. Once these grievances are finalized I intend to pursue them in the courts via lawsuits seeking damages when appropriate and I will continue this until I see the prison change course and start following its own rules, regulations, and laws, or until they kill me!
I would like you all to know that you have certain rights that do not end at the prison gate no matter what they might try to tell you, and that you can force change down the throats of the prison officials whether they like it or not! First though you need to know what your rights are. Almost every prison Law Library has a copy of “The Prisoners’ Self Help Litigation Manual” by Dan Manville and John Boston, and/or a copy of “Protecting Your Health & Safety: A Litigation Guide for Inmates,” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. These books were written for prisoners in easy to understand language and are step by step manuals for dealing with these issues. In my opinion, they are invaluable to all inmates, as they lay out your rights, how to sue for them, and what the courts have already decided in similar cases.
Here is a classic example of what I’m saying: I read in the September 2013 issue of the B&P Newspaper about an inmate named Prince in Arizona who was denied P.C. (Protective Custody) status several times. I would get written documentation from the prison denying you P.C. status and why, in their own words. Once you have this and you suffer so much as a black eye from an inmate, you can then sue for monetary damages both physical and psychological, and that adds up to $. The federal law is clear that ALL inmates have a right to be protected from other inmates. The key is knowing these rights, recognizing when they are violated, and then being willing to stand up and fight for them to the end.
This involves a certain amount of studying on your part and it is not always easy, but it’s not impossible. Some civil rights violations that involve groups of inmates such as failure to provide adequate medical services, failure to provide adequate protection to the inmate population, or denial of adequate mental health services can be dealt with by writing to and filing complaints with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Civil Rights Division. Though the DOJ normally represents prisons, the Civil Rights Division does in fact investigate and holds officials responsible for civil rights violations, at least at this period in time anyway. So now is the time to try to get things changed. If you want to avoid the work of lengthy lawsuits yourself, you can also file these complaints with the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Center for Constitutional Rights. These organizations file class action lawsuits on behalf of prisoners across the U.S. when prisons are wantonly violating prisoners’ civil rights.
So you do not have to be a Jailhouse lawyer, nor overly educated, you just cannot be intimidated by the process. Whatever you do, please don’t complain that your prison’s canteen only sells creamy peanut butter and not chunky. Let’s try to reserve everyone’s resources and time for the serious violations.
The pen is mightier than the sword, my friends, but neither are effective if you won’t pick them up! If you would stand up and fight with me, maybe we can start to change this system from within. Nobody is going to give you justice for free, we are going to have to fight for it. Start by asking your Law Library for the books I mentioned. If they don’t have them, ask if they can get them, or can you have someone get them for you, maybe a Jailhouse Lawyer there will have a copy they will lend you? I’ve included the address for organizations and resources below. It’s a great place to start and who knows, if your situation is bad enough, you may be entitled to large monetary damages and so if nothing else, let the money motivate you. Whatever your motivation, fight!
Black & Pink,
Hey Family, I pray that all is well. Here, well I’m dealin’ with these contradictions, just like everyone else, in this system. I’m here in Texas….West Texas that is, and for all those that haven’t experienced th’ typical West Texas mentality, it’s like travelin’ back in time about 50 years, no joke.
I’d just like to share a few words of encouragement to th’ Black & Pink family, because encouragement is what I’ve received for the past 2 years in the Newspaper. Like most that have ever come in contact with a Penal Institution, I’ve had my share of injustices. I just acknowledged my 40th birthday. I’ve been locked up since I was 19. Shortly after my birthday, August 28th, I received my 8th set-off. My eligibility for parole started at 7 Â½ years. Since then I have gotten an eighteen month set-off, 5 consecutive two years set-offs, then 2 one year set-offs. But what feeds my evident frustration is that one of the two reasons given for my denial was that I hadn’t done enough time. On a 30 year sentence where I’m eligible for release at 7 Â½ years, how much time will be enough? My analysis of this situation is too complicated to express right now, but if 20 years ain’t enough for them, then 21 won’t be either.
Okay, words of encouragement… George Jackson wrote during his time of incarceration, and I’m paraphrasing, “Since we have no control over how long we live, then we must take control of how we live.” Family, find your significance. Find your reasons for existin’, then cultivate th’ courage to live. It begins with accepting who you are. Which means refusing to be anyone else…you are who you are, and love being you. Kobe Bryant encouraged our brotha Jason Collins- Be you, don’t allow the misconceptions of others to suffocate you from being who you are.
Obstacles have come and criticisms weren’t far behind. But th’ challenges are only that….challenges. They don’t define who you are. They should only assist Us with hoisting Us into a more refined Us- unafraid, undeterred, firm, confident, and proud. And reaching to raise the bar for those that come after Us and dismissing th’ fabrications and lies that have haunted Us for way too long.
Let’s begin. Be Encouraged!
