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Political Prisoner Letter Writing Party TONIGHT! (Tre Arrow)

political prisoner letter writing party
thursday, april 1st at 7:00pm
cascadia rising infoshop (1540 se clinton pdx)
This is the time to get off your ass and write a letter to the people who are sitting in jail/prison for doing or being accused of doing political actions. You may say to yourself "I don't need to show up at Cascadia Rising Infoshop at 7:00pm on Thursday to write a letter. That is something I can do at home." But you won't end up doing it! You will put it off! Plus you can learn about all the poitical prisoners and why they are in jail/prison.

Tre Arrow is in Solitary Confinement and needs letters written to him and to the Warden, Rawn Phalen, who put him into confinement ASAP!

Call, Fax or Write Rawn Phalan and demand that Tre be returned to his regular

Phone: (250) 953-4400
Fax (250) 953 4453

Rawn Phalen
Victoria Island Regional Corrections Center
4216 Wilkinson Road
Victoria BC

homepage: homepage: http://www.geocities.com/crinfoshop/
phone: phone: 503-230-8360
address: address: 1540 SE Clinton PDX (Cascadia Rising Infoshop)

Writing to Prisoners 01.Apr.2004 13:18


Writing to Prisoners

One of the main problems that puts people off getting involved in supporting prisoners is a feeling of being intimidated about writting to a prisoner for the first time. It is very hard to write a letter to someone you don't know: people find that they don't know what to say, they feel there are things they can't talk about, or think that prisoners won't be interested in what they have to say. Well this is a problem most of us have had to get over, so we've drawn up some suggestions to help you. Obviously these aren't rigid guidelines, and we don't pretend to have solved all problems here. Different people will write different letters. hopefully they will be of some use.

Some prisons restict the number of letters a prisoner can write or receive, and they may have to buy stamps and envelopes: and prisoners aren't millionaires. So don't neccesarily expect a reply to a card or letter. A lot of prisons allow astamps or and s.a.e to be included with a card or letter, but some don't. Letters do also get stopped, read, delayed, 'diverted'. If you suspect has been or will be nicked by the screws, you can send it Recorded delivery, which unfortunately costs a lot but then they have to open it in the prisoners prescence. Also you should put a return address, not just so the prisoner can reply (!), but also because some prisons don't allow letters without a return address. Of course it doesn't have to be your address, but be carefull using PO box numbers as some prisons don't allow thes either!

Say who you are, and if it's relevant that you're from such and such a group. Some people reckon it's better to be upfront about your politics as well, to give prisoners the choice to stay in contact with you or not.
Say where you heard about them and their case.
The first letter can be reasonblly short, maybe only a postcard. Obviously when you get to know people better you'll have more to talk about.
If you are writting to a "framed" prisoner, and you believe them to be innocent, it he;ps to say so, as it gives people confidence to know that you believe them.

Some peole when they writeto prisoners, are afraid to talking about their lives, what they are up to, thinking this may depress people banged up, especially prisoners with long demtences, or that they are not interested in your life. Although in some cases this may be true, on the whole a letter is the highpoint of the day for most prisoners. prison life is dead boring, and any news that livens it up, whether it's about people thay know or not, is generally welcome. Especially if you didn't know them before they went to prison, they want to know about you, what your life is like etc. Use your sense, don't write about anything that is likely to get a prisoner in shit with the screws, or get you or anyone else in trouble with the cops.

For people imprisond from out movements and struggles it's vital to keep them involved in the ongoing resistance - telling tham about actions, sending them magazinesif they want them, didscussing ideas ans strategies with them. Use your head though. Some people will just want to keep their head down till they get out.

This was adapted from a leaflett produced by the Anarchist Black Cross

The Ins and Outs of Prisoner Support 01.Apr.2004 13:49


The Ins and Outs of Prisoner Support
From the Yule 2001 EF! Journal
by the NA Earth Liberation Prisoners Support Network

Leafing through the Earth First! Journal, most readers have probably seen the Journal page devoted to Earth and animal liberation prisoners. Usually relegated to the nether regions of the magazine, the page contains names, addresses and short descriptions of individuals being held captive by the state for acts of Earth and animal liberation. The question that may be asked is: why does the Journal list political prisoners and why should I do anything more than give a short glance to its contents?

As the EF! and larger ecological defense movements have grown, more militant and direct actions have surfaced, particularly in the last 4 years. The introduction of genetically engineered crops, the continued decimation of the last old-growth forests and the expansion of development projects into the last wild places have spawned a new generation of warriors more likely to physically destroy the oppositions' machines and buildings than hold signs or petition the government for change. The proliferation of actions taken against industry (claimed by the Earth Liberation Front, Animal Liberation Front or unclaimed) is enough to warm the heart especially after the reactionary stances taken by many radicals post September 11th. As we have seen in the Pacific Northwest (US), every action (or dozen) has a separate and equal reaction in this case the reaction of the state to acts of sabotage against industry. The state apparatus is expanding rapidly in order to hunt down "terrorists" wherever they rear their head (this time it's the Green Scare). The FBI/ATF budget is expanding exponentially and we have to come to terms with the fact that this war being fought against industry will yield prisoners of war. It would behoove us to do more than just cheer when we hear of wild horses being freed by elves in the night, McDonald's burning down, or a beheaded Columbus statue.

