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We Both Were Incarcerated at Rikers Island. Now We’re Discussing Its History.

Book cover for Captives: How Rikers Island Took New York City Hostage.
Book cover for Captives: How Rikers Island Took New York City Hostage.

BY David CampbellTruthout
JJune 9, 2022

Two years after the 2020 Black Lives Matter uprisings began, mainstream politicians are pushing a reactive, fear-based law-and-order politics. In this precarious moment, Jarrod Shanahan’s new book Captives is more necessary than ever. The book traces the history of post-war New York City through the lens of the city’s jails, focusing largely on the notorious Rikers Island jail. Shanahan shows, in vivid detail drawn from extensive research, how the facility became the squalid penal colony it is today. In 448 pages, Shanahan covers city politicking, jail rebellions, the dismantling of the welfare state, and finally, the rise of police and guard unions as reactionary political entities in their own right.

Shanahan knows Rikers well; he served 30 days there in 2016. I met him while preparing to begin my own one-year jail sentence there in 2019. We stayed in close contact throughout my sentence, and have remained close since. Here, I interview him about Captives, and what this history means in light of the city’s plan to replace Rikers with new jails designed under “progressive” ideals, the looming threat of a federal takeover, and our personal experiences as captives there.

David Campbell: Tell me about your writing and research process for this book.

Jarrod Shanahan: This project began when I went on Amazon and typed in “Rikers Island history book” and nothing came up. I just wanted to know the history and understand the social context of this awful place that I got sent to, because you try to process it when you leave.

I also really want to emphasize that archival research is essential, even though it was a fraught undertaking in this case. Documentation was often from the perspective of the jail administrators or their allies in city government. It’s also easy to mistake the information that you have with all of the information [that exists]. But archival work is essential for putting together the basic skeleton of how an institution came to be and how it’s changed over time, and it’s getting easier and easier as a lot of this material gets digitized.

Another important component is speaking with people who were there, whenever possible. I understand there’s an oral history of Rikers coming out. I can’t wait to read it!

The more I learn about Rikers, the more I realize I know so little. Do you ever have that feeling, as a scholar?

Oh, definitely. I actually had that feeling while finishing this book, specifically talking to you about it. When you were locked up there.

Right. You were working on Captives while I was serving my sentence, and we communicated about all kinds of things regarding Rikers.

Yeah. One discussion we had was very humbling for me because I had collected documentation of a number of prisoner disturbances and I thought I had a fairly coherent thesis for how they were connected. And then when we published your article in Hard Crackers about the strike that you helped organize around COVID conditions in Rikers, I told you, “Man, this is so amazing, what you did.” And right away you said, “This stuff happens all the time at Rikers.” So that was a reminder to me that the vast majority of the history that I was writing about, I don’t actually know. So much of it is never documented at all.

One of the most fascinating things in Captives for me was the history of the jail rebellions you were able to uncover, and how they often actually succeeded, even receiving total amnesty. Less surprisingly, the same is true for the guards, who have gotten away with some horrifying things, and rarely is anyone punished. Every once in a while, someone gets some sort of administrative slap on the wrist.

Every once in a while, yeah.

But by and large, for both guards and prisoners, refusing to play by the rules — and often sheer insurrection — has tended to work.

There’s an old saying: “direct action gets the goods.”

Another thing I found really striking was just how petty, nefarious, and reactionary a force COBA [the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, the main DOC guards’ union] had been.

No less a prison scholar than Heather Ann Thompson has written that guard unions are actually potential allies in the struggle against mass incarceration. By contrast, I tried to carve out a very clear picture of the reactionary political role of guards and cops in our society, in particular how they have been instrumental in pushing for and reinforcing the entire social order in which mass incarceration forms such an important part. There’s an even more pernicious tendency to view guards and cops in their workforces as simply an amalgamation of individual people. And it’s very much true that these institutions are comprised of individuals who might, in their interpersonal behavior and sometimes even at work, diverge from the overall political function of the organization. But these are very much coherent political power blocks. They serve very clear social functions, and pursue clearly defined interests that are opposed to the dignity and safety of most of the people they police and guard.

