#StanleyCohen #CagedButUndaunted #UpTheRebels #FreeStanleyCohenLaw
Today I received a letter from Stanley, dated 15 January 2015. I'd warned him when I wrote that I'd share anything he wrote to me with twitter, so there's no breach of confidentiality. We're both members of our global twitter family.
Please note: Stanley's handwriting is AWFUL (by his own admission), so I have used question-marks where I can't quite read his words (will post pics of letter separately so you can check it yourself - there will be errors in this, my first typing).
My apologies for not writing sooner but all my time at the spa, with my tennis lessons and culinary classes have seemingly left me strapped at days end unable to do little else but plan my menu for the next day. Ughhh....
As expected I am now fully ensconced in a gulag buried in snow with arctic gale winds in rural North East Pennsylvania and freezing temperatures my constant companion. As you well know boredom abounds, with despair glued to the bunks and walls of our cage - nerves frayed and violence always simmering just below the surface, angry guards and prisoners alike for the least slight, real or imagined, ready to explode. Collective punishment here is the "roll call" where the guards look to the 130 or so of us in this 'unit' to police the few of us they see as "malingerers" or who "step out of line", lest the rest of us suffer from the same punishment.
Conmisary(?) for all cancelled, visits for all cancelled, television for all cancelled, phone access, emails denied for all if one of us walks to a different beat.
Our '"home" is itself a large steel & cement shed with huge picture windows looking out on a barren field, with the windows a constant source of cold. It helps to daydream of faraway places - in this case 20 miles is far away. We have about 50 or 60 mostly young men of color in our unit 25-35 years of age, typically doing 5 years of prison for non-violent complaint-less drug offenses. However a few, actually more than a few, are in the midst of 15 year sentences for nothing more than drugs. The remainder of us are mostly white men, 55 and up, some as old as 75 plus, also here for non-violent "white collar crimes". Most are doing sentences of 10 years or more with many of them in terrible health; men on breathing machines, multiple stroke "survivors" and those waiting to die. None, none pose any threat to the community at large and should be at home - even under home confinement -- keeping families together, supporting their kids and/or doing community service. But here, more than anywhere else in the world, the prison industry is profitable with hundreds of thousands employed to CAGE a like number of men or more the vast majority of whom pose no threat to anyone but the political status quo and archaic(?) systematic notions based on race, class, gender and politics.
We act as a forced labor camp for the maximum security prison that we are connected to. One of the 3rd or 4th rated most "violent" prisons in America' it's population of 1500 or so prisoners, with 15% always in the SHU (Special Housing Unit aka the Hole) reflect that for the prisoners doing life sentences with no chance of release other than a mortuaries limo out the back gate and the rest doing at least 30 year sentences. Over the last 16 months or so there have been a dozen or so complete lockdowns often lasting weeks on end arising from stabbings, murders or sitdown strikes. At least 3 guards and/or inmates have been murdered here during that time. Whenever lockdown occurs, we are dispatched there as scab labor to perform menial mindless tasks that guards would otherwise have to perform, such as cleaning showers, bathrooms, cooking, snow shoveling or looking busy while asleep. When we do the tasks its 12-15 cents per hour. When the guards do it, its $40-50 per hour. As always, greed wins out.
The camp itself is an 80 x 40 yard building without bars, cells or guards with weapons -- other than ignorance. Filled with wide open pods of some 30 square feet with bunk beds for all its very much an incubation for germs and disease which spreads from one sick prisoner to 50 overnight. Of course there is a common shower, filthy; and a "ground"(?) bathroom/toilet are for us all, beyond filthy. Having just finished Dostoevsky's "House of the Dead"; his epic semi-autobiographical novel of "life" some 130 years ago in a Siberian gulag where he did a four year bid(?) as a political dissident, its amazing that in so many ways what was then and there is now now and here. When it comes to prison, out of sight remains out of mind. As you know the despair hangs heavy everywhere, all the time.
I cannot complain however, assigned to the prison library some 6 hours a day at 12 cents per hour, I get ample time to read. More important I meet with lots of other prisoners all day long providing help for their appeals or trying simply to give them hope. More than once our small library bristled with heated discussions about life, politics, resistance and hope. In March, I will start teaching several classes on political science, the Middle East, International Human Rights and Law, and tutor young men preparing for their GED - or alternative high school degrees. At days end the censorship at times seems overwhelming with a complete ban on relevant, timely and alternative news and information. This, more than anything else and the pain to my family, is the worst punishment of all. Having been in the so-called "eye-of-the-storm" for so many years, news flashes from Fox & CNN just doesn't do it. This, along with the loss my twitter family, leaves me starved for meaningful exchanges -- save for the underground ones with other prisoners - caged, but undaunted nonetheless.
On the bright side, more and more journalists and international news outlets are lined up to visit me creating a dilemma for the Bureau of Prisons; they fear what I will say but fear even more headlines about their refusal to allow the interviews.
That's about it for now; it's "count time".
My love, respect and solidarity to the family we share worldwide wherever people dare to struggle, dare to win. Caged but undaunted is my new hashtag for the millions of political prisoners worldwide; those jailed because of their resistance, race, class, religion or political beliefs. So many more have suffered far more than me. Assassinated, tortured, detained for years of end with no rights, lawyer or trial. To them we owe our absolute respect and thanks. Caged but undaunted, we shall not be broken, silenced or defeated.
"In Ireland, Lebanon, Palestine and Berkeley." Patti Hearst heard the burst(?) and bought it.
Sorry about my terrible handwriting. With (sic) my keyboard I am lost. Your personal story brought tears to my eyes but a smile to my face, you inspire with your spirit, dedication and resistance.
UP THE REBELS
You can write to Stanley here >
Stanley Cohen 19846-052
P.O. Box 200
Waymart, PA 18472