The point is simple: no serious political struggle which has any chance of attaining revolutionary potential can afford to ignore its prisoners. To turn our collective backs on prisoners is to ensure that our movement will stay small, relatively mild and will never be a threat to biocidal industry. Who would want to take action if they knew their support would be minimal (or behind closed doors) if they got nicked?

In this article I want to give some ideas on the many ways we can support the prisoners that are in the Journal prisoner page as well as some guidelines for doing support work. Here is just a few of the most accessible ways that you can assist those being held captive by the state:

Corresponding with prisoners
Letters quite simply help bridge the gap between the "inside" and "outside" worlds. They help inform the prisoner of what is going on in their movements, the world and even their community. The penal system exerts a massive strain on prisoners to break ties with the outside world. Communicating with prisoners helps work against that strain and ensures that they do not feel completely isolated. Often times, people say "what would I write to someone in prison? I wouldn't know what to say." It's simple. Remember: they are human. They have needs and interests like anyone on the outside. Share something about your life with them. Ask about what life is like on the inside and what they plan to do when they get out. Offer some assistance. An unexpected letter from a supporter can be a welcome break from the daily monotony of prison life. Don't feel intimidated by the person you are writing-they are not a superhero; just someone that had the courage to act for what they believe in.

Consistency is paramount when communicating with prisoners. Commit to writing to one prisoner and do it well. They will appreciate it more than a short hastily written letter. The examples of people attempting valiantly to keep up with writing to 10 prisoners and then having to scale down to 1 or 2 are innumerable. Consistent support is always better than short-lived "flash in the pan" support. That being said, people should not feel the responsibility to commit to writing to prisoners for the length of their sentence. Prisoners will generally appreciate a letter with some kind thoughts and may not even have the time to keep a steady correspondence with everyone who writes them.

Keep in mind that there is a very good chance that what you write will be read by any or all of the above: prison guards, wardens, other prisoners, FBI, CSIS (Canada), the new Office of Homeland security (US cabinet position) ... You should assume that what you write can be used against the prisoner, yourself and your community so be careful and have discretion.

Many prisoners are targeted by prisoncrats for being political, receiving large amounts of mail or for the "subversive" content of the mail they receive. It is important to know the guidelines concerning prisoner mail. First, ask the prisoner what they may or may not receive. Usually, they have a fairly good idea of what is appropriate to send and what will not make it past the censors. Prisons are known for having strict regulations for what a prisoner can receive e.g. new books only, first-class mail only. If that does not work, write to the warden of the prison requesting a list of regulations. A tool commonly used to disrupt prisoner support is the "Mail Violation Notice." They can (and sometimes do) reject mail for any reason they want including the presence of a "circle A" on a zine or the use of the word "Anarchy" in a letter.. Don't be discouraged by these tricks-either file an appeal (which you have little chance of wining), modify the package to appease them (easiest and most likely to work), or send it again (hoping a different mail censor sees it). Whatever you do, do not give up and allow them to further alienate the person inside.

If there is one thing that all prisoners and those on trial need, it is a large amount of financial assistance. Legal fees are exorbitant and many political individuals will not receive any reduction in these fees based on their principles or the action they took. Prisoners often need assistance with setting up legal defense funds that will be maintained by trustworthy individuals that are prepared to make hard choices with little money. Because of their imprisonment, the act of setting up a bank account is impossible. It is important to set up a way for people in the movement to help out financially. Ideally, these accounts would exist already in cases of emergencies, but that is rarely the case. Setting up a bank account, a PO Box for people to send checks to and a person/name who will act as a recipient of those checks is key and should be a high priority. The prisoner needs to be fully informed and in control of the money that is raised on their behalf. Never underestimate the generosity and solidarity of our movement and your own community. Thousands of dollars have been raised for people facing imprisonment from small benefit shows and zine/T-shirt sales.

Keep in mind that prisoners are always in the position of having to buy from the incredibly expensive (and monopolistic) prison commissary which is the only place a prisoner may buy envelopes, stamps and even soy milk. A consistent flow of funds into their books is one of those things that makes prison life bearable. A contribution of as little as $10 a week can cover a prisoners' postage fees thus allowing them to communicate with supporters and friends on the outside. Often times, funds can be sent directly to the prison and deposited into the prisoner's account.