Most Rikers staff, like most prisoners, are working-class people of color. They often come from the same communities. Do you think that telling themselves they’re serving some higher social good functions as a kind of coping mechanism for some guards?

I think the best way to view workforces of cops and guards is as remarkably ordinary people who are doing jobs that should not exist, and which transform them over time. It’s an interesting case study in how social being determines consciousness. The vast majority of young people who become jail and prison guards do so because it is the most palatable option among a relatively narrow set of choices. And guards at Rikers, for instance, refer to the 20 years that they must serve before collecting a partial pension as their “20-year sentence.”

You often hear them chatting to each other about how much time they have left…

Yeah. There’s even a popular saying, “Hired in my 20s, retire in my 40s — can’t touch that.” This is the pervasive ideology around the job among rookies: I’ve gotten this lucrative job that’s going to build a secure future, and all I need to do is suffer through it. Law-and-order ideology tends to come later.

So, when they say they’re just doing their jobs, that’s not wrong, just irrelevant. Some of them end up really believing that they’re taking care of prisoners, who would be in Rikers anyway, or that they’re dangerous and need to be separated from society. And none of that’s true.

When you went on strike at Rikers, which directly contributed to the mass release of almost 1,500 people, you were part of a social experiment that demonstrated concretely that at least 1,500 people did not belong there. As we saw in a similar 1983 mass release, which I write about at length in Captives, the local right-wing newspapers were obsessed with finding the wrongdoings committed by the released prisoners to prove that they should not have been let out in the first place. And to my knowledge, there isn’t very much to that effect at all.

Statistically, 13 percent were rearrested in the following months, and very few for serious crimes. But we’re still locking people up.

I took great heart from the No New Jails campaign in New York City a few years back [which sought not only to close Rikers, but also to stop the construction of the new borough-based jails and redirect that funding to investing in communities in order to promote permanent decarceration]. The campaign didn’t succeed in stopping the jails, but it was a small activist campaign, composed of people working in their spare time, lacking the mountains of foundation money that propped up the pro-new-jail side, and it was taken seriously by many New Yorkers as an alternative. It’s easy to get demoralized when you lose, but my primary takeaway from this campaign was that there’s a potentially large audience for abolitionist ideas.

When you were at Rikers in 2016, the Nunez monitor (a court-appointed federal oversight body arising from a 2011 lawsuit regarding the use of force by Rikers guards against prisoners) was fairly new, and security cameras were just beginning to appear. When I was there in 2019-2020, cameras were ubiquitous, and toward the end of my sentence they even started to roll out bodycams.

Cameras were not new under Nunez. Previously, they were required for certain high-risk actions. But as the Department of Justice has shown, guards were adept at strategically concealing violence from view, or failing that, making the footage disappear altogether. So actually, the guards have had a long time to prepare for the prevalence of cameras, which are really only the latest iteration of a long history of reformers documenting abuses in the city jails. Before that, you had plentiful written reports from monitors, city officials, civilian workers and sometimes even guards. And what did they amount to? For instance, I was able to reconstruct two incredibly violent staff riots, one in 1986 and one in 1990, in startling detail. The prison scholar Abby Cunniff hit me up and said, “Come on, Jarrod. How did you know that it was drizzling outside?” It was because these events generated mountains of detailed paperwork, investigations, internal reports, responses to the reports, in which all kinds of ranking members of the department and respected civilian overseers, in addition to the prisoners themselves, presented a similar picture of widespread brutality, the kind of violence that if a normal person meted that out in their day-to-day life, they would be going to prison for a long time. And virtually nothing happened.

Yeah, a lot of guards would say “We’re making a movie,” in regards to the cameras, when they performed a perfunctory pat frisk or something.

