“It Is In Losing We Gain”: Reflections on the September 10th Kinross Prison Uprising
Filed under: Editorials, Incarceration, Midwest
Filed under: Editorials, Incarceration, Midwest
Submitted to It’s Going Down
“Sitting in this 8 x 10 cell, it makes a man wonder if it’s worth it. I’ve heard many of the men yelling, ‘I shouldn’t of went out there.’ It is testing the best of them. They regret making that final call. If they can’t come to terms with the decision they made they will be resentful doing time. They have to realize that only losing everything are they free to do everything. It is in losing we gain. One could wonder what kind of math did God create, but it is all about longevity. And from the looks of it, unless it gets overturned, we are going to be here for a while – in Administrative Segregation, Level 5. They read all mail.”
-Gilbert Morales, a Michigan prisoner facing repression for the uprising at Kinross Correctional
Figure 1: Damage at the Kinross Correctional Facility
The following report was written by an inmate who witnessed the uprising at Kinross Correctional Facility on September 10th, 2016. According to the author, the prisoners transferred from Kinross in retaliation for the demonstrations there are being held in solidarity confinement without access to their property. That means that, as you read this, they are sitting in little concrete rooms staring at the wall. Please consider hooking these folks up with a letter, some reading material and some money. They have sacrificed a lot for their resistance and deserve our support. See the notes at the end of the article for information on supporting them.
The author again confirms the story that the property destruction that took place at Kinross happened only after heavily armed guards raided the units firing tear gas and rounding up supposed “leaders” of the demonstration. Prior to the raid, prisoners marched in the prison yard and disobeyed orders to return to their units in a demonstration of their collective unity. In other words, the prisoners initially chose a tactic that allowed them to interrupt the day-to-day balance of power without risking physical violence or excessive repression, but were prepared to immediately escalate their tactics when the prison escalated theirs.
The author also states that prisoners negotiated with the administration prior to September 9th and established agreements regarding the upcoming work stoppage. Although such negotiations are often dead ends that drain the valuable energy of rebelling prisoners, it is inspiring to see that in this case prisoners were willing use these negotiations to their benefit, but were also prepared to drop them and immediately escalate to a physical demonstration in the prison yard when the conditions of the situation shifted and such a demonstration became necessary and possible.
The September 9th and 10th actions at Kinross demonstrate tactical similarities to the demonstrations that spread through the Michigan prison system in March of this year. Michigan prisoners continue to show that they are highly organized and capable pulling off mass demonstrations that shake the Michigan prison system. This time, they showed they are capable of doing so in coordination with prisoners on a national level.
Their actions have had serious consequences. All the prisoners at Kinross, whether or not they were involved in the uprising, were left out in the rain for hours with their arms zip tied behind their backs. Since the uprising, three inmates have died or been murdered in questionable circumstances in the Michigan prison system: one from an alleged overdose, one after being tased by guards, and a third possibly as a result of medical neglect. Although we cannot say for sure that these deaths are a form that repression for the strike is taking, it is a very real possibility and one that we as supporters must keep our eyes on.
Figure 2: 24-year-old Dustin Szot, tased to death by guards at Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia, MI
Figure 3: Charlie Lee Anderson, 51 died at the Kinross Correctional Facility. Inmates allege his death a case of medical neglect.
What’s clear is that the Michigan Department of Rehabilitation and Correction’s (MDOC) go-to solution for managing prisoner revolt seems to be the retaliatory transfer. In March, we saw this tactic blow up in their face when the prison administrators themselves surmised that the strikes most likely spread from Kinross to another facility after an organizer was transferred. Apparently they have not learned their lesson. As 250 prisoners who now have the experience of two successful mass rebellions are transferred throughout the Michigan prison system, there is no way of knowing where the next protest may occur.
In another interesting development, prison guards at Kinross have expressed support for the demonstration and criticized conditions at the prison, stating “we see it as a moral issue.” Andy Potter of the Michigan prison guards’ union told Buzzfeed news: “The officers basically understand the prisoners’ plight. They don’t outright support the work-stoppage, they haven’t taken a position like that, but almost everyone that I’ve talked to — and I represent them — understand why the inmates would do it.”
As guards at Holman Prison in Atmore, Alabama join the national prison strike by staging an informal “sick-in” strike, this expression of support by the MDOC’s working class foot soldiers may expose a new horizon for the struggle against prisons. Although it remains a distant possibility, moments in which prison guards become fed up with their jobs and join in with prisoners’ struggles contain the potential for a movement against prisons that transcends all barriers. If we take Judi Bari’s efforts to organize timber workers during the anti-logging campaigns of the 90s as an historic example, we may find it strategic to establish open lines of communication with sympathetic and fed-up prison guards.
Now that Michigan prisoners are focusing on recovering from repression and the MDOC is in the process of reorganizing their mechanism of control, our role is to offer material support that can minimize the impact of the repression and boost morale while building up our contacts and points of connection. That’s one major way that these struggles build on each other and how we work toward the momentum that holds the potential to actually change things.
Figure 4: Graffiti in Lansing, MI in solidarity with the Kinross uprising.
The following report was written by Gilbert Morales, a Michigan prison rebel. After the uprising, Gilbert was transferred from Kinross to the Marquette Maximum Facility and then, since authoring this article, was again transferred to Bagara Maximum Correctional Facility. Please take a moment to write to him or send him some reading material or money to help him get through the repression he is facing. His address is below.
* * *
Everything started with a meeting with the Block Representatives and the Warden’s Forum which included Warden Duncan MacLaren, ADW Daley and Warden’s Assistant Dave Mastaw on September 7th, 2016. They discussed that there would be a green light to those who did not want to go to work on September 9th. They (the administration) said there would be no consequences because they did not want to endanger anyone. So he said no one would be penalized for participating.
