"If you don't get money from your family, your poverty blocks you out from buying items at the commissary or making phone calls," Council said. "You can't communicate with your family. If you don't have someone to send you money you can't even buy stamps to write home. They [authorities] are supposed to give us two free stamps a week, but I have never seen them do it in my 16 years of incarceration. We pay a $4 medical co-pay if we make a sick call. Every additional medication we receive is $4. If you have a cold and you get something for sinuses, pain meds and something for congestion, that becomes a $16 visit. And if you get $20 from a family member, the state will take $16 off the top to pay for the visit. You end up with $4 to spend at a jacked-up canteen. There are a lot of brothers walking around in debt. ..."
"It takes brutality and force to make a person work for free and live in the type of conditions we live in and not do anything about it," Ray said. "The only way they made slavery work was to use force. It is no different in the slave empire of prisons. They use brutality to hold it together. And this brutality will not go away until the system goes away."
The men described numerous horrific beatings by guards.
Pleasant said, "They stood me up against the wall [with my hands cuffed behind me]. There were about 10 officers. They started swinging, punching and hitting me with sticks. They knocked my legs out from under me. My face hit the floor. They stomped on my face. They sent me to the infirmary to hide what they did, for 30 days. When I looked in the mirror I could not recognize my facial features. This was the fourth time I was beaten like this."
I asked the three men, speaking to me on a conference call, what prison conditions said about America. They laughed.
"It says America is what it has always been, America," said Ray. "It says if you are poor and black you will be exploited, brutalized and murdered. It says most of American society, especially white society, is indifferent. It says nothing has really changed for us since slavery."
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