The importance of resistance
by Coyote Sheff
Wednesday, 30 May 2007
To the people on the outside who read this, if you know or write to someone in prison, it is important that you get to know more of the struggles that prisoners go through, and, if you can, try to play an active role in their development, transformation and transition back into society; especially if he/she is doing time in a maximum security prison. Because these prisons are designed to cut him/her off from society and break him/her down completely.

Usually a prisoner who is locked down in a cell all day, every day, doesn’t have much to be happy about or to look forward to, except maybe getting a letter in the mail. It’s a very depressing situation. That’s why it’s always good for a prisoner to maintain an open line with people in the free world. So, if you’re writing a prisoner, please try to understand what kind of struggles he/she is up against and then to be there to support him/her through these dark times.

In the atrocious conditions of “solitary enslavement,” the need for resistance is as significant as the need to breathe. To surrender to such madness would be equivalent to committing mental suicide. It is important we keep our minds sharp like knives, because our minds are our most effective weapons and, whether you realize it or not, the oppressors are working to nullify your senses and your mind through the subtle means of psychological warfare.

Only people who are evil, immoral and corrupt use psychology to manipulate, control and oppress. For those who don’t know, psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Some study this particular science to get to the root of why certain people do what they do and act like they act, so they can find ways to treat, heal, help and cure. Others study this science of mind because they have dubious intentions in mind, like manipulation and mind control.

So you see it’s all a mind game. We’ve got the captors playing their little mind games on us and what’s worse is we even got prisoners playing mind games on other prisoners. I guess, because they got us living in cages like animals, some of us have the idea that it’s ok to behave like animals, but the truth is this is a foul place that we’re living in and the need for resistance should be evident.

What is resistance? Resistance is overcoming the negative and destructive aspects of the prison environment. Resistance is living by a healthy, productive and honest set of standards. Resistance is becoming wiser when people want to see you fail. Resistance is becoming stronger when people try to make you weak. Resistance is knowing; it’s breathing; resistance is “being.”

Resistance has everything to do with the way you do your time. Some people choose to do their time by standing at their doors talking all day, usually about insignificant bullshit, and some people choose to pass their time by sitting in their cells fantasizing all day. If that’s how certain people choose to use their time, then that’s on them, but if that’s how you’re using your time, then don’t complain about how fucked up your life is and don’t cry about your living conditions when you aren’t doing anything productive or positive to uplift yourself or to make things better where you are at.

If you don’t know, in these control units, supermax prisons and maximum security prisons, these pickle-suits and oppressors are really trying to knock us off and bury us alive in these graveyards and they’ve got plenty of strategies on how to achieve this. Painstakingly, a lot of us prisoners are operating as pawns in their game and don’t even realize it.

A lot of us in here have dedicated ourselves to study and you’d think that’s good, but, sadly, I’ve seen a lot of prisoners studying books on strategy, power and warfare only so that they can use those strategies on other prisoners thinking that’s what they have to do to get by in here or to get ahead. Just as our oppressors abuse their power, a lot of us abuse knowledge in the same way, and this is a tragedy.

It is definitely important and necessary to acquire a sense of strategy. This is in an imperative tool towards achieving resistance, but first we must come to realize who our true enemy is. Is it the guy who is locked in a cell all day, just like you, going through the same shit you’re going through? Or is it people who keep you under the gun, the ones who have you locked in that cage, encouraging you to fight your own kind? The ones who are getting rich off of your suffering?

Study is an important form of resistance, just like exercise, because it prepares you mentally, as exercise prepares you physically. To me, studying is more than just reading a book; it’s reading every day and studying what you’ve read, it’s taking notes of what you’ve read and memorizing those notes, it’s writing about what you read, in the form of book reports, critiques, book summaries, chapter summaries, essays, articles, papers etc.

Those who are serious about their studies shouldn’t have problems with taking notes and writing reports about what they’ve read. Knowledge is no good if you don’t put it to its respective use, and one of the most effective ways of putting your knowledge to use, in my opinion, is by putting it in writing. When you write to educate, motivate or inspire, you are demonstrating a form of resistance.

