How many of you have ever heard of a Potemkin Village? According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th Edition), a Potemkin Village is “an impressive facade or show designed to hide an undesirable fact or condition.” It is named after Grigori Aleksandrovich Potemkin (1739-1791), a Russian field marshall and statesman, who supposedly built impressive fake villages along the route that Catherine II (i.e. Catherine the Great) would often travel. The fake villages served to conceal all of the cruelties and injustices that existed during her reign as Empress of Russia from 1762-1796. I maintain that the same “impressive facade or show” exist to conceal the cruelties and injustices taking place behind the walls of Sussex 2 State Prison (S2SP).
This statement is intended to keep the Keefe boycott fresh on the agenda for
2015. In the wake of organized strikes in prisons all over the country in 2013 and 2014; the recent national multiracial protests surrounding the police killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, and the grand jury’s decision not to indict their murderers — Officers Daniel Pantaleo and Darren Wilson; and the October Month of Resistance against mass incarceration, police terror, repression, and the criminalization of a generation, the conditions under which the prisoner-class is being subjected to is ripe for resistance.
Keefe Commissary Network Sales (Keefe) is a private mega-conglomerate
corporation that has taken over commissary operations inside numerous prisons and jails across America. There is no question that Keefe is price-gouging prisoners. Nor is there a question that the goods/products Keefe sells to prisoners are of a poor and defective quality. The question is what actions can we take that can lead to qualitative changes in our environment?
Our torturous, prolonged confinement is the result of “tough on crime” political rhetoric and “truth-in-sentencing” laws enacted in the early to mid-90’s which made federal grants available to any state willing to abolish parole and mandate its prisoners to serve at least 85% of the sentence imposed.
One such law is the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (VC-
CLA), which was sponsored by then-Texas US Representative Jack Brooks and
signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton. This Act included a provision called
Violent Offender Incarceration and Truth-in-Sentencing incentive grants (VOITIS)
which provided funds to state and local correctional systems to expand their capacity to incarcerate violent offenders and to impose longer and more determinate
According to the Office of Justice Programs within the US Dept. of Justice, between 1996-1998 28 states received over $680 million in truth-in-sentencing incentive grants in exchange for abolishing parole and implementing this so called 85% law. Virginia received a total of $11,201,786 during this period. According to the General Accounting Office, 15 out of 28 states indicated that these grants were either a main or partial factor in their enactment of truth-in-sentencing legislation, including Virginia. In reality, these states traded human lives in exchange for capital (money) to expand the Prison Industrial Complex.
We can bear witness to how private monopoly corporations like Keefe, JPay, Global Tel Link, GEO group, ACA, etc. had a vested interest in and benefited from the passage of VCCLA and VOITIS.
Because we of the prisoner-class are imprisoned pursuant to the political agenda stated
above, we are ALL political prisoners. Therefore, in response, we must become polit-
ical, and stop being willing pawns in a system that has brought nothing but death, de-
struction, and despair to the New Afrikan (Black), Brown, and poor white communities.
Don’t order a so-called gift package from Keefe’s subsidiary, Access Secure Pak.
Buy only essential items from the private prison commissary, such as hygiene prod-
ucts, stationery, stamps, and survival foods like Ramen soups and peanut butter. If you file a complaint against Keeefe with the Consumer Protection Division at PO Box 899, Jefferson City MO 65102 they will issue you a case number where you
can compile evidence and related documents in regards to Keefe’s price-gouging
tactics. File complaints with the Federal Trade Commission at 600 Pennsylvania
Ave., Washington DC 20580. Send them copies of commissary price lists and your commissary receipts. Every complaint we file and every collective step we take will
“cause a ripple in the ocean of oppression” to quote my comrade B. Nimrod.
Power to the prisoners who don’t fear justice!