Prisons in the United States are a brutal microcosm of capitalist society as a whole — with its ruthless exploitation of our labor, restrictions on our rights and armed cops and solitary confinement. These are all intended to undermine the confidence and sense of self-worth of working people who end up there.
“In the United States imprisonment is a way of dehumanizing a human being,” explains Ramón Labañino, one of five Cuban revolutionaries who were imprisoned in the U.S. for some 15 years on frame-up charges. “You’re up against a system.”
All the talk about prisoners “paying their debt” to society, or claims that prisons are aimed at “rehabilitation” is a lie — to cover up their real purpose: to put working people in our place. They truly wish no one would ever be able to know the conditions they impose on human beings in prison.
It’s why over 90% of those in prison got there by being pressured to sign “plea bargains” instead of exercising their constitutional right to a trial by a jury of their peers. It’s why the state government in Florida is trying to undermine the victory won by working people in their vote to amend the state constitution to restore voting rights to ex-felons.
And it’s what’s behind Florida prison authorities all too frequent attempts to ban issues of the Militant.
The ban on the issue with an article on the tour of Albert Woodfox, who spent nearly 44 years in solitary confinement, is a good example. Absolutely nothing about his new book Solitary, his tour, or his call to end abusive conditions behind bars is a call to violence. To the contrary.
“I could have let the prison culture consume me,” Woodfox said in an April 25 phone interview with the Militant. “Instead, I was determined to be a better human being. To fight with strength and determination for a better cause.”
The prisoners who have filed appeals against the bans on the Militant, and those who have written us to make sure we know they have done so, are like Woodfox. They’re acting to defend the rights and dignity of all workers behind bars.
The Militant does all it can to combat that dehumanization. That’s why the officials censor us.
Prisoners are fellow workers behind bars and we bring to them the world. We defend the constitutional right of the Militant to have subscribers in prison, and prisoners’ right to read material of their own choosing, to think — and act — for themselves.
Tens of millions of working people in the U.S. have been imprisoned or know people who have been. They know the savagery of the U.S. “justice” system.
We have successfully overturned many of the jailers’ attempts to censor the Militant across the country, and backed efforts by other publications to do likewise. Doing so takes the solidarity and support of all those who defend the democratic and political rights of workers behind bars.
It’s in the interests of the whole working class!
You can help. Get your co-workers to sign a letter to Florida officials calling them to reverse the bans. Get statements from your union, church group, community organization, tenant association and others who can be won to this fight.