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Survivor Manual, compiled and edited by Bonnie Kerness, illustrated by Todd Tarselli and other talented artists, 90 pgs.

Book review by Sundiata Acoli

This is a Survivor Manual by survivors—so it can’t get much more real than that. Most of its contributors have spent many years in Control Units, some are still there while others have been back and forth multiple times.

A Control Unit, Control Prison, Supermax or SHU is by whatever name a Long-term Lock-down Unit designed to isolate, punish and preferably to break prisoners, sometimes maiming or killing them in the process. Control Units are serious business and are not to be taken lightly so that any valid information on how to survive them is valuable indeed. This small booklet provides that.

Each contributing man, woman or child tell in their own words how they survived or how to survive Control Units: the domestic Abu Ghraibs and Guantanomos that dot American. soil. Their stories tell not so much of the day to day atrocities of the Control Unit, though enough of its horrors are adequately described and artistically illustrated therein, but mainly they tell how to survive, how to come out perhaps bruised and definitely changed but with one’s core intact, oftentimes stronger than when one first entered or maybe even weaker - because horrors and deprivations do take their toll - but ei-ther way still able to look yourself in the eye, knowing you survived without selling your soul. There are many who don’t.

And that’s the value of this booklet. It tells how to keep alive, how to keep one’s sanity, body and soul intact - in other words, how to survive. Many of the contributors I know personally or am familiar with them through their works. They know what they are talking about. The booklet is a gold mine of survival tips and guidelines that are worth the cost. Read it. Heed it...

That is, except for a slight error by the Editor, a most cherished comrade of mine, in her proclamation that the perma-nent lock down at USP Marion, Il.,created the first Control Unit in 1983... which was long after the creation of Marion’s infamous H-Unit: the Control Unit made up of cruel Box car cells...and was also after Trenton State Prison’s creation of its Management Control Unit in 1976...which was copied from the Management Control Unit of San Quentin’s “O” Wing of the early ‘70 and perhaps the ‘60. Other than that slight miscue the work is excellent and the Editor has done a magnificent job of putting together a much needed book that can save lives, sanities, bodies and souls. Cost is $2.50. Available from: American Friends Service Committee, 1501 Cherry St., Philadelphia, PA 19102-1403.

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