Chain of events, September 9th and 10th 2016:
On September 9th, 2016 at approximately 5:50 am, they started to run breakfast with no prisoner kitchen workers. Trinity, who was short on staff, served at least 1,200 inmates. Inspectors and ADW Daley were present.
At lunch and dinner Trinity again served the whole general population bag meals. Peanut butter and jelly. Inspectors and ADW Daley were again present.
On September 10th, 2016 at breakfast prisoners go to chow expecting waffles only to be disappointed with cheese and bread. Very disgruntled, prisoners question ADW Daley about the meal, he stated, “It is what it is, fellas.”
At approximately 8:35 am, prisoners stormed the yard yelling, “No justice, no peace!” And start marching the common areas. The Emergency siren is sounded and they are ordered to return to their units. But they continue to march the yard. Prisoners continue to come out of different units. As they march they are running in and out of different units threatening them and encouraging them to come outside or get butchered. Officers must have been instructed to stand down because they did not stop not one prisoner.
Some prisoners are masked up, others are just joining in. Even though this is happening, some prisoners are just going back and forth like everything is alright.
At approximately 10:00 am, ADW Daley and head of security Deputy Harwood were in front of the control center negotiating for us to go to our units so the ERT (Emergency Response Team) could come in. Prisoners refuse. After compromising, they came to an agreement and a list of requests were granted. At that moment a prisoner was stabbed in E unit, or at least that is what it appears happened. They sent extra officers in to escort him out; however, when the misconduct investigation was done he stated nothing was on record of the incident. That is strange because the whole compound had seen it. It might be a cover up.
At approximately 12:30 pm, prisoners did go in and took count. Everything was calm again.
At 3:00pm, they fed us bag lunches in the unit and the Block Representatives were called up front to meet with Warden Duncan MacLaren and staff.
Formal count was taken at 4:00 pm and all was calm. Before count was cleared Block Representatives return with news that they were going to fulfill our requests. At that moment, 5:00pm, Officer Neff yelled, “10-19!” grabbed the log book and every officer on the compound ran up front to the control center. Then the ERT crew ran on the compound and surrounded certain units with guns.
At that very moment the prisoners in G-unit panicked and started to destroy the unit and barricade the doors. There was no staff in the unit. If prisoners in G-unit wanted to get out of the situation, they couldn’t because there was no staff around. For 2 ½ hours they left us unguarded while they (ERT) were in other units taking prisoners out.
Figure 5: More damage at the Kinross Correctional Facility following the uprising.
By the time they got to G-unit the whole unit was destroyed with the exception of the living quarters. The ERT crew shot tear gas in the unit with plastic pellets until they escorted us out. Some of us (103) were sent to Marquette Maximum Facility. They had to reopen C-block which had been closed for four years to house all of us.
For five days we were without a change of clothing and our property. All of our property was packed up by staff at Kinross. And we did not have an avenue to correspond with our family.
Since then we have all gone to court. They wrote us all up for “Inciting a Riot” and “Strike Misconduct.” One hearing officer and one hearing investigator heard 103 prisoners and found 96 guilty and 6 not guilty. Every ticket was standardized for every prisoner with the exception of name and prison number.
A lot of us are appealing our situation because of the due process. They had to make a mistake if one hearing officer and one hearing investigator reviewed our witnesses and evidence in ten days. Impossible! Kangaroo court. We need justice.
On top of that, a lot of our property was destroyed. My personal property that I have had for years was broken and thrown away. Some of my property that I have had for sixteen years was lost. Everything I had was in good condition. My T.V. was returned to me broken. My footlocker: broken.
Figure 6: More damage.
But I count it all joy because I know God will make it right. Ain’t no sacrifice greater than that for our fellow brothers. I had a lot going but when the call came only those with courage can live a life of virtue. Even though it cost us plenty and we may not reap the benefits we did something that many have failed at. Sitting in this 8 x 10 cell, it makes a man wonder is it worth it. I’ve heard many of the men yelling, “I shouldn’t of went out there.” It is testing the best of them. They regret making that final call. If they can’t come to terms with the decision they made they will be resentful doing time. They have to realize that only losing everything are they free to do everything. It is in losing we gain. One could wonder what kind of math did God create but it is all about longevity. And from the looks of it, unless it gets overturned, we are going to be here for a while: in Administrative Segregation, Level 5. They read all mail.
Please write to Gilbert:
Gilbert Morales #186641
Baraga Maximum Correctional Facility
13924 Wadaga Rd.
Baraga, MI 49908-9204
Gilbert can only receive books through three approved vendors: Edward Hamilton Books, Barnes and Noble and Amazon (books must come from Amazon itself, not a person listing books on Amazon). The books must be new and the package must include a receipt. Not all books will be approved. Please choose books that are unlikely to attract negative attention from the prison mailroom.
List of demands issued by some prisoners and provided to Jezebel by the group Michigan Prison Abolition:
Paul Egan at the Detroit Free Press has been doing some decent journalism focused on Michigan prisons and on the uprising at Kinross in specific:
An interview with a fiancé of a prisoner at Kinross from Shadow Proof:
Great article from Buzz Feed that quotes the Michigan prison guard union’s support of the Kinross prisoners:
Roundups from IWOC:
Detailed interview with Duncan Tarr of Michigan Prison Abolition on the uprising and the situation in the Michigan prison system:
Articles on the inmate deaths in the Michigan DOC since the uprising:
http://sfbayview.com/2016/10/michigan-prisoners-rise-up/ (See addendum at the bottom of the article).
An article on the Michigan prison system and the Kinross uprising by Michigan prisoner Rand Gould via the San Francisco Bay View:
Graffiti in Lansing in solidarity with the uprising.
Photos courtesy of WWTV/WWUP-TV 9&10 News
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