"The Mighty Pen"

by Tracye B. Washington, A.K.A. Tray 

[Received from another prisoner.]

We often hear the saying "The pen is mightier than the sword." This metaphor lost it's significance during the late mid to late 1980's up into the 1990's. It was only when the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) was signed into law along with the Three-Strikes Law, that we looked towards the "PEN" as the tool of choice with which to do battle and obtain relief, satisfaction, and justice. Although many of you have begun to utilize the pen, many have looked towards others to fight with the pen, as you continue to fight with the sword. Where is the balance? If you all believe that George Jackson fought all his battles with the sword, you are sadly mistaken. You would not know Comrade Jackson today if not for his works: "IN WRITING." Yes, Comrade George was conscious of the power of the pen, and left his legacy in writing. His writings we read. His writings we derive our views, ideologies, and concepts from. His writings, done with a pen, had the power of the sword. You who read his writings are living proof. 

When the guard violates a right you are entitled to, you yell, you threaten, you get violent and physical. You have fallen blindly into the expected response; design and effect. Some of you tell one another, "I don't file 602's. That's music to the guards ears. When he does you wrong and you respond other than in writing, he wins and moves on to do wrong to the next inmate. You may feel that your single 602 will not affect him. You're wrong. Write your 602, send it in all the way, regardless of the reply. We know the administration will be biased in their response, but when it comes time for the rogue guard's promotion to Captain, Associate Warden, or Warden, his record will dictate his chances at succeeding. 

The last few years have brought about much rescinding of privileges and rights gained through litigation and violent protests in the 1970's and early 1980's. How do we get them back? CDC now has a remedy for violence. They no longer hesitate to lock us down and play one ethnic group against the other in keeping a control of the prisons and redirecting one's attention and focus. To get back what was taken, we have to resort to the same actions that lead to the granting of these privileges. We must come to terms as a whole, as prisoners, with the psychology of the prison administration, for it is psychology that they are using on you today, since they themselves can no longer use the force they so desire to use in their game of oppression. We must utilize the power of the pen after taking a stand on the wrongs done. If you don't let the outside world know what's going on inside these prisons, who will? We all have a different story to tell, let your story be told. Fight for what you have coming to you as a matter of law and policy, but with the pen first. Guards may act as though they are ill concerned about someone writing a 602 against them, but notice how they act when you do write and file the 602? The tables turn. They harass you, tear up your cell, etc. Are those the actions of officers unconcerned about a 602 against them, or is it the anger of guards whose acts are about to be revealed to their superiors, and who will eventually be interviewed, and based on the extent of the accusation, they may receive a (LOI) Letter of Instruction. Three valid LOI's and they may be subject to a job change. 

The pen. . .when these CO's write their rule violation reports against you, it sometimes hurts worse than a fist. You lose time; you lose out on a transfer; you get extra points and have to wait up to two years to get the points back off to go to a Level III. The guards know the power of the pen. They also know how to antagonize you and subject you to the power of their pens. When they antagonize you, subject them to the power of YOUR pen. You'll see a difference. 

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