One guard told me in 2016, “I have two Academy Awards at home.” Meaning he could act compellingly for the cameras and justify his actions later. I think that the guards like this, who told us that they weren’t worried about the cameras, should be taken at their word.

We both spent time at the Eric M. Taylor Center, or EMTC, which was designed as the flagship facility of penal welfarism at the height of a progressive golden age in New York, and under the stewardship of Commissioner Anna Kross, a devoted local champion of “humanitarian incarceration” and prison reform. We both know firsthand that EMTC is, in layperson’s terms, a shithole.

That’s an academic term, actually [laughs].

Well, one thing that surprised me in Captives was how little time it took to get that way. Within three years, none of the progressive policies envisioned by Commissioner Kross were being implemented, and the place was already abysmal.

You see a lot of the same arguments being made today in New York, about repurposing jails as “sites of civic unity,” as [Judge Jonathan] Lippman calls them, and all the rest of it. If this was ever going to happen, it would’ve happened in the 1950s and ’60s under Kross, for a number of reasons. There was a remarkable bipartisan consensus on crime and punishment, the city had a lot more money for investment in public welfare expenditures, and there was a much more progressive political climate not just in the city but in the nation.

What about the possibility of a federal takeover of Rikers in the form of a receivership? There’s been a lot of buzz lately about the possibility of this last-resort legal tactic, in which a court-appointed authority assumes control of an institution unable to manage its own affairs, to effect positive change at Rikers.

The city has been given a firm timeline, through a series of federal lawsuits, to provide the bare constitutional minimum standards for care at its jails almost continuously since the early 1970s. There’s no reason to expect that the local monitors or the federal government will have any more luck enforcing their will than their predecessors. The guards have too much power and there’s no counterpower willing to oppose them, including the federal judiciary. The bureaucrats and technocrats will not save us. And what that calls to mind, for me, is the necessity to build collective power capable of pushing back.

The subtitle of your book is “How Rikers Island took New York City hostage.” On the one hand, it means very literally holding large numbers of New Yorkers captive. It also means that the present arrangement, by being held up as untouchable, prevents us from finding any meaningful way of moving toward decarceration.

Yeah, it should be clear after at least 50 years of law-and-order politics that it’s actually not making things any better. But simultaneously, this social order has done a very good job of presenting itself as the only possibility. So, the solution to violence is more of the same social constellation that creates violence in the first place. And so, we are very much held captive.

Saturday 6.11: Letter Writing in the Park for George Floyd Uprising Defendants with NYCABC

WHAT: Political Prisoner Letter Writing in the Park
WHEN: 2:00-4:00pm Saturday, June 11th 2022
WHERE: Prospect Park – Lincoln Road/East Lake Drive, east of the Terrace Bridge (see the below map for exact location)
COST: Free

Join NYC ABC and Page One Collective on Saturday, June 11th for a letter writing in the park! We will be highlighting some defendants and prisoners of the George Floyd uprisings. We also encourage folx to write to those included in the June 11th International Day of Solidarity.

We will be meeting at Prospect Park in Brooklyn, the same location we host Running Down the Walls each year.

From the Q train, get off at the Prospect Park stop. Walk to Lincoln Road and turn right into the park. We’ll be about 700 feet away.

We will have surfaces to write on, pens, paper, postage, and information on the people we’re writing. Just bring yourself! And a friend!

Right-Wing Judges Say It’s “Harmless” to Label Climate Activist a Terrorist

A court upheld Jessica Reznicek’s excessive sentence for vandalism aimed at stopping the Dakota Access pipeline.
Natasha Lennard
June 8 2022,


Jessica Reznicek sits at the entrance to the drilling site in Sandusky, Iowa, where the Dakota Access pipeline goes under the Mississippi River on Aug. 10, 2016.

