Interview with Will Anderson, an elder in the Federal system who runs a prison literacy program for and with other prisoners, about anti-police uprisings and the Black Lives Matter movement. Inclusion of this material is not intended as an endorsement of Anderson's views.
Will Anderson is an elder in the Federal system who runs a prison literacy program for and with other prisoners.
Federal Correctional Institution-2
How did you first hear about the anti-police uprisings and #BlackLivesMatter protests in Ferguson, Baltimore, Oakland, and other cities, of 2014-2015: friends and family, other prisoners, corporate media, and/or radical publications?
Every morning weekdays I watch CNN news and TV One news, and Ronald Martin (Black news mainly) about police murdering Blacks, protests, BlackLivesMatter movement, news on sentence disparities and gun laws. Also newspapers: Nation of Islam’s Final Call and the Bay View (San Francisco, CA).
How did you react? What were your initial thoughts and feelings?
My thoughts kick in and say, “Here we go again, they did it again.” Lying, shooting an innocent Black man. Policemen inventing false reports and fabricating their own story to justify their action as a cover-up for wrongdoing. Finally, corruption at its apex as criminals in a corrupted political system!
There were and are a lot of contradictory and conflicting elements to these protests and rebellions. Right-wing media has used coded, racist language blaming “thugs” and “criminals”, while left-wing media and some activists have also at times decried the rioting, blaming it on “outside agitators.” Do you have thoughts on these conflicts over tactics and strategy? Do they resonate with debates going on over resistance inside prisons?
First, let me inform you that at least 85% of federal prisoners are government assistants, or straight up rats, slang for snitches and defectors. Being in BOP over 20 years, I have seen it all and now am shockproof about what these so-called fed prisoners won’t do, or prison officials. It’s all about securing and controlling the inmates’ behavior to their best advantage with behavior modification methods: pacification, reward and punishment, divide and conquer tactics, and last, inmate informants. The number one tactic BOP uses is “divide and conquer” to keep the uneducated thugs, gangs, religious groups in fear of coming together for any common cause. Racism is understood in BOP by nationality, religion, gang, and geography (city and state) location. Finally, most federal prisoners done lost contact with society only to be with incarcerated minds: sex fantasies, homosexuality, drugs, gambling, working in the UniCon factory, and sport and play. Ask anything about current events and most cannot elaborate because they don’t read the newspapers, nor watch the daily news or world news for social enlightenment. The living dead! In most FCI’s [federal correction institutions] there is no resistance, only submission and passivity and gratification.
Were other prisoners talking about these rebellions, and if so, what kinds of conversations were they having?: Did it stimulate discussion, organizing, and/or resistance in your facility?
At FCI-Butner we have few conscious individuals that are politicized and are concerned about the law and order being given to people of color under white supremacist, privileged society. We have one group, a religious gang, known as the Nation of Islam with about 8 members that shows concern at their religious services. We do not have group discussions or dialogue about America’s corrupted system, nor the criminal political injustice system. Normally, we just follow the news entertainment report in the moment, and its done tomorrow until the frontline, headline breaking news. Finally, there is no resistance here whatever. I estimate that we have about 75% misfits, undesirables, rats, government assistants–where they not trying to make any noise while living in protective custody. The others here are DC prisoners, those in here for medical reasons, and those about to get released within 18 months. I have a few old timers I dialogue with throughout the week about courts, police corruption, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, terrorism and the bombing of innocent people under the pretext of Islam, from what I gather off the news.
Did it feel to you like there was a racial dynamic to how prisoners reacted to the news of these mostly Black uprisings? Was there more or less racial unity with regards to anti-police sentiment in the prison? Did it seem like white or Latino/a prisoners could relate?
Prisoners incarcerated in the Feds are no longer politicized—Black, White, Brown, Latino, Mexicans—as the BOP has modified their thinking to cease to think as individuals, with fear, pacification, modification programs, and divide and conquer tactics that eliminate unity among prisoners. BOP’s goal is to keep them dumb, quiet, and obedient.
What do you think the relationship can or should be between these anti-police rebellions on the outside and resistance inside prisons? Is there resistance or organizing going on at your facility you want to mention or hold up?
There isn’t any organization I wish to support or hold up right now in the Feds, including the Nation of Islam—talking loud but saying nothing and doing nothing to bring about action or resolution. When police kill innocent people it is warranted by the people to be rebellious. It didn’t just start in the 2000’s, its a reflex going back to 1900’s through the 80’s etc. There can not be a relationship with police. Policemen must protect elites and their property, and maintain law and order dealing with the underprivileged people. What I have perceived being locked up over 20 years is that we are back to basics: educate people to learn socially, politically, and economically.
I hope my answers share some light and what time it is. Real talk, [we need] education, going back to basics for prisoners: reading, studying, research and thinking for themselves as leaders, and not being dumb-followers to be manipulated by others’ negativity. These street gangs got be checked because they serve no realistic purpose, but death and destruction both outside and inside prisons, with no real objectives setout against the establishment!