Not only is study an important means of resistance, but it’s important for many reasons. Those who want to get their lives right must first get their minds right, and what better way to do that than through study. There are all kinds of things a prisoner can study. If you want to accumulate knowledge on all kinds of things, then study-up on whatever materials you can get your hands on. If you want to learn about a particular thing, then pick a subject, take at least six months to a year to master that subject then move on to another subject.

This isn’t easy. It usually takes outside support to acquire the necessary books and materials – you can’t expect the prisoncrats to provide you with these materials – so it’s important to maintain a solid connection with people on the outside. Let them know you’re sincere about your intentions to learn and grow while in prison and I’m sure they’ll help you if they can.

Also, when you’re done with the books and materials, after you’ve gotten all you could out of them, it’s always a good thing to pass them on to other prisoners — who you know will put them to their rightful use — because good materials are hard to come by in these graveyards. Study is important for many reasons; this is a good place to do it. Take advantage of your time, and use it wisely.

Resistance is critical when you’re living in critical situations. By practicing solidarity and acknowledging the need for unity, you are enforcing resistance. It is the design of the system to keep us divided, powerless and suppressed, and when we go against that design by coming together as a united prisoner class, we are then practicing the ultimate form of resistance.

Communication and socialization are also key factors to consider, especially if the conversations you are having are productive and uplifting. Keep in mind, not only are your captors out to deprive you of your senses, but these solitary confinement cells are also designed to deprive you of your ability to be social and to socialize. To be able to socialize is an important element in being human.

I’ve had some good conversations with some of my fellow convicts that inspired me to sit down and write an essay. You don’t always have to be the guy in the conversation who is always trying to instruct or teach; there’s a lot of people in here who have interesting stories and insights. Sometimes it’s good to just sit back and listen.

It’s always a beautiful thing to see convicts working together, striving towards the same end and helping each other along the way while igniting a fire in the hearts and minds of others. Try not to forget: We are all under the same gun.

Resistance is uplifting you and others. Resistance is survivalism. Resistance is preparation. The need for resistance is the same as the need for food and water; it provides sustenance, bringing life to a world where there isn’t any life.

They’ve got us living real foul in these graveyards, going against our own kind, surrounded by psych-patients and weirdoes, no real medical care, no programs for prisoners and now, here at Ely State Prison, they are forcing prisoners to cellup with someone. The food is foul, the rules are designed to belittle and sometimes even dehumanize us. Even the water we drink, the air we breathe, it’s all foul. If these aren’t good enough reasons to resist, then I don’t know what is.

If you know what it is this system is doing to you, then you should understand the importance of resistance. They got us living like animals because they want us to believe that we are animals. The more barbaric we act, the more the door opens for them to come in and strip us of all our privileges and rights.

Then they can build more lockdown units, bring in more beds, build more prisons and make more money off of us while we suffer. These people aren’t trying to do anything to help us; they aren’t trying to do anything good for us. Regardless of what they want us to think, we are human. We are in this together. We are all going to suffer together, so why not resist together?

We must stay true to ourselves and disregard that which is not true. Remember, what comes from the heart reaches the heart! Whatever you do, let your intentions be pure and from the heart. Don’t get caught up in the evil and the madness that surrounds you. Don’t let it consume you, but rather strive to rise above it.

Do something with your time; make something of your life. They want us to believe that “no matter what” we are destined to fail, that “no matter what” our lives will never amount to anything. That’s only true if you believe it. The times we are living in, the situations we are faced with, and the things that are happening are very critical right now.

You won’t accept another prisoner calling you a punk, but you’ll accept the administration treating you like a punk? This shit is crazy. It’s time we collaborate; it’s time we resist.

Send Coyote your comments: Coyote Sheff, 55671, Ely State Prison, P.O. Box 1989, Ely NV 89301-1989.