Migs Latest Oppressions (Could Be Worse)

The only surprise from an internal decision by officials at Pontiac Correctional Center about the imprisonment of Mark “Migs” Neiweem, a member of the NATO 5, is that it could have been worse.

A racist skinhead

In the latest form of state provocation, Migs of the NATO 5 must share a prison cell with a white supremacist.

In my last update, I detailed how Migs — one of the five activists arrested and charged with “terrorism” based on entrapment by undercover Chicago Police in the build up to NATO protests — faced new obstacles in his quest for freedom. Though originally scheduled to be released in November, prison officials brought politically-motivated “gang intelligence” charges against him. They claimed, based on letters and books received in the mail (already approved by prison censors) as well as sparse communication with another imprisoned anarchist, that he was plotting to cause unrest.

Officials charged him with two disciplinary violations – Gang or Unauthorized Organization Activity and Dangerous Written Material — then, to no one’s surprise, convicted him of both charges. The one relief is that they did not carry through on all their threats, such as adding more months or transferring Migs to a much worse prison far from his Chicago support network. But the consequences still put freedom that much farther off for this political prisoner.

From Operation Pen Pal: 

Mark’s punishment for being found guilty of Anarchism is: 6 months in solitary confinement; 2 months of yard restriction (no time outside); 6 months restricted visits; and he is losing 3 months time off for good behavior, which will see him released next February instead of mid-November.

Migs denies that he planned to cause any trouble — he only wants to keep his head down and get out. His legal team plans to appeal the decisions but, with the prison-industrial complex being what it is, it may be February already before they make any headway.

I spoke again with Rachel Unterman after her visit to Migs on Tuesday. “Our actions have made a difference,” she said of the relatively lenient punishment. “They know we’re watching and we’re unhappy and they can’t really get away with coming down on him full force.”

Imprisoned with a White Supremacist

Migs is being moved repeatedly within the segregated housing unit at Pontiac for unknown reasons, and his access to the commissary is heavily restricted. He can only visit once a month, greatly limiting his access to supplies like stamps, and he’s not allowed to buy food at all while in segregation. Unterman said he’s not getting enough to eat as a consequence, and they are working to get him access to a vegetarian diet. There’s precedent for this, usually by prisoners claiming that vegetarianism is based on their spiritual path.

His cells are tiny — some as small as six feet by nine feet — and in one of the most restrictive parts of the prison. Even so, Migs now has a cell mate. In the latest attempt to orchestrate further disciplinary infractions, Neiweem is now forced to share this tiny space with a white supremacist. “They’ve had to call a bit of a truce, they just have to live together. They both just want to get out.” Placed together in the hopes that they’ll fight, their only hope for mutual freedom is to temporarily overlook their differences. “It’s not against just him. The whole system is vindictive,” she said.

That the best we can say is that while Migs suffers he could have been faced with even worse torture is, to this reporter, a glimpse of the entire US “justice” system in microcosm. Still, on her last visit Unterman found him in surprisingly good spirits:

He’s talking about all the books he’s reading. He’s working on doing some writing of his own. Even though he doesn’t have a lot of opportunity to write out right now, he’s getting a lot of mail and it’s making him feel connected to the outside world. Their goal was to remove easy access to his support crew and they have not accomplished that.

I can tell how well he’s handling this. He’s determined to not only get through it, but to use it to make himself even stronger intellectually. … He’s allowed to buy a TV now, a small portable TV, and he won’t because he’s afraid it will eat into his reading and writing time. Which for someone who’s in a cell for twenty-four hours a day is saying something. … He’s determined to take whatever they throw at him and turn it into a positive.

Call and Write to Support Migs & #OpPenPal

Migs is just one of many political prisoners who need our support. Operation PenPal maintains an extensive list of political prisoners and guidelines for how to write and what to send.

Rachel Unterman and Operation PenPal are asking that we put continued pressure on his jailers:

While the lawyers pursue legal avenues to appeal these charges and his sentencing, we once again ask you to call S. A. Godinez, Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, at (217) 558-2200 and Pat Quinn, Governor of Illinois, at (217) 782-0244 and ask to speak with them, demanding,

  • Why is Mark Neiweem being held in solitary confinement for his political views?
  • Why is Mark Neiweem being punished for having literature that was approved by the Pontiac Correctional Center mail room?
  • Why is Mark Neiweem being treated like a gang member for his political affiliations?
  • Why is Mark Neiweem still being held behind a steel door within solitary confinement, despite no record of violence?
  • Why is Mark Neiweem being denied access to resources for his upcoming release, including the GED class he enrolled in and the Narcotics Anonymous meetings he voluntarily attended?
  • Remove Mark from solitary now and uphold his parole date of November 12!

Though less effective than a phone call, you can also email your demands to Director Godinez and Governor Quinn.

Even if he’s unable to write back, we should continue to support Migs with letters, photos, and — according to Unterman — news articles. He has a strong desire to stay informed about the outside world. “I send him articles about the big news topics that everyone’s talking about, local news, national, international. So much of that news is bad news that I try to also find funny little articles or Op-Eds that are more interesting or entertaining.” Because of his limited space, Unterman is asking people not to send books without checking with her first.

Write to Migs:

Mark Neiweem M36200
Pontiac Correctional Center
PO Box 99
Pontiac, IL 61764

Photo by Marek Peters released under a GNU Free Documentation License at Wikimedia Commons.