Photo: Courtesy of Joshua Smith

A PANEL OF three Trump-appointed judges this week upheld an excessive eight-year prison sentence handed down to climate activist Jessica Reznicek, ruling that a terrorism enhancement attached to her sentence was “harmless.”

The terror enhancement, which dramatically increased Reznicek’s sentence from its original recommended range, set a troubling precedent. Decided by a lower court in 2021, it contends that Reznicek’s acts against private property were “calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government.” The appellate justices’ decision to uphold her sentence, callously dismissing the challenge to her terrorism enhancement, doubles down on a chilling message: Those who take direct action against rapacious energy corporations can be treated as enemies of the state.RelatedDakota Access Pipeline Activists Face 110 Years in Prison, Two Years After Confessing Sabotage

Reznicek, an Iowa-based member of the Catholic Worker Movement and a participant in the Indigenous-led climate struggle, engaged in acts of property damage in an attempt to stop the completion of the Dakota Access pipeline in 2016 and 2017. Along with fellow activist Ruby Montoya, Reznicek took credit for various acts of sabotage, which harmed no humans or animals but burnt a bulldozer and damaged valves of the pipeline. The damaged equipment was property not of the U.S. government, but of private pipeline and energy companies.

Following Reznicek’s guilty plea to a single charge of conspiracy to damage an energy facility — which brought a recommended sentencing range of 37 to 46 months — Judge Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger, in allegiance with prosecutors, added the terrorism enhancement. This increased her sentencing range to 210 to 240 months, making the eight-year sentence Reznicek ultimately received fit comfortably below the accepted range, though it’s more than double the previous recommendation. (Montoya, who also pleaded guilty, has filed a motion to withdraw her plea, claiming that it was coerced.)

Both courts’ decisions on Reznicek’s sentence reflect unsurprising but deeply troubling priorities in our criminal legal system. It would be unempirical to the point of foolishness to expect the courts, stacked as they are with right-wing justices, to side with individuals taking risks to stop environmental devastation rather than those corporations making millions on the back of it. Yet Reznicek’s appeal was on a point of law: Terrorism enhancements are only supposed to be applicable to crimes that target governmental conduct; Reznicek’s targets were private corporations.

The collapsing of government and corporate interests signified by Reznicek’s terrorism enhancement is worthy of profound challenge, but the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges did not even address the substance of the activist’s appeal. In a short, unsigned opinion, the court wrote that even if there had been an “error” in applying a terrorism enhancement, it was “harmless,” because Ebinger had stated on the record that she would have imposed an eight-year sentence with or without the terrorism enhancement.

It is a cynical move indeed to sidestep the chilling effect of labeling such acts as “terrorism,” as if it carries no material consequences for the future of water and Indigenous land protection and other social movements. As Reznicek’s support team wrote in a statement Monday, “Federal prosecutors only pursued terrorism enhancements against Reznicek after 84 Congressional representatives wrote a letter in 2017 to Attorney General Jeff Sessions requesting that Reznicek and other protesters who tamper with pipelines be prosecuted as domestic terrorists.” These members of Congress, note Reznicek’s supporters, have together received a combined $36 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry.Determinations over which actions are labeled “terrorism” are always political.

Determinations over which actions are labeled “terrorism” are always political, and in this case nakedly so given the clear pressure applied on prosecutors by politicians and their industry backers. Ebinger’s claim — that she would have imposed the excessive eight-year sentence with or without the terror enhancement triggered — cannot be considered the final word here. Reporting on Reznicek’s case, ABC News — an outlet hardly aligned with the environmental left — noted that neither white supremacist murderer Dylann Roof nor avowed neo-Nazi James Fields, who plowed his car into anti-fascist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, received a terrorism enhancement when sentenced.

Reznicek’s legal team will continue to challenge her sentence in court, especially since the question of the misapplication of a terrorism enhancement remains open, despite the judges’ decision this week. A full court hearing by the 8th Circuit, an appeal to the far-right Supreme Court, or a request for clemency from President Joe Biden are all technical options, but hardly are any of these sites of optimism.

