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By Ed Mead
Don't be discouraged if not much in the way of struggle is taking place at your prison, as it isn't happening here either. The political situation in your joint is probably pretty much the same as it is at institutions all across the nation. Maybe there is more prisoner-on-prisoner violence or guard brutality at one place or another, more or less filth or crowdedness, but the bottom line is that there really is not much taking place in terms of solidarity or struggle on the inside.
Of course it was not always that way. Old timers who did bits back in the late '60s and early '70s will remember what it was like in those days, when there was a progressive movement on the outside and prisoners had a sense of direction and purpose.
I don't see the present state of things changing in any significant way until there is once again a viable mass movement on the streets. It was the existence of the anti-Vietnam war struggle on the outside that worked to instill a sense of radicalism and resistance in the nation's prison system. We on the inside trail, rather than lead, in the area of social trends. It looks to me as if we will not be experiencing another significant increase in prisoner activism until there is once again a progressive political movement on the streets. And as far as I can see, that's not going to be taking place any time real soon. So the task of the PLN is to involve itself in local issues and, insofar as possible, to work at keeping the spirit of political and rights consciousness alive. Mayhap we can in some small way help to influence the next generation of prisoner activists.
Today we are not on-the-make for prisons in turmoil or looking for barricades to be stormed, but rather it is our hope to find individuals here and there across the country who are willing to work at educating and informing the politically advanced elements of their respective populations. Generally speaking, these would be jailhouse lawyers and rights conscious social prisoners.
We will be pleased if we are able to locate a handful of kindred spirits. You may be able to help us by writing about the sort of things prisoners need to hear and give some thought to, or by sharing your art work with others who read the PLN . The interests of prisoners and those of poor and working people, for example, are essentially the same. But for the most part we are alienated not only from that understanding, but also from each other. We need material that helps to make these connections. It is our hope that many more of you will be able to contribute to this long and ongoing process. The experience and ability to do so is certainly out there.
Paul and I are starting on a 1993 prisoners' calendar. It will have information about significant prisoner-related dates and twelve graphics of some sort, one for each month of the year. I guarantee that it will be a nice looking piece of work when we are done. We'll be needing two kinds of assistance from you. Firstly, we need a sentence or two about events from prisons across the country. I've been collecting these for a long time, mostly from earlier calendars produced by prisoners and their supporters back in the '70s, so I have the more common dates (such as the Attica uprising). The needed events should include things like the formation of important organizations, riots, protests of various kinds, and so on.
Secondly, we need graphics. The calendar will be done in black and white, so all donated materials must be translatable into that format. Graphics and art work should be on the inspirational side, in the prisoner sense, and something a person would not mind waking up to and looking at on the wall of her or his cell each morning for a whole month. All submissions of photographs or artwork should be mailed to me or to our Florida address and include a stamped, self-addressed envelope if you want your material returned to you. Just sending a photocopy might be enough for us to make an initial determination of suitability, and then if we want to use it we'll get the original or a better copy from you. Anyway, give this project some thought, and if you are able to help us, then please do so.
When we list the phone number of a volunteer in the newsletter it is only so other potential helpers in the Seattle area will have someone to call. When we list such a number it is only the number of the person doing the mailing, that person has nothing to do with editorial content or other newsletter business. Why drive on you about this? Because some guy at Lompoc foolishly made a collect call to one of our Seattle volunteers. She had no information for him, of course. So now the next couple of books of stamps being donated will not help to pay for the cost of the newsletter, they will instead pay for the idiot's phone call. Please, do not ever make a collect call to any phone number listed in the PLN . If you are too lazy to write us a letter, then don't contact us at all. Our readers can't afford to pay your phone bill.
As long as I'm in my diatribe mode, let me once again remind readers, especially those in the county jails, that we are not a legal aid agency. We cannot help you with your case. It takes all of our time and energy to put this paper out each month. Please don't ask us for legal advice or for help with your personal legal problems. We simply don't have the resources to assist you.
Do you remember my telling you about the benefit tape being done for the PLN by 127-House in Knoxville, Tennessee? The idea was that a bunch of bands would donate music and the result put together on a single cassette tape that would be sold as a charity for the newsletter. Well, the tape is finally done. It is called the International Benefit Tape for the Prisoners' Legal News , and consists of eleven industrial and experimental performers from the U.S., Mexico, and England. Along with the tape is a poster and an 18-page pamphlet containing reprints of some of the best articles from past issues of the PLN. If you are interested in giving us some much needed financial help, as well as sampling some of the latest styles in music, then send a postal money order for at least five bucks to Trevor Blake, Box 23061, Knoxville, TN 37933-1061. All profits will be donated to the PLN . I will let you know how this project works out in a future editorial.
In closing, let me make the obligatory pitch for money. If you can afford to do so, be sure to keep sending contributions to the newsletter as we can't continue to function without your ongoing economic support. So far you've been doing well. Bye for this month. I'll leave you with a nice slogan to ponder. It goes like this: Men of quality respect women's equality.
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