Activism was something impressed upon me by my mum while I was growing up. But I had never participated in a movement or performed some activist act offline until I was sent to prison in 2009. That’s when I really discovered the spirit of activism. That is because the prison system is impossibly oppressive; sadly, those who speak out are rarely triumphant.
In my experience, most guards I have interacted with during the 11 years of my incarceration are brazenly sociopathic. Therefore, rising up and speaking against injustice can easily be a challenge.
Guards will break the unification of inmates or aggressively retaliate against the person they think is responsible by tossing their cells, throwing their family photographs or property in the trash, obstructing time-sensitive legal mail, the list is extensive.
I recognized this early on by watching others try to fight the system and fail miserably. So, how do you rise up and protest when you’re under constant surveillance, and while the consequences are so severe? It’s not just the cameras you’ve got to avoid, but the “walking cameras” – people who will waste no time selling you out.
Still, all these components are no different in concept from the many different security systems hackers encounter and defeat on the web. If a Web Application Firewall guards a network along with an Intrusion Detection System, as well as observed and maintained by a vigilant network Administrator, if these components were people in a network of surveillance, then you’d understand my analogy.
In my mind, this was no different than the security of a computer network.
Seagoville FCI 2009, Together We Saved a Life
In 2009 there was this elderly Hispanic man who started experiencing debilitating migraines. Each day the condition worsened. It’s imperative to note that each day he experienced this pain, he made a request to the on-duty officer, asking to see medical staff. For no reason, the officer refused to make the call. He turned his nose up and shoed him away.
By the fourth day, the inmate lay on the ground in front of the guard’s desk, his own silent protest and plea for help. The guard still refused to make the call. The entire jail pod, consisting of 150 inmates all witnessed this. This was a moment of conscience. Do we mind our own business or fight for him?
Well, I fought for him. This is how I did it.
The Power of Influence
When I first was sent to the jail, the first inmates I approached were Muslims. You might know them as the Holy Land Foundation Five. Shukri Baker, Mohammad El-Mezain, and Abdulrahman Odeh. This put me in close proximity to Black Muslims as well.
I attended a religious study group led by Tony Hewitt, the leader of the Scarecrow Bandits who was sentenced to 355 years. This connected me to the Christian English-speaking community. My cellmate was an old-school D Town member and highly respected by Tango Blast. So there’s that.
I used to teach Bible Studies through a Spanish translator to a group that was primarily Paisa, the Mexican prison gang, including La Familia Cartel.
Plus, I was GhostExodus, the computer hacker, and those who know me, know I am outspoken. My cellmate and I spoke to every group in the jail pod, and together we mobilized nearly 150 inmates.
He and I were both influential people, and it didn’t take much convincing to unify the unit. If more than ten people stand together, others will be emboldened to rise up, dare to defy, and unite.
When the guard called for the afternoon count, we all refused to go to our cells – unless the guard called medical staff and made sure the fellow received medical attention.
He didn’t see this coming. In fact, he was terrified. His sociopathic confidence melted instantly, and he was instantly compliant, shaking in his boots as he got on the phone and made the call.
Turned out, that the man was having a brain aneurysm.
Frustrating the Powers Through Prohibited Literature
I wasn’t allowed access to any kind of cybersecurity-related literature. This was the system’s way of policing literature so they could hamstring me from being able to learn or grow intellectually in the field I have the most experience.
What did I do? I wrote hacking-related literature. First, as a means to remember things I knew so I wouldn’t forget them, and second, to disseminate the knowledge and empower others. I covered different OSINT techniques, password cracking and recovery, phishing, and Google Dorking, of all things.
Complete with URLs for download links and step-by-step instructions, I somehow managed yet again to evade detection while inspiring others with my acts of defiance. None of my booklets ever fell into the hands of the guards, and for this I was grateful.
Get this. Some dumb person decided to steal a hypodermic needle from the nurse’s station. To make a long story short, the incident caused the Lieutenant on duty to blow a head gasket. He took a broken broomstick and walked around the unit, throwing his weight around while slamming it on tables and shouting “WHERE’S MY FUCKING SYRINGE?!!”
I mean, the real question is why was it his syringe, and what was the nurse doing with it? He promised not to put our unit on lockdown if the person responsible would roll it out in the middle of the unit.
The needle was rolled out, and the next thing you know we were all on 24/7 lockdown for four days. That also meant we couldn’t shower for four days.
Because the Lieutenant deceived us, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I can never stress enough the wanton abusive nature of most prison guards. They clearly lack empathy, and what’s worse, they’re sadistic.
They thrive on humiliating the vulnerable and inflicting suffering because they can get away with it. Since we can’t publicly execute these psychological torturers at the gallows, the next best thing is simply to take their power away.
Each day while on lockdown, I antagonized the guards on duty. I threw my voice under the door, changed my accent, and said all manner of things that would otherwise have got me thrown in solitary, my things trashed, or worse.
I did this at all hours, except while we slept. They tried holding their keys in an attempt to sneak around the unit to try and find where the taunting was coming from. But the inmates opposite my cell would warn me where the guards were.
On the fourth day, I started a food strike. I shouted in English and Spanish, “No comas la Comida!” – which is, “Don’t eat the food!” It was pizza and salad day. Still, about 15 of us, if not more, threw our food under the door, refusing to eat it. We kicked our trash under the door and threw dead batteries so they ricocheted off tables and doors.
I Love Waterfalls <3
But the best was yet to come. Today was the day Regional staff was on site and scheduled to do a routine walk-through of the unit. This was critically important to the Warden and local staff. Since it was important to them, I seized the opportunity to jeopardize their little dog-and-pony show.
I escalated the protest further, by shouting for everyone to flood their toilets. Now, it’s important to note that guards can shut the water off. So, once we started, we had to act fast, and cooperate with each other.
Within minutes, a dozen inmates or more plugged their toilets with their towels, clogging them, as toilet water rained down from the 2nd tier, effectively destroying the unit.
This final act demonstrated that the guards were no longer in control. Therefore, the guard called the jail administrator, who promptly entered the unit, and let us out.
He apologized profusely for the behavior of the Lieutenant that had misled us and asked us to clean the unit up and he would ensure we would remain off lockdown. We all had a town hall meeting with the jail admin in the presence of the Lieutenant.
I told the admin that his Lieutenant threatened our unit with a broken broomstick, slamming it on tables, and made us feel unsafe. The admin laughed, disbelieving that his officers would behave that way.
“Roll the tape!” I shouted. The Lieutenant’s face turned red, as he locked eyes with me. That very night he pulled my cellmate and me out of our room after lights out and proceeded to tear our room apart, throwing all our belongings on the floor and stepping on my family photos.
His desperate act to exert arbitrarily control at that moment was his way of trying to convince himself that he was still in control. Since he needed to do that in order to comfort himself, that meant he was no longer in control.
In the grand scheme of things, all power is an illusion. It can only exist in the form of a temporary concept by those who ultimately learn to wield it better than others, for however long they can hold it before it is wrestled away.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons was never in control of me during the 11 long years I served. They controlled only my body while I was trafficked and warehoused. But I am not my body.
They had no control over my mind, my words, my influence, or my ability to resist and recruit. Not in all the subtle execution of the various methods of resistance I somehow got away with. I remained unseen and unknown by those supposedly in control.
After all, you can not attack an enemy that isn’t revealed. My fellow inmates never betrayed the knowledge of my acts. That is the reason why I was never caught.
But my greatest protest I did while in solitary confinement for 13 months in a facility that was part of the original architecture of what once served as a World War II enemy internment camp.
But that is a story for another time.
The original article can be found here