Tag Archives: innocence

Launching a Campaign of Resistance

by Michael Zaharibu Dorrough
In: SF Bay View
Aug 15th 2012

“The way prisons are run and their inmates treated gives a faithful picture of a society, especially of the ideas and methods of those who dominate that society. Prisons indicate the distance to which government and social conscience have come in their concern and respect for the human being.” – Milovan Djilas

We should never accept being abused or mistreated. It’s our duty as human beings to fully resist. Our strike activity over the past year, followed by strikes as far away as Palestine/Israel, has shown that solid resistance is not only possible but also very effective, and it can be done in smart, fully advantageous ways. It simply requires prisoners to come together collectively for the common good of all and with the support of the people outside, forming a powerful force to compel changes that are long overdue.

“Our compliance and recognition of the prisons’ power over us is our downfall. If we collectively refuse to comply and refuse to recognize the prisoncrats having any power over us via refusal to work, refusal to follow orders, then these prisons cannot operate,” wrote Pelican Bay strike representative Todd Ashker in the March San Francisco Bay View.

Our only solution, as overwhelming as it may seem, is to launch a long, protracted campaign of resistance throughout the prison system – level three and four yards – not only to close the SHU facilities down completely, but to gain back everything we’ve given up over the years. The time for us to get off our knees is long overdue.
With the application of new and correct tactics employed throughout the system, accompanied by class action 602s and lawsuits, coordinated written statements from us to the media and support from various prison activist groups and, of greatest significance, mass solidarity, we can achieve this. The legal struggle that was being waged in the interest of the entire population to overturn the process failed to provoke a unified response. We are, as a prison population, oppressed as an entire population, therefore the solution is to be found in a group response.

We as a prison population are becoming increasingly more self-centered and driven by self-interests as our material conditions continue to deteriorate, and in turn we become contributors and accomplices to CDCR’s agendas and the further downward spiral of our own deterioration. More often than not we do so unconsciously; that is, we do so unintentionally and unknowingly.

“We live within circumstances where the existing and predominate ideology of ‘individualism’ is self-defeating and destructive to all of us as a population and where the collective mentality is an absolute necessity for the improvement of our living conditions,” wrote C.L. in “The Road Ahead” in the March issue of Rock.

Finally, hundreds of men in the ASU at Calipatria State Prison participated last year in the Pelican Bay State Prison Hunger Strike that reached statewide in July 2011 and another in September 2011. The men at Calipatria State Prison ASU who starved themselves were in unity with Pelican Bay State Prison’s five core demands, but these men added their own demands, which were to have appliances, either a TV or radio, to stimulate their minds if they had to be forced to stay in segregation.

With help from articles that were published to expose the illegal extended years these men are serving in these “temporary” segregation units, loved ones on the other side of these walls pushed CDCR to have these men’s demands met for appliances. The men at Calipatria ASU described to the public the extreme inhumane conditions they were faced with, and after Warden Leland McEwen was removed, Sacramento approved TVs for all men in Calipatria State Prison ASU.

On April 19, 2012, at the expense of CDCR, TVs were distributed and installed in all ASU cells. This demonstrates that the issue of addressing the need for prisoner unity, of specific examples of solutions and the importance of developing a political consciousness and its role in developing successful strategies and tactics inside and outside of prison is an important part of the dialogue.

The success of any struggle is tied to the strength of its movement – a movement that we all belong to as a result of our willingness to resist and make sacrifices. Unity requires dialogue and commitment, and our only interest is in broadening and deepening the unity and support that all of the efforts made have realized for us all.

As revolutionaries, we will and must continue to pursue the formation of a broader “National Mass Movement” which will support the realization of the five core demands articulated by Pelican Bay, just as we all strive to transform the nature and structure of capitalist society itself which gave rise to the need to pursue the California Prisoners Hunger Strike and the Pelican Bay D-Corridor Collective to create the five core demands.

Other areas that can be pursued are contacting the hunger strike coalition, if this has not already been done, and explain to them the circumstances of your situation. Write to your families and loved ones and make them aware of your situation. And educate them about the prison movement as well.

The Prisoner Activist Resource Center (PARC, P.O. Box 70447, Oakland, CA 94612) is an invaluable resource. And again, the article “The Road Ahead” in the March issue of Rock is an excellent study material to refer to.

Struggling with you.
Michael Dorrough

Send our brother some love and light: Michael Zaharibu Dorrough, D-83611, Cor-SHU, 4B-1L-53, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran CA 93212. This story is an excerpt from a letter sent to Ed Mead of the Rock newsletter.

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Justice Makes a Nation Great

From: SF Bay View

January 26, 2012

by Michael Zaharibu Dorrough

Zaharibu, who has been in isolation for 23½ years, was “validated” as a “gang member” and condemned to solitary confinement for having this classic and four other books by renowned authors in his cell and sharing them with other prisoners. Prison authorities labeled these books “gang material.”

I read once that whereupon meeting a poor man who had been falsely accused, Jesus went with him before the magistrate and, having been granted special permission to appear in his behalf, made this address: “Justice makes a nation great, and the greater a nation the more solicitous will it be to see that injustice shall not befall even its most humble citizen. Woe upon any nation when only those who possess money and influence can secure ready justice before its courts! It is the sacred duty of a magistrate to acquit the innocent as well as to punish the guilty.

“Upon the impartiality, fairness and integrity of its courts the endurance of a nation depends. Civil government is founded on justice, even as true religion is founded on mercy.”

