A Harsh Truth: Prisons, Women and Political Prisoners

The United States of America was founded by revolutionaries. There is an extensive history of political opposition and struggle. It is considered a matter of pride that the founding fathers of the US rebelled against the British to gain freedom from political persecution and state repression. Despite the pride it takes in its birth from a revolution against tyranny the US government does not differentiate between social and political crime, and denies the existence of political prisoners, claiming that such individuals are incarcerated based solely on their engagement in criminal activity.

The definition of "political prisoner" commonly accepted throughout the world community is: Men and women who have been incarcerated for their political views and actions. They have consciously fought against social injustice, colonialism, and/or imperialism and have been incarcerated as a result of their political commitments. Even while in prison, these men and women continue to adhere to their principles (Elijah).

The US along with China, Croatia, Cuba, Egypt, El Salvador, Indonesia, Iran and Iraq locks up individuals who have opposed the State or have expressed their abhorrence of government action in adherence to belief in a higher law of human rights to which the State does not adhere (Bennett). US political prisoners have been incarcerated because of their political beliefs and participation in, or support of, armed struggles on behalf of Black/New Afrikan liberation, Puerto Rican independence, sovereignty for Native American people, and against US imperialism (Mazzone).

The US silences dissenters by tail and imprisonment and denies it is political. These individuals have defied the State's authority and are consequently subjected to the force of the State in trials and imprisonment in which they are denied any legal distinction as political dissenters, prisoners of war or political prisoners (Bennett). There are currently more than one hundred individuals in US prisons who contest the US' assertion and identify as political prisoners, prisoners of war, and prisoners of conscience. Ten percent of these political prisoners are women. US political prisoners can be roughly divided into three categories:

1. Members of US oppressed nationalities who are prosecuted and imprisoned for political activities in furtherance of their movements for liberation and justice. Included in this group anti-colonial combatants or prisoners of war – members of national liberation movements who as part of clandestine organizations have employed armed struggle as a means to achieve self-determination and independence for their nation and upon capture have the right, under the Additional Protocols of the Geneva Convention and the UN General Assembly Resolutions, to POW status and not to be tried as domestic criminals.

2. Foreign nationals whose political status or political activities against allies of US imperialism (e. g. Israel, Great Britain, El Salvador) result in detention or imprisonment.

3. White people who have acted in solidarity with the liberation movements of oppressed nationalities and/or in opposition to US foreign or domestic policies (Deutsch & Susler). Political prisoners are not merely a phenomenon of the developing world. They exist within the US. These individuals are oppressed and unjustly imprisoned because of their politics and their struggle against the power of the State.

Political prisoners have acted consciously against the social/political order. It is their politically motivated beliefs that have singled them out for state repression. I was a political prisoner for a little over fourteen years, in a case called the Resistance Conspiracy Case. The US government said we were guilty of "conspiring to protest, change and oppose policies and practices of the United States government in domestic and international affairs through violent and illegal means. " And we said the domestic and international policies and practices of the United States government were violent and illegal.