Interview with revolutionary anarchist prisoner Jerome White-Bey

When compiling a prisoner letter writing list of bios and addresses, I came across the name "Jerome White-Bey" and couldn't find any information about him aside from his name, prison # and address, and a one sentence mention of him founding the Missouri Prison Labor Union. After exchanging a few letters, he agreed to an interview with me with the intention of it being published, and the link below is where that interview can be located. This site was also made with the intention of publishing other interviews of those currently and previously incarcerated whose cases I feel are underrepresented in the US anarchist movement.

http://prisonerletters.noblogs.org/

Jerome White-Bey 2014 (Missouri Prison Labor Union)

(A): I’m glad you said you’d be interested in doing an interview. I guess, let’s start with background: How old are you, what was growing up like, how long have you been incarcerated, and what did you get convicted of?

Jerome: Well, I am 58 years old. I was born in St. Louis MO. Growing up for me was like a two fold measure for the family support was always present. I was raise up by my Mother and Grandmother. They was of the working class, I never went to bed hunger, or without clothes or shoes, I was the oldest out of 6 siblings and the only one who been in and out of prison. I was always in trouble with the law, I have always rebel against authority. At a very young age of 17 years old I was introduce to true revolutionary ideas of George Jackson “Prison Letters”, I fall in love! I have been in prison for 36 ½ years, and was convicted for 32 armed robberies and a second degree murder case on a government agent.

 

(A): I understand that you are an anarchist who was involved in establishing the Missouri Prison Labor Union. How did you come to radical/ revolutionary politics?

Jerome: As as prisoner, I also was a jailhouse lawyer. I always felt that as prisoners we need to have some form of protection against the powers that be, we are force into free slave labor and if we don’t work in prison we are punish by being thrown in the hole and in some cases even beaten. I believe that a prisoner’s labor union is the one thing that will bring all of us together throughout the whole country. Can you picture such a force fighting on the inside of prisons in every state throughout the USA.

(A): When did you set up the union and what initially provoked it? Is the union still active?

Jerome: The MPLU was set up in Aug 1998 and yes we are still active, but things are now on low key until I am release from prison for obvious reasons. Working condition was the cause for setup the MPLU.

(A): Has the union achieved any victories?

Yes we have force some rule changes here in prison, but nothing major, our struggle is still on going.

(A): Can you give a brief (or lengthy- it’s up to you) description of the labor conditions in your prison or Missouri prisons in general?

Jerome: (A) can you picture you having a job out there without any benefits, no retirement plans, no nothing. Prisoners are force into work until we die, there is no such thing until retirement age, there is no vacation time, as property of the state we are told that we have no such rights. If a prisoner get hurt on the job, to were he loss a leg, finger or hand there is no compensation. In the summer months the shops and work place are extremely hot and in the winter its cold and the food we are fed is foul. Prisoners, we are force into 8 hours to 12 hours work shifts. The State is making millions of dollors off our slave labor, and it is all free money from free labor. Prisoners are human beings, but in the eyes of the State we are sub-humans, slaves, dogs, nothing!

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Comments

Yay! It's like cool that Jerome can still find some new people to send him stamps and stuff. Just wait till he starts asking for money or a girlfriend cause you know your like friends and stuff and that's what friends do right? Or maybe you could try asking him what it means for to him to be an anarchist cause like we're all down with hierarchical organizations with single figure head leaders and official sounding but nonsensical titles, am I right? It's totally cool too if you want to waste a bunch of time and money helping build his status in prison cause like the MPLU has never been more than an outdated mailing list. I mean if ONLY the MPLU could get recognition from the DOC then maybe the STRUGGLE could get somewhere. Somebody told me once that the like Supreme Court or something totally came out against prisoners having collective bargaining rights like way back in the day. But really I think it would be a good idea to petition the governor. I mean its not like Jerome has ever been close to something like what happened in Georgia or California or even Jefferson City so they should like just give him his union already. I totally get it. Go Team! RAH!!1!

Sorry I just couldn't bring myself to write a caring sensitive disclaimer. Just don't forget to use your head and trust yourself.

Have you had unpleasant interactions with him? Granted, I've only exchanged a few letters with him, but I believe I even offered to get him stamps and supplies and he turned down my offer and continued with this; did you have a different experience? I hear the "girlfriend" thing though- a buddy of mine has been put away for a few years (still in) and when I started writing him he wanted a "female pen-pal". I indeed found that weird at first, but for real, only ever being able to socially interact with men has got to be a huge drag. Also, I have no illusions that this blog/project is going to directly shape policy in any way, rather it's going to be a way to lift up the voices of those incarcerated and serve as an outlet of exposure of the prison-system and its conditions to those on the outside who may not otherwise give prison abolition a serious consideration. Thanks for the input and the disclaimer prior to your paragraph though.

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