This is my 23rd year in isolation, and regardless of how some might try to define what isolation is, I can assure you that after 23 years and in light of the almost constant, non-stop assault on the senses and your humanity, this is isolation. And at least part of what constitutes isolation must be defined according to what it takes and tries to take from you – the suicides, past and present, the surrender of one’s humanity and integrity, qualities that play a large role in becoming informants. It’s not only that people become like Judas when they do so, they become factors, major factors in the continued efforts at destroying and trying to destroy the humanity of us all.

But like many of those of us who have been buried in isolation for decades, I consider myself to be a student and I love democracy. During the hunger strike of Sept. 26-Oct. 12, I had an opportunity to speak to an officer here who stated that treating the humanity of citizens who are in prison with respect is a liberal idea whose time had passed and the people have spoken. Obviously, he considered “the people” to be those who think just as he does and even those citizens who have remained silent on the issue of democracy and justice.
I was not offended by his thinking. I understood it to be that 500-year-old process in which the elitist minority has convinced much of the middle class and working poor majority that their interests are one and the same. The conversation actually reminded me of conversations that Nelson Mandela had with his captors in a South African prison.

Hate and indifference – and it goes by many names: racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, to name just a few – are powerful tools that the ruling class minority has used to keep the majority competing against one another, from jobs to housing to education, even on how we should love and worship. You can see the pathology that it has created in some basic areas.

Hate and indifference – and it goes by many names: racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, to name just a few – are powerful tools that the ruling class minority has used to keep the majority competing against one another.


If you were to ask 5,000 people if they felt that the criminal justice system is biased, 50 percent or more would probably say yes. If you ask those same people if they believed in the death penalty, that same number of people would say yes. Even if you ask that question as it relates to life without parole, as many now do, you are still talking about a system that is biased.

We actually believe that 1) somehow the system has developed separately from the hate and indifference that the country has developed under and 2) that somehow we can leave our own hate and indifference at the front door and be fair and just in how we treat each other. Nothing could be further from the truth, and the historical record clearly bears this out. Hate and indifference is what has robbed us of our ability to look at each other and see a reflection of ourselves.

The only reason why the nation, at least many of us, have failed to see and understand how we have and continue to be affected by the legacy of hate and indifference and the pathology created by it is because it is who and what we are. Movements are crucial to overcoming this pathology.

Movements consist of citizens from different schools of thought – be it cultural, gender, political, economic, spiritual, educational. The thing that brings us all together is that everyone is being subjected to some form of oppression. The actual and spiritual poverty that results from the unequal distribution of wealth is a form of oppression. Movements are supposed to afford us with that crucial opportunity to relate to one another as fellow citizens.

The actual and spiritual poverty that results from the unequal distribution of wealth is a form of oppression.


Hate and indifference is the greatest threat to democracy. Democracy is and can be tolerant of much, but it cannot be subordinate to anything. It is the greater good. We have historically subordinated democracy to our hate and indifference: the unequal distribution of wealth, maintaining wage systems that are shamefully inconsistent with the standard of living, subjecting citizens to long-term isolation – and for many of us it is as a result of our ideas.

My retention in isolation is based on my allegedly being in possession of gang material and providing that material to other prisoners. That gang material was the following books:

1) “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn,
2) “Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880” by W.E.B. Dubois,
3) “Egypt Revisited” by Ivan Van Sertima,
4) “Democracy in Mexico” by Han La Borz,
5) “Democracy Matters” by Cornel West.

The wrongful incarceration of citizens – and a lot of times this too is politically motivated – and the death penalty are all anti-democratic. And when we subordinate democracy and justice to us, as opposed to subordinating ourselves to democracy and justice, believe me, it stops being democracy and justice and it becomes exactly what it has been. These are forms of totalitarianism.

We mentioned in the previous statement that victory will require sacrifice, tenacity and, most importantly, competent strategic insight. That strategic insight must consist of our not only understanding what hate and indifference is, but also how we, individually and collectively, as well as our institutions, have been and continue to be affected psychologically by the legacy of hate and indifference.

The democratic abolitionist struggle demands it of us, and those of us here and in the Pelican Bay SHU, the NCTT, are committed to contributing to meaningful and lasting change. And this is part of what keeps us amongst the sane. We understand, and always have, that the price that we will pay for this is the efforts to silence us, to isolate and destroy us!

We are committed to contributing to meaningful and lasting change. And this is part of what keeps us amongst the sane. We understand, and always have, that the price that we will pay for this is the efforts to silence us, to isolate and destroy us!


But just as we understand this, we also understand that this struggle will also connect us to the Mary Ratcliffs of the world and the other inspiring and courageous citizens and soldiers that we have had the pleasure of meeting. When the officer said that the people have spoken, he was not talking about the Mary Ratcliffs and Sally Bystroffs, the Gabi Pinars and Nakisah Rices, the Ed Meads and Dorsey Nunns, Marilyn McMahons, Carol Strickmans, Penny Schoners, Critical Resistance and Shaka at-Thinnins, the thousands of citizens who comprise the Occupy Wall Street Movement, the People! You are all proof that beauty does exist and you are most appreciated.

Frederick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing. It never has and never will. Those who want to be free must strike the blow!”

Send our brother some love and light: Michael Zaharibu Dorrough, D-83611, 4B-IL-53, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212. This letter was typed by Adrian McKinney.