As her legal battles continue, Reznicek, whose acts of sabotage place her firmly on the right side of history, if not the law, deserves full-throated public support. As she noted in her 2017 statement claiming responsibility for the actions against the Dakota Access pipeline: “We acted from our hearts and never threatened human life nor personal property. What we did do was fight a private corporation that has run rampant across our country seizing land and polluting our nation’s water supply.”

Freedom Weekend Community Rally for Political Prisoners

Join us as we unite the freedom campaigns, love, and culture for three of our elders and Political Prisoners: Dr. Mutulu Shakur, Imam Jamil Al-Amin, and Kamau Sadiki

On Saturday, June 11, at 6pm campaigns to free our elder Political Prisoners will come together in a unified Rally. Public support is needed to win the immediate release of our freedom fighters Dr. Mutulu Shakur age 71, Imam Jamil Al-Amin age 78, and Kamau Sadiki age 69 all of whom have life threatening illnesses due to medical neglect. The Freedom Weekend Rally will be held at Malcolm X Park 1111 Oak Street SW Atlanta, GA in front of the murals. Live performances and speakers will address Political Prisoners and prisoners rights issues. For more information

Freedom Weekend Rally YouTube Live Stream link:

Kalonji Changa, FTP, BPM, Riot Starter – Emcee

MXGM (Malcolm X Grassroots Movement)
IJAN (Imam Jamil Action Network)

-We will have speakers and performers such as
Talib Shakur
Ajoke Olanipekun
Mic Chambers
Mystic Maestro
SunD. Ata The Gr8!
Sire8000 & TPM
Yero Winborne of World Made


‘After the Revolution’ by Daniel Baker

I recently read “Nation on No Map” and recommended this book to everyone I can reach, which is somewhat limited in prison. I am now reading “After the Revolution“, a novel by Robert Evans. “Nation on No Map” is probably the best non-fiction book I’ve read since going to prison, and “After the Revolution” is now the best novel I’ve read. The author has front line experience as a war correspondent and this shows in the skillful storytelling. Being a combat veteran I am deeply moved by this book. More importantly than the realistic descriptions of humanity’s violence is the prophetic prediction of the life cycle of the United States government.

Before white colonists came to North America there were nations of Indigenous people here. Columbus raped them and so did British colonists. After slave owners rebelled against the British colonialists the United Sates government was born on the backs of African and Irish slaves, then immigrants from all over the world. This country has been the battlefield of Revolutionary War, Civil War, a War with Mexico, a war with Spain, and an ongoing war against slave uprisings and the present day war against the working class wage slaves. My point is that America is a battlefield. In reality the entire world is a battlefield. The misconception that North America will not be the scene of modern warfare is a gross illusion based on privilege at the expense of the global victims of American imperialism. Many countries are known for some cultural trait, like tea, or spiritual traditions, technology and so on. America is known for guns. Not only is America going to experience civil war, sooner than later, it is inevitable. All things are temporary, this is a fundamental law of physics. This includes governments and nation states. Every country, empire and government has a life cycle. They are born in coups or revolutions and the rise and fall over time. “After the Revolution”, while indulging in science fiction for the entertainment of the reader, accurately describes the process by which the United States will eventually fracture and divide into states resembling European and Middle Eastern countries, each about the size of a current American state. America is already at war within itself, with the police working for the interests of the wealthy ruling class to criminalize race, poverty and pretty much anyone else they can. Charismatic leaders like Donald Trump want the whole pie for themselves and their wealthy heirs, but they will settle for a seceded white nationalist Christian ethno state. Likely candidates for the first to secede include Florida, Trump’s base of racist operations, Texas, who already consider themselves a republic, and Alaska, a state of fiercely independent survivalists.

