Prisoner Sent to Solitary for Having "Copious Amounts of Anarchist Publications"
2013-10-21 0:00

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Prisoner Sent to Solitary for Having "Copious Amounts of Anarchist Publications"
By Will Potter | VICE

An inmate in Illinois has been in solitary confinement since July for possessing "copious amounts of Anarchist publications" and "handwritten Anarchist related essays," according to prison documents.

Mark "Migs" Neiweem is a prisoner at the maximum security Pontiac Correctional Center who, in addition to the publications and his writings about the prison industrial complex, was also found in possession of anarchist symbols including a "Circle A" and "Circle E" (the latter, which stands for equality, is described in prison reports as representing "class warfare, the 99%").

"I’ve been doing this work since 1979 and I can’t think of another case where someone has gotten a disciplinary report for something so obviously political as this," said Alan Mills, who is Neiweem’s lawyer and a professor at Northwestern University.

Neiweem also had documents in his cell from the Anarchist Black Cross, which the Illinois Department of Correction says is "a political organization and openly supports those who have committed illegal activity in furtherance of revolutionary aims." That’s a menacing way of saying that the group writes letters to prisoners and solicits donations so they can buy food from the prison commissary.

Prison officials spent months investigating Neiweem, combed through his cell, and even used a confidential informant to obtain more information on his anarchist views. According to a disciplinary report dated August 8, 2013, Neiweem was identified by the Intelligence Unit as an anarchist, and the confidential informant reported that he was attempting to recruit other prisoners to "be part of a collective."

At a disciplinary hearing, at which Neiweem was not allowed to have an attorney present, he was found in violation of two departmental rules: possessing gang symbols, and possessing "written material that presents a serious threat to the safety and security of persons or the facility."

Neiweem isn’t accused of plotting to harm guards or other prisoners, though; his political beliefs alone are described as a threat.

"At no point did they even ask him, ’What is anarchism?’" Mills said. "If they actually read what he wrote, they would have gotten a very different impression of what anarchism really means."

For Neiweem, anarchism means solidarity and mutual aid—people putting their faith in each other, rather than cops, courts, and politicians. It means opposing "patriarchy, homophobia, sexism, racism, genocide, mass incarceration, environmental destruction, capitalism." In a public statement, he said that the support he has received while in prison has only reinforced those anti-authoritarian beliefs: "All of these acts of solidarity continue to prove how beautiful our humanity and ’the people’ really are, and display why we need not a State and a force to regulate and stunt our growth, to keep us from experiencing our full humanity."

The prison review board did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.


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