Monday, February 1, 2010


by Mansa Lutalo lyapo -aka- Rufus West

Origin of Vanguards of Justice. The origin of the concept of vanguards of justice is nothing new considering the fact that people have always put themselves on the front lines in pursuit of justice. However, the name "Vanguards of Justice" is a name that I came up with to define a prison program that a Columbia Correctional Institution (CCI) staff member (Program Supervisor Mardel Petras) instructed me to draft up for her to consider. Unfortunately, Ms. Petras, and the staff responsible for approving prison programs have refused to approve it.

Who are the Vanguards? The Vanguards are those people who are in prison and not in prison who have made the decision to be on the front lines in pursuit of social justice in the pre-prison, prison, and post-prison communities.

Vanguards of Justice's Plan of Action

1) Taking direct action against the existing racism in our social structure. Today's society is infected with racism that results in majority of its non-White minority citizens to adversely suffer from mass imprisonment, disenfranchisement, social ostracism, inferior education, inferior economical and political advantages, inferior living conditions, and hopelessness. (All of these things are main ingredients for imprisonment.) Many national and state investigations have concluded that 1 in 15 Black adults are in prison; 1 in 9 Black men between the ages of 20 and 34 are in prison; 1 in 4 Black people will suffer imprisonment at some point in their lives; 1 in 36 Hispanics are in prison. Despite said conclusions of racial disparities in the criminal justice system, no action has been taken to implement any of the recommendations that said investigations recommended.
In Milwaukee Wisconsin, Blacks are a minority, representing 25% of its overall population. However, said Blacks disproportionately represent 75% of its county jail population.
There's no consideration as a mitigating circumstance for parole / probation revocations that includes whether the violator lives in a neighborhood infested with prolific alcohol and illegal drug activity. This is important because majority of said revocations involve alcohol and drug abuse, and because prolific alcohol and drug activities are overwhelming only in the inner cities.
Despite unemployment being a contributing factor that leads to imprisonment, nothing has been done to eliminate the 51% of unemployed Black men in Milwaukee. Nor has anything been done to change the fact that said Blacks are 3 times more likely to be unemployed than Whites. Milwaukee ranks second in the nation when it comes to unemployed Black men.
These are some of the issues that Vanguards of Justice will strive to solve via taking the necessary steps to implement some of said recommendations, as well as crating new courses of action that prove to be effective. Vanguards of Justice will also use this same strategy when dealing with any racism that may occur within the prison community.

2) Restoring and implementing justice in the pre-prison
community. Every problem has a source. Majority of those who commit crimes come from crime-infested communities where crime is prevalent, especially in the inner cities. To help solve this crisis, Vanguards of Justice will pinpoint the root causes of prolific crimes, and then address those causes via direct communication with, not only the people of those communities, but also their respective political representatives. In the event that said politicians repudiate or refuse to participate in this problem solving process, Vanguards of Justice will spearhead campaigns to have them voted out of office during the next election cycle.

3) Restoring and implementing justice in the prison community.
Current statistics show that approximately 97% of Wisconsin prisoners will eventually be released from prison. With this in mind, it is more likely than not that prisoners will carry their prison experiences with them upon leaving prison. Similarly, the remaining 3% of prisoners can release their prison experiences from prison via written and verbal communication. To combat the injustices in prison, Vanguards of Justice will assist prisoners in exhausting their administrative, political, judicial, and social remedies. For the record, Vanguards of Justice is not a law firm.

4) Restoring and implementing justice in the post-prison community. The challenges that a former prisoner faces in a post-prison community are huge. These people are sure to suffer immensely from social discrimination. To counter such discrimination, Vanguards of Justice will utilize social and political pressure.

5) Vanguards of Justice Newsletter. Vanguards of Justice will create and publish a self-titled newsletter that focuses on restoring and implementing social justice. The newsletter will be is sued tri-annually.