I’m not just spewing conspiracy theories. In Florida, where I grew up, a toxic culture of white Christian nationalism exists in coordination with the descendants of the confederacy of the old south. When they say “the south shall rise again”, they mean it, and they are willing to fight and die for that. In Tallahassee, my home for the last decade, I was approached by Jordan Jereb, leader of a neo nazi gang which has wisely rebranded itself as “the Republic of Florida”. They pulled up to the corner where I was begging for my daily bread while homeless and unemployed, at a Wal-Mart on Tennessee Street, holding a “hungry veteran” sign. Their offer was food, housing, weapons and training in exchange for my militant loyalty to their racist organization and ideology in coordination with members who had already infiltrated local and federal police and the military. They said, “You look like a racially aware person, with your shaved head.” I told them to fuck off of course, but that day I began to receive aggressive attention from the FBI, Tallahassee Police and the Leon County Sherriff’s department, specifically a deputy called Larry Folsom, who is widely active in the Jujitsu, MMA and Judo communities in Tallahassee. The end result of their campaign of targeted harassment is that I am now sitting in federal prison. Jordan Jereb bragged about training school shooter Nicholas Cruz by the way. He also recruits kids at high schools and middle schools with flyers in plastic bag with candy. I’ve seen them, they are similar to the flyers he used to distribute at Walmarts around town until my friends and I organized a town council meeting to put a stop to this. The flyers ask kids if they feel threatened by people from other cultures picking on them, and foreigners, and invite them to join RoF for safety and camaraderie. The reason I bring all this up is because there are very real organization who are already deeply supported by so called law enforcement in Florida and Nationwide, who are actively, openly and covertly working to create white ethno states, to return to “the good ol’ days” of plantation slavery. These are not people who will listen to reason. The hippies cannot “hug it out” with these people.  They are very real, they are already here, they are armed and they are now globally networking with white supremacists, fascists, racists and far right wing conservatives in Austria, Germany, Italy, the U.K., Turkey and Russia, to name a few. Some of them have infiltrated the YPG international, like Ryan Patrick Kasperik. The danger is real.

We have been warned by authors like Robert Evans. In dystopian, authoritarian police states like the United States it is dangerous to even write truths like this, but a medium that is available for many is fiction, where dangerous truths can be shared with less violent response from the cops. We live in a time when the prophets of the new age include Robert Evans, Margaret Atwood, with her Handmaid’s Tale’s and Abdullah Ocalan.

The words of these great minds serve as parables and clear warnings to present and future generations. We know about the Holocaust, but we are watching another approach us over the top edges of our smart phones, sinking lower into our seats to just keep scrolling and swiping. This is not enough for us to be on the correct side of history, or even to survive long enough to allow truth and freedom to continue to evolve in the face of regressive forces of domination, hierarchy and dogmatic mysticism. Please take the time to read these writers messages to the world.

Just because war seems distant in the Ukraine, Rojava, Syria, Iraq or anywhere besides the U so called United Sates does not mean that it is happening in a different world. If you listen closely you can hear the screams of immigrants dying in America, the sounds of gunfire and artillery in Ukraine, the smell of burning bodies on the wind from the Middle East. It’s a small world and America’s sins are coming home sooner than later. My personal ideal is nonviolence with an emphasis on rescue and healing, but survival may necessitate a variety of tactics. Listen to the well travelled and well read, and then become well traveled and well read and realize the warning signs before it’s too late to fight back. A country built on slavery will always be that, and the wrong life cannot be lived the right way. This is the land of the fee and the home of the slave. It will stay that way until we make something new and better to take its place. We can and we will. We should not cause the needless loss of life or instability but when these things come naturally in the course of nature, beginnings, middles and ends, then we can create something new, continuing to evolve and refine the application of fairness, equality, truth, beauty, love and freedom in human global society.