Solidarity Actions
Many people will feel drawn not to writing letters or raising funds but to continuing the struggle that the prisoners are fighting. Some call this concept revolutionary solidarity-an action committed in solidarity with a prisoner that may or may not focus on a similar target. When anarchist prisoner Nikos Maziotis was sentenced to 15 years for the attempted bombing of the Greek Ministry of Development, others committed multitudes of actions in solidarity with him. Maziotis' sentence was reduced from 15 to 5 years on appeal partially because of the threat of continued attack should Maziotis be held captive any longer. (He ended up serving 3.5 years and was released last August!). Similarly, when Rod Coronado was sentenced for action relating to the ALF's Operation Bite Back, many felt that his jailing would stifle actions taken for animal and Earth liberation. The ALF responded with a series of fur farm liberations throughout the Midwest US dedicating them to him. Former prisoners have commented that the only thing that freed them was the pressure on the streets and the threats of continued action. Former Black Panther and Political Prisoner had this to say about this premise: "But I learned that the movement in the streets determines whether you languish in prison or are released, not the State. If it becomes strong enough it can compel a favorable outcome, even if the officials swear that you will be executed or die in prison."

Here comes the tricky part: there really is no way to know the effect that an action or a communiqué can have on a prisoner's case. For example, three days prior to Jeffrey Luer's (Free's) trial last spring, 36 SUV's were torched at the same car dealership that Free and co-defendant Craig Marshall (Critter) took action against a year prior. The communiqué that came out stated that the action was done in solidarity with Free and Critter and against their unjust imprisonment. There is no way of knowing the impact of this statement prior to Free's trial but these are Free's observations (reprinted from the Break the Chains newsletter #9):

"My critique is this: this act would have been just as significant and more beneficial to me if my name was not mentioned in the communiqué. That said, I would like to extend my revolutionary thanks to those persons unknown. To those responsible for these actions, please know my gratitude".

This is not meant to be a criticism of this action just a reminder to people that we all need to proceed with caution when it is other people's freedom and well being that we are dealing with.

Work on projects that are prisoner-directed
The most successful prisoner support projects are those that are conceived of and directed by the prisoners themselves. Two examples of such projects are the Victory Gardens Project in Maine (started by NY3 political prisoners) and the Anarchist Prisoner Legal Aid Network (APLAN- started by anarchist prisoner Rob Thaxton). They are successful and long-term because the prisoners themselves are leading them and working in conjunction with outside support to achieve their aims. Another prisoner directed project is the publishing of prisoners writings and artwork in 'zines. This could include receiving the letters, typing, copying, distribution and fundraising. It's a big task but many examples exist of excellent prisoner directed zines like Strong Hearts (done by Rod Coronado while imprisoned) and the South Chicago ABC group which publishes tons of prisoner zines.

Some Prisoner Support Guidelines
Support prisoners and people facing imprisonment (and their choices) unconditionally
Barring a major transgression such as snitching on a co-defendant or other individuals, those facing heavy sentences for actions need to be fully supported and without the "carrot and stick" approach that some prisoner supporters use. For example, lets say that a well-known activist gets busted for a number of different actions and is approached by supporters who want to help with her legal situation. When the activist decides that she knows what is best for herself and wants to take a plea bargain, she is attacked as not being worthy of support or righteous enough. This dynamic, albeit exaggerated (not by much), has played itself out before between people being held in jail and others who claim to want to lend assistance. People need assistance about legal options but do not need to be told what to do nor how revolutionary their choice is. When it comes down to it, they have to deal with being in a cage, not you.

Drop your lifestyle issues
One thing we need to get past regarding supporting prisoners is the focus on issues relating to the prisoner's lifestyle whether before their arrest, on the run or while in jail. For example, the ALF Support Group has a policy of only recognizing a prisoner as an Animal Liberation Front member/prisoner if they fulfill clause #3-"one must be vegan or vegetarian." This archaic clause (written presumably by the people who started the ALF in England) creates a really absurd basis of support. What if a person eats meat but decides that they are going to destroy 12 vivisection labs, liberate 5,000 mink, spike a few timber sales and sab hunts? If they get nicked, who will be lifestylist enough to tell them "No, sorry. You are most definitely NOT a member of the ALF and will not receive ALF prisoner support. Please refer to clause 3". This sounds exaggerated like other examples previously used but it really isn't too far from an actual example and could happen again in the future. If we are going to enter into relationships with prisoners, we need to understand that they are not going to be carbon copies of ourselves. They will eat things we don't like, do things we don't like and we may even have enough time sitting around to endlessly dissect the merits of their action. Those items are irrelevant when it comes to providing principled and strong support for prisoners. On that note, I would strongly suggest that the ALF support group (in every country it exists in) drop that clause as a basis of their support.

North American Earth Liberation Prisoners Support Network