“Bill Clinton developed a rural employment program called prisons,” he said. “Prisons are the economic lifeblood of these poor white communities. The only time these people have any contact with black people is when they put them in cells or escort them in shackles. Prisons are the gift William Jefferson Clinton gave to poor, rural whites that keeps on giving. “The system is broken,” Abu-Jamal said. “It has to be torn up, root and branch. And this has to be done from the bottom up. If we keep electing and re-electing these puppets we will keep getting played. We have to form political parties that reflect our political ideas. We have to stop surrendering to false parties and politicians that do not represent us.” He said he places his hopes in groups such as Black Lives Matter that have taken to the streets. He said that if he could he would be in the streets of Philadelphia, where he was raised, during the Democratic convention. “This is our hour of protest,” he said. “We have to physically resist. We will reclaim our power when we say no, when we refuse to cooperate. We must, in everything we do, defy the architects of imperialism, neoliberalism and mass incarceration. We cannot enable, in any way, this system to perpetuate itself. “It is time to raise holy hell,” he went on. “We need to demonstrate in the streets. We need to use megaphones. We need to hold teach-ins. We need to sell radical books. We need to make the streets our commons.” Again the loudspeaker boomed: “Children must put away the toys they took out of the children’s room. Children must put away the toys they took out of the children’s room.” Prisons, like the rest of the society, have been privatized. Prisoners are billed for an array of services and items that once were the responsibility of the state. Corporations, which make billions off the prison system, run phone services, food services, medical services and commissaries. They have established for-profit prisons and detention centers. Prices for basic services and necessities such as shoes have soared. “Services that were once the responsibility of the state have been outsourced to corporations, as in the rest of society,” said Abu-Jamal, who works as a trash collector. “We are worth what we are able to pay. If we pay nothing, in their eyes, we are worth nothing. “When [prisoners] fill out a sick call slip, a request for medical attention, we have to also sign a cash slip,” he said. “The medical visit costs five or 10 dollars. This may not sound like a lot. But a prison job only pays $30 a month. Prices are constantly going up. Wages in prisons have remained the same since the 1980s. Most prisoners can only go to buy items from the commissary after begging their mothers, grandmothers or girlfriends for money. “In February, Global Tel Link began selling electronic tablets in the prison for $150,” he said. “They charge 25 cents for an email and $1.80 to download a song. And you have to pay them in advance. The state pays Wexford Health Services $298 million a year to run the medical services. The more medical services are cut, the greater the profit. You go to medical and most of the time they tell you to go to the commissary to buy Tylenol or throat lozenges. If you fall in the yard and need a wheelchair they charge you $25. If you can’t sit up they charge you $75 for a motorized cart. They will not treat my hepatitis C, saying it is not advanced enough, but of course it is because the medicine is expensive. It costs between $87,000 and $95,000. A price like this exists solely to enrich pharmaceutical companies. I could get the same drug from India for a few thousand dollars. There is a guy in my block, Joseph Kish Sr., with stage four hepatitis C and cirrhosis. They have denied him treatment because, they said, he will get out soon. There is always a reason not to treat us. Prisons have replaced state psychiatric hospitals. MHM Correctional Services is paid $89 million a year to handle the mentally ill. It does little more than medicate them. And remember most guards, especially with overtime, make more money, about $100,000 a year, than a full professor at a university. “They are doing to us on the inside what they are doing to us on the outside,” he said. “They are letting poor people die or killing them for profit. Things will get worse and worse until people can’t take it anymore. These corporations won’t stop. No one in the political class will make them stop. It is up to us.” Your support matters…

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