Your Brotha, Lover, & Friend,
Until th’ end of time,
To My Brothers & Sisters,
Greetings and many blessings to all of you. My name is Miguel, I’m a 35 year old Bisexual male. I’m incarcerated in the state of New York. I write this letter because as I sit here in the belly of this beast, I wanted to take a moment to share with you all a few words of encouragement.
As many of yous know, prison isn’t easy, especially for many of us who are Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Transgender, etc, Many of us have been a target of violence either by other convicts or C.O.’s, all because we’re different. I myself have dealt with a lot of violence & hatred. In 2007, not only was I beat up by a couple of C.O.’s, I was sexually assaulted. As I was getting beat up one C.O. tried to stick his baton in my anus, all because they hated the fact that I’m Bi-Sexual. Of course I reported, I was even taken to an outside hospital, but nothing was found. I wanted to bring a civil suit but no one wanted to take the case because I didn’t have the money to pay for their help. It was very frustrating, it lead me to a state of depression. I got so depressed that I tried to kill myself- I hung up. I woke up in the hospital with tubes down my throat. I was so pissed off that these people wouldn’t let me die.
Then I did a lot of soul searching and I came to the conclusion that committing suicide is not the way I want to go. I’ve made a promise to never take that step again. I share this with you because you are my Sisters and Brothers, and I know many of yous are going through a lot. But I want yous to know that no matter what’s going on in our lives we have to stay strong, be proud of who you are and live your life to the fullest, it don’t matter if you are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender- you are who you are, no one could take that away from you.
Well my Brothers and Sisters, I end this for now. Take care, stay strong, and stay focused.
Your Brother Forever,
Miguel, New York
Coming Out, Being strong, and Refusing to Conform to the Social Norms of Prison Culture
It seems to me that we live in a society in which science, religion, and government have consistently conspired to keep many exceptional people, like those within the incarcerated lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender prison community, on the bench. Yet for me, being left out, cast out, and viewed as different because of my beliefs, sexual desires, and chosen lifestyles, has always been a luxury to some degree, because it has allowed me to evade the rules governing what we now know to be social conformity.
Many inmates throughout the correctional system of prisons seek acceptance from their peers, or the crowd of the prison room from which they are housed in. You know the inmates who are known by everyone on the yard, either because they’re messy, prison rich, outwardly social, in the gang and drug scene, or spend their time fighting and getting everyone to believe they’re hard, as if to suggest that violence is the key to real intelligence. Rather, I embrace the realities of my difference, because they help me to discover the courage to repudiate self-contempt, and recognize their views of me as a precious gift of freedom from arbitrary norms. In fact, at the very moment we question the validity of the rules or the reason they have chosen to view us as outsiders, the victim- meaning you or I or the LGBT community- are no longer victim. Truth is, by their own mythology of reason, they have become the victim- the victim of social conformity, from which we can be free of.
I hope for all of you to make the gradual transition from Outsider to Individualist. I will continue to hope for all who struggle with who they truly are to stop fearing the abusive words meant to describe the LBGT identity, or even what I say for that matter, and start to question what the words mean about those who shout them. The words, ideas, and thoughts that were designed to intimidate me become instead a challenge to resist humiliation by understanding why some people feel such satisfaction and empowerment when they succeed in humiliating others. Others in, as well as out of prison, take up differences with the LGBT community mostly in part because of what they have been falsely taught by others, or the stories they ave been told about the darkness that terrifies those who cannot see in the dark. If this is so, then we as a community must understand that they are passing judgment against us not because of what they themselves believe, but rather what they have been forced and told to believe. This on its surface then suggests that they are looking in the mirror, though the eyes of someone else’s beliefs, because they themselves have proven to be blind, and so they are frightened by what they thought they saw lurking somewhere in the unknown regions that lie beyond the great wall of their narrow lives.
I for one will tell you there is no need to fear or care what people who disagree think, they are unimportant, because if they don’t care about your happiness, why should you care about their opinion. You deserve to be you and have the right to feel comfortable and safe being your true self. Trust me, you are not alone, despite what the conformist crowd may suggest and want you to believe. You are not sick or any different than the rest of us, you’re not going to die or go to hell because you enjoy being with someone of your same gender. You’re not crazy. You are not alone. I for one am rooting for you every step of the way. So even when it seems like the darkness surrounds you and there’s no one there to turn on the lights or hold you and tell you it’s OK to feel what it is you feel, know that I am always here for you.
A final note, while some of you may not believe so, I want you to know that true love and loyalty really does exist amongst incarcerated LGBT peers- there are people like myself who truly want the best for you and all who are a part of the prison LBGT community. I don’t just say this as an LGBT prisoner, I say this because it’s true, because I am a person who stands firmly on the principles of communication, trust, love, loyalty, truth and faithfulness, since they are the keys that hold our foundation together.
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