6) Vanguards of Justice Youth Initiative. In order to safeguard today's youth from pursuing a path that leads to imprisonment, Vanguards of Justice will target said youth, especially at-risk youth, and provide them with a solid mentoring structure that addresses their specific needs. Vanguards of Justice will canvas communities and offer parents said mentoring for their children and, if so, provide them with said, initiative and conduct follow up visits to ensure success.

7) Funding for Vanguards of Justice. Vanguards of Justice's funding will come from individual and non-profit grants. All contributions will be available for viewing via electronic means in order for all concerned to be aware of its financial standing.

The Department of Corrections (DOC) is known for neutralizing certain prisoners (such as myself) who choose to participate in any organized effort for social justice that's not sanctioned by them. Such neutralizing is similar to the goals of the FBI's Counter Intelligence Program (Cointelpro), which is essentially to retaliate by silencing the voices of its opposition. Their retaliation includes, but is not limited to, withholding and destroying incoming and outgoing mail; filing false misconduct reports; putting us in the hole or the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility (formerly named "Supermax Correctional Institution") indefinitely; physical and verbal abuse; constant cell and property searches; misinformation; and isolation.
Until the recent budget crisis, the non-prison community had a hands-off thinking pattern when it came to prisoners. I don't understand such thinking pattern considering the fact that: (a) Wisconsin prisons are "public" prisons that are run by "public" officials and are accountable to the "public"; (b) it costs the "public" approximately $30,000 in taxes to imprison one prisoner for 1 year. There are approximately 22,000 prisoners in the Wisconsin prison system. If I was a taxpayer, I would consider said, taxes to be an investment in bettering the prisoners so that they will be a positive asset to the overall social structure while in prison, and again once out of prison; (c) when a prisoner wins a lawsuit against said DOC that awards monetary relief, the "public" is taxed to pay that award; and (d) approximately 97% of Wisconsin prisoners will eventually be released back to the "public". I would think that the "public" would want prisoners to be productive citizens instead of being a part of the problem. If the "public" abandons prisoners and the prisoners are abused by DOC staff, the prisoners will internalize said abuse and then take it out on the "public" once released. Marcus Garvey said, "When all else fails to organize the people - conditions will." This is relevant in the sense that despite my (and other prisoners like me) best efforts to get the "public" to focus on their economical investment in prisoners, it is now getting through as a result of financial debt. All of a sudden bills are being proposed to allow for the early release of certain prisoners sentenced under the Truth In Sentencing law to ease said debt. Unfortunately, this is akin to someone pouring water in a bucket full of holes to keep it full instead of fixing the holes. This analogy is based on the fact that: (a) There currently are dozens (if not hundreds) of parole-eligible prisoners who are denied parole year after year despite them not having major behavior issues. They're denied parole because they "have not served sufficient time" or "has not completed all necessary programs", (b) These same prisoners who are in maximum custody prisons are being told that they have no chance of parole until they spend some time in a medium or minimum custody prison (even though there's no rule stating thus). Such logic is akin to a 100-step ladder with a prisoner on every step. No prisoner can get off of the ladder unless the prisoner at the bottom is removed. In this case, some of the prisoners on the lower steps either have life sentences or more prison time than those prisoners on the higher ladder steps. This results in prisoners not being able to got to lower custody prisons because there's no room; because prisoners are serving more prison time than necessary; because lifers with parole eligibility are arbitrarily being denied parole incessantly after they've spent significant time in lower custody prisons; all that the "public" appears to condone by it paying the $30,000 per year and not putting a stop to it. On April 16, 2009, I wrote Governor Doyle and explained to him that releasing prisoners without stopping the root causes of recidivism won't work. I also offered some suggestions of what I believe will be effective. He hasn't responded.
We are all designed to struggle from conception to resurrection. I choose to struggle against social injustice. Will you?
Completed this, 31st day of May, 2009.
Mansa Lutalo lyapo -aka-Mr. Rufus West $225213
P.O. Box 900 (CCI), Portage, WI 53901

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