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We Are Not SlavesState Violence, Coerced Labor, and Prisoners' Rights in Postwar America$
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Robert T. Chase

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781469653570

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469653570.001.0001

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From Pachuco to Writ Writer

From Pachuco to Writ Writer

The Carceral Rehabilitation of Fred Cruz

(p.159) Chapter 4 From Pachuco to Writ Writer
We Are Not Slaves

Robert T. Chase

University of North Carolina Press

Chapter four initiates the second part of the book, subtitled “Resistance,” where the next five chapters reflect on the prisoners’ evolution from individual consciousness to legal documentation, solidarity, and eventually collective resistance. Chapter four offers an intimate narrative of how a single prisoner, Fred Cruz, underwent a process of intellectual transformation, a mind change, and conscientizaciónto launch the beginning of the prisoners’ rights movement in Texas. Based on Cruz’s personal diary and letters, this chapter considers how Cruz underwent “carceral rehabilitation” through an intellectual engagement with civil rights and criminal law, as well as personal transformation through reading deeply in political philosophy and his conversion to Buddhist religion. Despite often being cast into solitary confinement for his legal work, this chapter demonstrates that Cruz was not isolated, as the chapter charts Cruz’s transformation within the broader legal turn in the law that allowed prisoners to turn to federal courts as a matter of civil rights. As such, it places the “slaves of the state” narrative in proper legal context where prisoners were not slaves, but entitled to civil rights, even as prisoners experienced de facto conditions of abuse and racial power that rendered their prison labor and lives as akin to slavery. Cruz’s story is presented as the spark for what will become a system-wide prison movement for civil rights.

Keywords:   conscientización, Mind Change, Carceral Rehabilitation, Prisoners’ Rights Law, Slaves of the State, Self Education, Civil Rights, Fred Cruz, Solitary

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