About an hour before the sun rises, the smell of pepper gas lingers in the air. I’m not one of the intended recipients, but pepper gas doesn’t discriminate among its victims, like all the rationalized practices of prison and society.
The gas drifts from the solitary confinement cell block and assaults us as we march by, two-by-two, toward one of the many factories here on the Wynne Unit.
This morning, like almost every other in this institution, two themes are evident: the extreme control and segmentation of social roles and the violence employed against the non-compliant.
I work within the confines of the factory, but not in the factory proper. I write for The Echo, Texas’s sole “prisoner”” publication, aside from the occasional samizdat.
I work within the confines of the term “prisoner publication” loosely because The Echo is censored and fed information solely form the administration of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The term “prisoner publication” is true–I suppose–as the statement The Houston Chronicle is the “free press.”
The fact that Texas even has a prisoner newspaper is amazing. The trend of many prisoner publications in the punitive penological atmosphere of late has been that of the dodo. Texas, however, is no basis of liberal (whatever that means) penological practice.
The State, while being the home of the most reactionary, can often be anomalous. The TDCJ, for example, still retains and emphasizes education, offering up to Master’s level degree programs.
The paper is not the product of the liberal-minded prison administrators; it is an instrument of knowledge-control.
The knowledge TDCJ wants its population to know trickles down to me. For being a journalist, my information is rather scarce.
I can critique, too, provided the criticism is not of the TDCJ or of Texas–particularly in these prickly political times.
Under these circumstances, I am forced to wage guerrilla journalism. I peddle the TDCJ’s propaganda, but the inconsistencies in the information provided are obvious. I try to juxtapose those contradictions. I still critique, too, but my criticism must be highly abstract and carefully constructed.
I have help from comrades inside. They cull information and assist me with ideas. This is guerrilla journalism. My raison d’être in pushing my oppressor’s propaganda is the hope that we can educate this sea of warehouse humanity, awaken a consciousness.
There is much we lack, much we are unable to do. We need assistance from the outside, dialogue, information.
Prison, like the rest of society, is designed to alienate. The prisoner can be hard to reach, but could be a rich, revolutionary resource. We desperately need help of those who can helps inner pursuit.
Clifford Barnes #755504
Huntsville, TX 77349
At this moment I’m stuck in a Texas prison and have been here for a little under three years. By now your probably wondering why I’m where I’m at. Well in my brilliance I was getting shwilly (nothing wrong with that) on some Guiness when a friend threw me some Xanax. This is my blackout:
When I came to three days later I was being charged with Burglary of a building. Now this is funny in a fucked up way. What I did was break into a McDonald’s and tore the place up. And so here I’ve sat for way too long.
Before I was fitted with a slave’s collar I’d been traveling and hopping trains (doin the squatter thing) for about eleven years. I’m from Amarillo, TX and our scene, at one time, was rock n’. Then Brian was murdered in a brawl with some jocks and the scene just died out (if you don’t know about this murder, check out www.briandeneke.com).
I’m also writing in hopes that you or someone you know might be willing to write and keep me informed with what’s going on in our scene.
I hope to hear from you. Stay safe, stay real, and always, keep rock n’.
Brad Walker # 1146948
998 County Rd. AA
Plainview, TX 79072
Dear Folks at Slingshot:
My name is Dee and I live in Montreal. Recently I picked up a free copy of your newspaper at the Alternative Bookshop and I mailed it to a prisoner I’ve been in contact with for quite some time. Unfortunately, I have been informed by Shicon, (the prisoner) who phoned me the other day from Auburn (a max. pen.) that they have put the Slingshot newspaper, your latest issue, I believe, in the “review board.” The info. that Shicon got (he has given me the OK to share this info. with you) is that they have a problem with “la pagina en espanol.” Supposedly they said they would have to decipher it before they would let him read it. Though, personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was for all the newspaper’s content. So hopefully he’ll receive your newspaper after the review board looks over it, although they told him they may just tear out the pages that they don’t want him to read!
Shicon is currently studying with Jalil Muntaqim, who teaches Black History and many other subjects of interest.
Shicon is a Black man and like so many others in prison he is a victim of the war on some drugs. He has spent close to 10 years locked up –you know how it is, once you’re inside you get other charges laid against you. He has always been honest, respectful….a downright good person. Although we have never met face to face, we have written to each other over the years (a lot when he was Upstate, the supermax., a.k.a. Hell on Earth) and we have spoken a few times on the phone. He wrote me a letter in regards to the recent lock down in Auburn, but I never received it. It is obvious to me that the authorities are destroying prisoners’ mail.
I have often read Slingshot and then mailed it to prisoners in the US (there is much more censorship in Canadian prisons and stuff like this doesn’t get in, we can’t even send books to prisoners, just to prison libraries). I would like to thank you all for the hard work that you put into your newspaper. It does not go unnoticed. Continue on the road that you are on, what you do is needed and much appreciated. Hats off to you all.