In an article originally released at the very start of 2018, Bennu Hannibal Ra-Sun calls for the launch of a year of economic direct action against mass incarceration. This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Bay View.
Fire burns off the dross of the hidden gem to reveal the precious metal. In struggle, it is the call to action that burns off the negative habit, distorted values and laziness of those who answer that call to reveal the precious jewels of humanity. With 2018 just a few days away, the call to action that is the Campaign to Redistribute the Pain 2018 is set to kick off Feb. 1, 2018. Let the fire burn bright.
Queen Tahiyrah of the National Freedom and Justice Movement, F.O.M., and Sign o’ the Times blogtalk radio has created a flier for the campaign, in addition to our https://redistributethepain.wordpress.com blog, and our [email protected] email. Queen T can be reached on Facebook in the SignOTheTimes group (https://www.facebook.com/QueenTahiyrah), by email to [email protected], or call 513-913-2691. You can also write to her at 1623 Dalton St. #14393, Cincinnati, OH 45250.
As 2018 draws near, over 2.5 million people remain behind bars, walls, steel and cages. The burden of changing our circumstances remains squarely on our shoulders. We have to change our thoughts about how freedom is possible to attain, then change our actions.
Many of us know about completing our sentence as a way to freedom, or an appeal, post-conviction petition or parole. We have to amend this paradigm to include the collective actions that we can take as a unified body to bring about freedom as well.
There is no escaping the fact that we, as a body, constitute a significant sector of the economic pie chart that funds and fuels mass incarceration and prison slavery. For purposes of this call for a nationwide boycott campaign, we have identified four sectors of the Prison Industrialized Complex that serve as some of the main economic drivers for prison budgets, which generate billions of dollars annually to fund prison operations:
Collect phone calls
Canteen / store / snack line
Incentive package purchases
Visitation vending and electronic visitation
The collect phone call industry is, by far, the most exploitive monopoly of the four enterprises. I don’t want to speculate on the amount of money we spend nationwide on phone calls, other than to say that this figure has to be in the billions of dollars.
The prison companies contract with the phone companies to carry out this extortion scheme through legal kickback schemes. We are locked up in these closed environments. If we want to maintain contact with our families, we have to pay a ransom to the phone company.
The prison system charges the phone company a cut (kickback) for being able to set up shop inside of the prison. The prison system’s cut or kickback percentage becomes part of the overall operations budget used to pay salaries, buy equipment, pay for water, electricity etc.
So, not only our slave labor, but also our financial contributions are helping to keep this empire running. Therefore, we have to boycott these ventures to help defund prison operations budgets.
Just as easily as a habeas corpus or appeal can free you, so, too, can you gain your freedom if a DOC has to close down prisons due to insufficient funds in their budgets to fund operations.
The fact that these industries generate billions of dollars each year merely attests to the enormous power that our families have over U.S. prison operations. Every time that they reject a collect call, they empower themselves by sending a message to the phone company that they will no longer assist in funding prison operations costs.
For those of us on the inside, when we stop picking up those phones, we send the message that we are ready to talk to our families at home in the living room and on the porch. These conversations are free and priceless.
The distinctively unique feature about these prison monopolies, as I’ve stated before, is that as incarcerated and enslaved people, we are their only customers. This makes it clear, without any doubt, that as much as organizations and groups grapple and fight with the FCC and the phone companies over prices, the POWER to effect change, immediate change, lies exclusively in our hands alone.
And always keep in mind that while it may cost $5, $10 or $20 to make a call, it don’t cost a penny to boycott for a month.
Casting a wide net!
Many of the owners of these cottage industry companies are former corrections officials. They either own the companies outright or are major investors. Others are family members, business associates or political contributors.
So, boycotting incentive package company Union Supply, for example, has ripple effects on many balance sheets. In addition, the employees of these companies feel the heat from participating in this evil industry. There’s plenty of pain pent up and caged inside these prisons, and we need to #RedistributeThePain in 2018 so that others can feel its intensity.
Beginning Feb. 1, 2018
When the campaign kicks off, I recommend that we invest approximately 25 percent of whatever you/we save into a fund to purchase books, stamps, newspaper subscriptions and office supplies to help print material, all to support the campaign. IWOC has indicated that their main body has donated $4,000 for book purchases.
Free Alabama Movement is contributing $750 to T-shirts, plus $250 to help purchase ink. If you have a submission for a T-shirt design, please send it to: Free Alabama Movement, P.O. Box 186, New Market, AL 35761 or email [email protected]. If we choose your design, you’ll win $50 for books or newspaper subscriptions, tuition payment or other educational need.
Book of the Month – February 2018: “Prison Profiteers: Who Makes Money from Mass Incarceration” by Tara Herevil and Paul Wright
Newspaper Subscription of the Month – February 2018: SF Bay View, one month $2, one year $24
Publication of the Month – February 2018: Prison Legal News, six months $18, one year $30
These are just a few of the recommended reading materials that you will find on our WordPress blog. I suggest that those who can make these purchases, and those who can’t reach out to FAM, IWOC, Queen T or Bay View, and collectively we will try to handle the request or send it to someone who can.
One other request that I would like to put out there personally is the need of assistance in developing an app that helps us to better analyze and break down each state’s prison system, each individual prison, and each prison’s industry and labor force, just to name a few. A person should be able to click on an app and at least get the following information at any time:
Total jobs worked by incarcerated
Each job description
Paid jobs / amounts
Total canteen sales
Total collect calls
Total incentive packages purchased
Total visitation vending
All products made by prison labor
All services provided by prison labor
(Other factors may be included)
Creating our own app in aid of our movement is not cost prohibitive. We already have the funds to pay for it, but we are spending it on potato chips, cookies, candy, collect phone calls and processed food instead. For the most part, all of this is public information that is available to us through Freedom of Information Act and Open Records Act requests. In addition, we can use survey questionnaires, civil litigation, and other methods to start culling information out of these prisons and start painting a picture of what the business of prisons is really all about.
Wherever there is unity, there is power. So, let’s utilize 2018 as the year to continue to strengthen our unity, so that we can make 2018 a very powerful year for our movement, while also making it a very painful year for prison profiteers, human traffickers and the institution of slavery.
Our circumstances absolutely will not change until our thoughts and actions change. We have been spending, funding and enriching the system long enough. Now it is time to Boycott, Defund and Bankrupt.
Stop financing our own oppression. It’s time to Redistribute the Pain in 2018.
Bennu Hannibal Ra Sun, Free Alabama Movement
Send our brother some love and light: Melvin Ray, 163343, Limestone CF D-70, 28779 Nick Davis Rd, Harvest AL 35749.