Thank you all again for all of your support. Please reach out to other political prisoners, like Lore, Jessica Reznicek, Eric King, and the elders, like the Black Panthers and Leonard Peltier.  More and more people are being rounded up, but we don’t seem to be making the connection between the American prison industrial plantation and the German death camps, mainly due to the liberalization of prison culture. Please reflect deeply on this, and reach out to activists you admire, and raise awareness in your community. We need your help to get through this.

Thanks again,
Dan Baker
aka Alishare

Daniel Baker, 25765-509
P.O, BOX 34550
MEMPHIS, TN  38184
Buy Dan a book or two!

Pushing Down the Walls updates!

A few Pushing Down The Walls updates! To start, the venue will be Por Siempre in the beautiful city of Pomona. (390 E Holt Avenue, Pomona, CA 91767) on September 18th.

PM Press will also have a table. Come swoop up some books while you sweat and mingle with the comrades. Is your project/collective interested in tabling? Hit us up!

Live performances by The Keeper (LA HxC for fans of Botch, Cursed Trap Them, etc) Sister Schools (San Diego Hip Hop) and DrewThatRaps (IE Hip Hop). Spin kick your friends or bob your head accordingly.

The funds raised will support the ABCF Warchest, a program that provides financial assistance to long term political prisoners.

Dr. Mutulu Shakur June 2022 Health and Legal Update

We are so grateful for the outpouring of love and support for Mutulu – and we want to update his friends and supporters with information from Mutulu himself, and from the medical records. We understand that people want to share information on social media, but we respectfully ask that people share only information that Mutulu and his support team have consented to be shared publicly.

We learned last Friday that Mutulu’s health had taken a turn for the worse. The chemotherapy drugs and other medications that Mutulu is on are very strong and have side effects that can be difficult to manage, particularly within the confines of prison. His legal team is closely monitoring the medical records every week with the help of outside medical practitioners. The hospital where he has been receiving treatment for the last 2 and a half years is already planning on starting a different form of cancer treatment, another kind of chemotherapy. Depending on his test results and whether he is strong enough, he may get a newer form of treatment that has a higher chance of succeeding – but which can also make him feel sicker. We want to get him home to his family – and Mutulu and his team are also still looking for treatments that will give him as much time as possible to be with his family and friends.

The legal team is actively pursuing all avenues for Mutulu’s immediate release, including compassionate release and parole. Please keep Mutulu in your thoughts and prayers and stay tuned for further updates.

Tuesday May 31st: Philly ABC Letter-writing for Jessica Reznicek

With the weather cooperating, we are back to in-person events! Our next letter-writing will be at Clark Park on Tuesday, May 31st at 6:30 pm. Snacks and letter-writing supplies will be provided.

Jessica Reznicek is a land and water defender who has worked with and lived in the Des Moines Catholic Worker Community for the last 10 years. In 2016, Jessica took a stand against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in Iowa. Jessica attended public comment hearings, gathered signatures for valid requests for Environmental Impact Statements, and participated in civil disobedience, hunger strikes, marches and rallies, boycotts and encampments.

When the process failed, she concluded the system was broken, and it was up to individuals to take action and protect the water. She and a fellow Catholic Worker then spent the next couple of months disabling construction machinery along the pipeline route. No one was injured by their actions, and the land was protected from the flow of oil for an additional six months. In 2021, Jessica pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to damage an energy facility, was designated a domestic terrorist by the court and then sentenced to 8 years in prison, followed by 3 years supervised probation, and restitution of $3,198,512.70 paid to Energy Transfer LLC.

On May 13th, her legal team presented oral arguments to appeal her sentence and the use of the terrorism enhancement. The verdict may take a few weeks, but if successful the enhancement would be removed she would be re-sentenced. Jessica has a deep love for nature, camping, swimming, hiking, theology, music, gardening, laughter and eco-sustainability, as well as a commitment to self-discovery and intentional community living. Join us while we send her notes of encouragement in this time of uncertainty while waiting on the results of the appeal.

