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Don’t Forget Chicago’s Political Prisoners

Mark ‘Migs’ Neiweem Back in Solitary, or Worse

Rachel Unterman

#OpPenPal’s Rachel Unterman, with Chicagoist’s Aaron Cynic, after Thursday’s #NoALEC protest.

In August 2012, I visited Chicago and talked with Rachel Unterman about supporting the city’s political prisoners.

A year later, many political prisoners from Chicago still need the support of those of us on the outside. Last year, we heard how Mark “Migs” Neiweem (pronounced Nye-wame) was beaten by guards and placed in solitary confinement for engaging in political education inside the jail. Since then, Neiweem agreed to a plea bargain that should see him free on good behavior this November.

Neiweem has been in Pontiac Correctional Center’s medium security wing serving out the remainder of his sentence. Much like John Kiriakou reported in his first Letter From Loretto, Gang Intelligence, the prison’s detective force, sought any excuse to frame this political prisoner. Publishing his own prison communication recently to the Operation PenPal website, and friendly talk with a prisoner who shares his anarchist leanings were enough to get him thrown in solitary confinement for “gang recruitment.” In his letter, Migs stresses the importance of outside support:

The State uses prisons and jails to divide and alienate us, to break unity and solidarity, to divide and conquer – attack us individually, break our ‘individual will,’ and scare us collectively. As long as you do not let go of our hands and we do not let go of your hands extended in solidarity to us through the rows of razor wire, this entire tool and tactic of imprisonment as well as their intended outcomes will fail!

Solidarity is the strongest weapon we have, and it works.

The State uses prisons to destroy our movements and crush resistance. They are tools to maintain social control and psychologically destroy the mind and will of the prisoner. The support given me has enabled me to convert all of the abuse and violence of my incarceration into more pushups in my revolutionary boot camp and not paralyzing bullets, like intended.

I, like many ‘political prisoners,’ was targeted, beat, threatened, thrown in segregation, starved, refused medical treatment, and on and on for most of my stay to varying degrees. Now, some of the most violent, volatile, and sick individuals I’ve ever encountered (including anti-fascist struggles and maximum security inmate populations) are employed as guards at Cook County Jail. Because of your campaigns and actions, these violent fascists were ordered to no longer put their hands on me, and then refrained from doing so. They eventually turned to less aggressive (and nearly laughable in comparison) forms of harassment. Your pressure got me released early from ‘the hole’ more than once, and in many ways my treatment and handling improved altogether.

Unterman and other supporters of #OpPenPal launched a calling campaign to allow Neiweem to return to normal medium security for the remainder of his sentence, where he had been taking GED classes and voluntarily participated in Narcotics Anonymous. Unfortunately, the result seems to be even worse oppression, with guards putting Migs in an even more secluded solitary cell on the bottom floor of the Center, where trash from higher levels attracts rats and bugs. Thanks to a box around the feeding hole where he gets his meals he can’t even momentarily glimpse or accidentally touch another human hand. Somehow, his spirits are still high. In a letter his lawyer provided to Unterman, he writes:

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