[Pnews] Building prisoners’ political power - Prisoner Political Action Committee proposal

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Oct 31 16:35:19 EDT 2013


    /2 articles follow
    <http://sfbayview.com/2013/building-prisoners-political-power/>/


    Building prisoners’ political power
    <http://sfbayview.com/2013/building-prisoners-political-power/>

October 31, 2013
http://sfbayview.com/2013/building-prisoners-political-power/

/*by Gabriel Huerta*/

On Aug. 23, 2013, 50 hunger strikers from the Ad Seg unit in PBSP were 
sent out on a special transport to a temporary Ad Seg unit in New 
Folsom. Many of us were already on our 47th day of fasting, not an ideal 
time for anyone to be traveling, let alone all wrapped up in chains.

But myself, personally, I’ve come to enjoy these moments where I can see 
the outside world, live in motion and feel a part of it. But there was 
something else going on here, something that had been growing steadily 
throughout this whole protest, and that’s the unity we’ve been having 
that really shines when the adversity is turned up.

Nobody who experienced this trip can deny the sincerity of that unity 
that goes beyond race and regional groups. We’re all here for one 
another, a prisoner class with one foe – and that’s the CDCR (California 
Department of Corrections), the CCPOA (California Correctional Peace 
Officers Association – prison guards) and related groups. If we can hold 
onto this spirit and let it spread to the lower level yards, then we can 
actually start changing things – and I’m not talking about just the SHU.


      But there was something else going on here, something that had
      been growing steadily throughout this whole protest, and that’s
      the unity we’ve been having that really shines when the adversity
      is turned up.

One thing we’ve been talking about, besides what Ed Mead discusses in 
his editorial in the September 2013 issue of Rock newsletter 
<http://www.prisonart.org/images/%21Newsletter/Rock2_9.pdf> – I 
completely agree with him that these prisons could not function if 
prisoners withheld their labor – is the formation of a prisoner PAC or 
PAC-like fund to give us some sort of political participation. I know we 
can get this off the ground with prisoners initially contributing $5 or 
so and then outside support to where businesses and even celebrities can 
contribute as well. See the letter (below) by Jesse Perez which 
articulates it all very clearly and which I fully endorse.

We prisoners throw enough of our money at these worthless magazines 
which the COs (correctional officers) routinely just walk in and throw 
away as trash a few months after we get them. Surely we can sacrifice 
some of that or a few junk food canteen items to build this fund. We 
spend a fortune on a lot of things that don’t even benefit us. Let’s 
finally create something that will benefit us. We have the attention of 
the legislature now. Let’s start to push the things they can actually 
help to change, including the board reform (those blanket denials), 
family visiting, our weights, restitution and a lot more.

Let us not forget the previous Three Strikes proposition that we were 
actually winning until CCPOA launched a last minute media blitz that 
turned the tide against us and narrowly defeated the proposition. So 
that should tell us how powerful these media blitzes can actually be. 
CCPOA union dues are about $80 a month per member, so that’s a powerful 
war chest there, but it’s about time we get on the board here and put 
our numbers to work. There’s a whole lot of us!


      We have the attention of the legislature now. Let’s start to push
      the things they can actually help to change, including the board
      reform (those blanket denials), family visiting, our weights,
      restitution and a lot more.

I also want to urge everyone to write to Assemblyperson Tom Ammiano 
(State Capitol, P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento, CA 94249-0017) and Sen. 
Loni Hancock (State Capitol, Room 2082, Sacramento, CA 95814) thanking 
them for their committed support and also giving them a story of how 
these years in SHU have affected you and your relationship with your 
loved ones.

/Send our brother some love and light: Gabriel Huerta, E-80766, D3-222, 
P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532.
*************************************************************************
/


    Prisoner Political Action Committee proposal

/*by Jesse Perez*/

Merely days after the suspension of the historic California Prisoner 
Hunger Strike of 2013, which lasted an unprecedented 60 days and saw 
record prisoner support across the state, the task of tactical and 
strategic re-assessment – imperative in any protracted struggle and at 
key junctures of the same – is well underway.

As our reps have publicly made known, we are gearing up for the upcoming 
battles in our overall struggle to abolish the state’s practice of 
long-term solitary confinement in both the political and legal arenas 
which, given the prisoncrats’ resistance to change, are very likely the 
forums where the matter will ultimately be decided, one way or another.


      The task of tactical and strategic re-assessment – imperative in
      any protracted struggle and at key junctures of the same – is well
      underway.

With that in hand, the occasion recently arose to submit to some of our 
reps the idea of creating a prisoner Political Action Committee (PAC) 
aimed at, in the short term, bolstering the tactical momentum gained in 
the latest strike and, in the long term, competitively establishing our 
voice in the one area where it all goes down: the public policymaking 
process of the California Legislature.