If you are unable to make it, please drop Jessica a line at:

Jessica Reznicek #19293-030
FCI Waseca
P.O. Box 1731
Waseca, MN 56093

Toby Shone’s Open Letter in response to Dan Baker’s statement of solidarity

June 11: “Like Mercury” – Open Letter for Dan Baker, aka Alishare


Alishare, I heard your message of solidarity, thank you, it gave me
strength. I would turn the energy with this open letter, and I hope to
kick a brick from the walls. One more time. In a flurry of black
feathers and lunar wisdom, a murder of crows delivered your statement
and those wily crows told me about your situation in FCI Memphis.
I want to add on to this dialogue and talk about three anarchist
comrades imprisoned in Italy.

The first is Anna Beniamino who is serving a 17 year sentence for the Scripta Manent case in a high security regime in Rebibbia prison (Rome). The Scripta Manent case involved the arrest of 7 anarchists accused of subversive association with terrorist intent and a series of direct actions claimed by the Informal Anarchist organization. An absurd farce with obscene conclusions.

The second comrade I want to mention is Alfredo Cospito who has been locked up
since 2012 for the Adinolfi case for which he was sentenced for nearly
11 years and is now waiting for the confirmation of another sentence of
20 years for the Scripta Manent case. Alfredo was recently struck with
the legislature 41 bis, special security regime. Each month, he can only
receive either one phone call (10 minutes) or one visit strictly with
family members with glass and recorded; he can only walk in the yard
with maximum 3 other prisoners previously approved by prison security;
he cannot receive books, censorship is applied to his correspondence
(number of letters per month is extremely limited), and he has a very
limited amount of items which he can keep in his cell. Several
international agencies have continuously condemned the 41bis prison
regime as torture.

The third comrade I want to mention is Juan Sorroche.
On the date of the international day of with long-term anarchist
prisoners, June the 11th , Juan will face a court hearing in Treviso.
Juan is on trial accused of an attack against an office of the Lega Nord
political party claimed by the “Cell Haris Hatzimihelakis/Black
International (1881/2018)” that happened in August 2018. Juan who was
already serving time for other judgements, is now facing a long sentence
in this other political trial. Like all the imprisoned anarchists around
the world, these three comrades deserve the support and solidarity that
the international anarchist movement can give them.

The repression we face is evidence that our struggle has validity, and
the enemy is threatened and reactive. Even though we are locked up, our
lives continue. Our inner world is still infinitely rich and diverse as
we confront our experience. We are part of the same lost continent, and
we discover freedom – in our indestructible hearts. Alishare, with our
letters, we create an Atlantic bridge where all of us can meet and learn
from each other. We anarchists tread the same yards, we hear the same
keys and slamming doors, but we discuss, and plan and we don’t give up.
Dialogues between us are important, as needed as those we have with
those outside.

I tell you of some of my news. Maybe it is because of the solidarity
efforts of comrades outside, but I was able to receive a few letters,
postcards, and a book: “Sara – Prison Memoirs of a Kurdish
Revolutionary” by Sakine Cansiz. I don’t know who sent me the book but
they have my sincere thanks. I received a few letters from Philadelphia
ABC sent in the last two months, and a couple of cards from Brighton
ABC, and a parcel from NFA ABC in London. That as well as a few other
letters, all arrived in the last few days. I still have a lot of
correspondence that I have not been given, as well as books. G4S are
lying in the face of all this by claiming I have “no mail”, and saying
that books are not permitted. In Bristol prison, I was able to receive a
copy of “My Pestiferous Life” by Claudio Lavazza before the
administration censored my mail. I recommend Claudio’s book, reading it,
is like getting a big hug from a dear friend who helped you to escape.
Whilst I was in Bristol, comrades from Italy sent me a lunar calendar
which was forbidden to me. All anarchists should come to know the
pleasure of the Dark Moon. For an alphabet in flames, let the pen reach
into the void.
Free Eric King. Free everyone
Toby Shone