activism movement-building public-policy
“I was arrested in 1999 for my 1975 involvement in activities related to the Symbionese Liberation Army. I am currently incarcerated in California in one of the two largest women’s prisons in the American Gulag, located across the road from each other. Central California Women’s Facility and Valley State Prison for Women lock up seven to eight thousand women in approximately five square miles of militarized space. The sole goal of California’s prison system is punishment. After release from a California prison, parole status lasts for three years. Contrary to propaganda, California parole offers no programs for rehabilitation or reintegration into society. In fact, felons are, by law, disallowed access to public housing, food stamps, and almost all jobs that offer a living wage. In many states, ex-felons are disenfranchised for life. Parole in California is a three-year holding period for prison re-entry. When the inmate population dips within the prisons, local law enforcement conducts parole sweeps to elevate inmate quotas to their maintenance levels for maximum public funding.
Although incarcerated, I still do what I’ve done before. I try to reach out through writing and talking with people within the prison and with the few allowed to visit me. That is what, it seems to me, any activist must do: educate and organize as creatively as possible under any circumstances one might face. I live under a high level of personal control, but I don’t think there can be any doubt that control of every aspect of everyone’s lives is the goal of US repressive agencies: CIA, DIA, NSA, DEA, FBI, and Homeland Security, our newly revamped COINTELPRO. Since every person and every deed affects everyone and everything else, my politics have intersected with many other struggles for democracy and equality while dragging my family, friends, and people I didn’t even know along with me. After I was arrested, people whose lives I may have brushed u against over twenty-five years before had their worlds turned upside down in the ensuing investigation. The government has bottomless pits of taxpayer dough to blow on investigations and prosecutions, and there’s not a chance it won’t do so. People must consider this when they decide to take a stand or to organize for change. However, as my fellow prisoners’ many stories have taught me, anyone can be caught up anyway, and innocence, very often, means nothing.
Prison awaits many who opt to step outside the boundary of silence. Criminalizing dissent through new policies, such as the Patriot Act and its Orwellian concept of “domestic terrorism,” is really just persecution as usual in the US . This tactic has been used throughout US history against workers, anti-war, anti-racist, and pro-women struggles, and it is now being applied against those fighting for animal and earth liberation. The numbers of imprisoned in the US currently totals 2.3 million. There are approximately 6.9 million altogether in prisons, jails, and on parole/probation. These figures will increase if people don’t act to stop non-corrective human warehousing. The fact that some are imprisoned and kept their for their political beliefs and actions alone, in a “democracy” with a Bill of Rights, must begin to be widely acknowledged.
So, what are you doing for the rest of your life? How many necessities, both natural and social – clean water and good schools, breathable air and Social Security, non-genetically modified food and affordable housing, rainforests and healthcare, and son on – have to vanish before people act? At a time when we desperately need collective action and solidarity against corporate predation, we can’t afford separation and the illusion of individualism. Above all, in our work and struggles, we must never lose touch with each other. It’s either solidarity and resistance, or Armageddon…and it’s now.”