Prison Radio
Dontie Mitchell

“So That the Public Never Knows.”

I’m currently litigating in federal court, three civil rights lawsuits on my own because I get no help from any of these so called prison legal services, organizations that claim to stand up for the rights of prisoners. This puts me at a severe disadvantage.

For one, federal judges are biased against incarcerated pro se litigants and often give us unfair rulings, but what can we do? Not only must we pay $350 just to file a civil rights lawsuit to protect and vindicate our constitutional rights. We must also pay $505 just to appeal a unfair ruling. So we incarcerated pro se litigants who are poor, we can’t really afford to fight in federal court. To do so is a tremendous sacrifice for us.

This is all in thanks to our- the Prisoners Litigation Reform Act signed into law by our good old pal Bill Clinton. The reason I’m mentioning this is because the New York state prison officials know how difficult it is for prisoners to expose how pervasive and widespread the abuse and mistreatment of prisoners really is. And how difficult it is for prisoners to expose the corruption of prison staff and to prove how illegal, unreasonable and unconstitutional certain prison policies, practices, procedures, and customs really are.

So prison officials in New York state have developed schemes designed to silence prisoner dissent and to cover up the truth about what really goes on behind prison walls so that the public never knows. One of my current federal lawsuits is meant to expose all of this. What happened in this particular case is that the New York state prison officials denied my request to form a prison chapter of my UFD organization.

But on top of that, I am not allowed to run for the inmate liaison committee here, which is a group of prisoners who meet monthly with the facility administration to discuss the complaints and concerns of the entire prison population. I’m also not allowed to run for the inmate grievance resolution committee. Which is composed of two elected inmate representatives and two appointed staff representatives who hear the complaints of individual prisoners. Supposedly to fairly and expeditiously work to resolve them.

And I was spitefully passed over for appointment as the inmate facilitator of the Shietsu Netsu study group class that I spearheaded the effort to get started. Another guy who knows next to nothing about Shietsu Netsu was appointed instead.

What do all these things have in common? They’re meant to marginalize me and to prevent me from having too much influence over other prisoners. See, this is part of the scheme developed by New York state prison officials to silence prison dissent, and to cover up the abuse and mistreatment of prisoners. The biggest threat to corrupt prison officials is the public power of the unique collective voice of prisoners. Prison officials know the vast majority of prisoners are undereducated and are easily frustrated by the complex procedures for pursuing their individual complaints and legal claims about staff misconduct and bad prison policies and conditions.

If ever prisoners could successfully be organized to expose the pervasiveness of such things. The American prison system’s days would be numbered. Guys like me, I’m a threat because I have the education, discipline, sophistication, determination, and temperament to fight these people on their level. And to teach and organize other prisoners to do the same. I’m like Neo in the matrix. I see the power of prison officials for being the illusion that it is. Their power is based upon the ignorance and criminality of prisoners. So the easiest way to defeat their power is to educate prisoners and to organize prisoners. To not only challenge staff misconduct and bad prison policies and conditions, but to also take command of our own reform and rehabilitation. Because we can do a better job at it than these prison [inaudible].

This is Dontie S. Mitchell, better known as Mfalme Sikivu, reporting to you from Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, New York. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @FreeDontieMitchell. Also, send me an email or a video-gram through with your questions and comments. I love to hear from and struggle with you. Thank you for listening and God bless.

(Sound of a cell door closing.) These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.