The reps were receptive to this idea but had reservations: Chiefly, is 
the actual prisoner population support even there? An entirely 
legitimate question. To get a gauge on an answer, it was further 
suggested that an article outlining the idea and requesting feedback on 
it from the prisoner population could be disseminated. That being the 
precise intention here, the idea is as follows:

Recognizing the plain realities of the political process that 
underwrites this purported democratic society, two factors directly 
relevant to our struggle stand out: Namely 1) we cannot vote, and 2) 
economic investment is the lubricant that pumps out favorable – or 
unfavorable – laws from the legislative pipelines. Not much, at this 
point, can be done about the former, which is by no means saying 
anything one way or another about the merits of pursuing efforts to 
change that in the future; the latter, however, can be sought and 
attained now.


      The occasion recently arose to submit to some of our reps the idea
      of creating a prisoner Political Action Committee (PAC) aimed at,
      in the short term, bolstering the tactical momentum gained in the
      latest strike and, in the long term, competitively establishing
      our voice in the one area where it all goes down: the public
      policymaking process of the California Legislature.

The idea would be to formally register a prisoner PAC, an act protected 
by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as intimated by the High 
Court in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, 93 S.Ct. 375 
(2010), which would give us competitive access to the political arena by 
way of independent expenditures that would focus on promoting our 
political interests.

Such expenditures would have to be primarily funded at the onset, at 
least, by the prisoner population. Yes, we are not well off and some are 
barely scrapping by – if that. But prisoner contributions required to 
get this idea off the ground are reasonable and, more importantly, 
entirely do-able.

Consider this: The overall prison population is just above 100,000 and 
if that number of prisoners each contributed $5, surely this pales to 
the amount most spend in the canteen each month or to the sacrifice of 
starving yourself or blowing your release date for supporting a work 
stoppage. That would bring $500K to our political war chest.

Or, in a more conservative estimation, if the 33,000 who initially 
supported the latest strike contributed a similar amount, that would 
still place a notable sum, $65K, in our political war chest. Further, 
such estimates don’t even take into account likely contributions from 
non-prisoner sources, such as informed voters for whom the 
tough-on-crime rhetoric jig is up, natural allies such as small 
businesses that stand to gain from effectively opposing the prison 
industrial complex, and family and friends, so an actual final tally 
could top $1 million worth of independent expenditures.

Now, independent expenditure PACs are prohibited under federal 
regulations from making direct contributions to the official campaigns 
of candidates for office. So, dismiss any misplaced belief that your 
contribution would end up in the pocket of some politician. What the 
regulations do allow is PAC independent expenditures towards purchasing 
space in the media – TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, etc. – to run ads 
educating the voters in support of or in opposition to candidates for 
office.

For those who don’t follow politics, that is mostly how it works. 
Lawmakers, or politicians, are more responsive to the narrow interest of 
the few who support them by financially investing in their political 
career, directly or indirectly, than the broader interests of the many 
who support them with their vote. Why? Because the vote is influenced by 
the information – accurate or not – that voters are exposed to via 
political ads. Such expenditures can be, and should be, very strategic.

For example, say Tom Ammiano, chairperson of the Assembly’s Public 
Safety Committee and a demonstrated supporter of our cause, decides to 
run for state Senate once his term is up and is constitutionally 
ineligible to seek another term in the Assembly. Our PAC can make 
expenditures to run ads opposing the candidacies of his political rivals 
because Ammiano has already shown he is responsive to our interests 
even, quite incredibly, without even the specter of receiving financial 
support for his political aspirations from us. The likely tactical edge 
gained by instituting a well-funded prisoner PAC in the run-up to the 
impending legislative hearings should be clear at this point.


      Not only is an idea like this a natural progression of all our
      efforts so far, but to pull something like this off would send a
      strong message to the world of state politics. No longer can the
      interests of the working class poor – our families and us – be
      wholly ignored without political consequences.

Another of the concerns that came up with this idea was how do we know 
individual contributions are actually being put to work for them? The 
answer is simple enough: complete transparency. More specifically a 
website would be developed where the instant a contribution is received, 
the name and exact amount contributed by every person would be posted 
along with the overall sum total of all contributions as well as when, 
where, how and why any contributed penny is expended or used. In this 
way anyone and everyone could ask their people to simply go online to 
confirm whether their contribution was received and if it is being used 
to push the line for them in the political arena.

Furthermore, to completely eliminate the development of any degree of 
skepticism among any and all the sub-sectors that collectively make up 
the overall prison population regarding contributions made, we can opt 
to delegate their management to a neutral party, such as a willing 
political science professor and his/her students, while still basing 
such management on the consensus coming out of the decision-making 
process already in place within the infrastructure of our movement.

The above, then, is the prisoner PAC proposal as currently envisioned. 
Any feedback, critique, suggestion, commentary etc. in support or 
opposition would be welcomed and considered.

In conclusion, I submit this personal observation: Not only is an idea 
like this a natural progression of all our efforts so far, but to pull 
something like this off would send a strong message to the world of 
state politics. No longer can the interests of the working class poor – 
our families and us – be wholly ignored without political consequences.

/Send our brother some love and light: Jesse Perez, K-42186, CSP-Sac. 
B8/119, P.O. Box 29002, Represa, CA 95671./

-- 
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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