Reflections on the First Year of the Control Unit Prison at Florence

Sent to the October 21, 1995 Program

Dear Friends,

There are prison "control units" all across the country and many of the older ones are tougher and more brutalizing than Florence. One of the things that makes ADX-Florence, the idea of Florence as a full-time Control Unit, so vicious, so threatening to individual and collective liberties, is that its purpose is court-approved and its design is pimped by the federal BOP as something to be emulated.

In most of the country's older seg blocks, prisoners (federal and state) still face the likelihood of beatings, passings, restraints, forced medications, multiple celling, poor to non-existent health care, and any number of routine degredations. That'll all be happening in ADX-Florence -- and in the other shiny-new Control Units -- when the spotlight goes off it a few years down the line.

For now Florence is the showcase -- and its methods of controlling and breaking its convicts are subtle. These places are designed to break the spirit of the men and women and teenagers they cage . . . and it is a frightening thing to see. This super maxi-max prison has been in operation for less than a year and I can see that the joint is having a spiritually crushing effect on all of us -- and on a couple of men the effect is frightening. The other day during rec in the small yard, my neighbor lamented to me that he felt like a captive mouse on a spinning wheel, running and running and running, trying desperately to keep ahead of whatever was chasing him. But he couldn't get ahead, he said. Every day, every waking hour he'd jog in place, do situps, try to read, write a letter, pray, try to juggle some soap bars, wash his walls. Try to study -- anything, everything "to keep busy, to not let the place get to me, to not brood on how they are constantly f---ing with my mail, my people . . . ". I could only nod and encourage him to hang tough. I know his battle -- we all do. If you don't fight you lose -- big time.

I went to Marion in July 1987 and my survival technique includes daily self-admonishments not to brood, not to take routine aggravations personally, not to dwell on the past pains, and so on. It doesn't mean I've a short memory or am meekly all-forgiving, only that I've seen men become twisted by hate and suppressed fury in Marion, and I want very much to survive with my spirit and integrity as well as my brain intact. I know you understand and so I will pass on the opportunity to recount some of my own experiences inside these walls.

In closing I want to emphasize that to get out of a control unit situation, the prisoncrats point to a "program" that must be completed one step at a time. Fine. Where's the starting line? Some prisoners go right through the program in 3 years. But once you have a certain label (the prisoncrats admit to labels like gang leader, gang member, organized crime, escape artist -- but they always deny the existence of political prisoners: at best they are terrorists and malcontents) -- once you are targeted, you routinely get what we call situational shots. You won't get such a shot somewhere else: towel on the cell bars, being disrespectful to staff, not jumping inside your cell fast enough, abusing the telephone. Real shots for minor infractions. No big penalty -- just "bad" enough to have you start over again. And that's the way it's been for me and my political comrades -- and for all of us in control units everywhere.

						Jim Barrett, #10374-016

Dear Companeros(as)

I would like to express my gratitude to the members of CEML for all your endeavors against the control units. We know that the fight against control units or the punishment industry is not an attractive and glamorous one. To wage it and achieve a modicum of success is almost an impossible task. But such a reality should not discourage you and those of us in the gulags, who love freedom and justice, to continue struggling against control units.

The moment might require more creativity and to look for ways to reach more people. The punishment industry has its weak points and we must look for them in order to wage a better fight. Some of the things done here have produced a couple of small changes. Your efforts and those of others have helped, if in nothing else, at least to keep the jailers in check. They didn't expect for people from the outside to express their concern and support for us. If that support and concern had not reached their ears, conditions here would be more intolerable. So let's continue the struggle.

						En resistencia y lucha,
						Oscar Lopez-Rivera, #87651-024

Dear Friends,

The dream of everlasting freedom and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued but never attained until the ignoble and unhappy regime that now holds our brothers in Florence, Marion, Attica, etc. in sub-human bondage has been toppled and utterly destroyed. Until that day, the incarcerated will not know peace.

We brothers will fight if necessary and we know we shall win, as we are confident in the victory of "good over evil, of good over evil."


						Leroy Martin, #38687-066

To: The American Public

Hello, my name is James Joseph Owens and I am a federal prisoner who's been at Marion, Illinois effectively since April 12, 1982 and moved to the ADX when it took over the mission of Marion. I was with the first group to arrive at the ADX on November 30, 1994.

Who ever discovered the idea of conceiving of an ADX, of investing $16,000,000 of tax payer dollars in its construction, and millions more into its operation, necessarily had to have been a very sick individual or group. For only a for real racist mentality could be so inhumane. His national origin is insignificant. Even if he was Black, he was a damned fool who's able to psychologically disassociate his-herself totally from 90% of this entire society. For the ten months into the ADXs existence has made it the revelation of an ancient old prediction, just as the Supreme Court done in the case of Cleavenser v. Saxner 88 L.Ed 2d 29 page 517 "prison administrators will violate the 8th Amendment Cruel and Unusual Punishment clause if there is no protection by way of community observation." The Supreme Court, though correct, was short sighted. The ADX is committing murder.

I personally nearly died from sleep deprivation on March 10, 1995 when my blood pressure became abnormal after no sleep in four months from multiple counts per night.

Also, I was placed in a cell with human feces cluttering the walls for the mere fact that I chose to exercise my right at a disciplinary hearing demanding to see the FBI to take my fingerprints as law allows at 28 CFR Sect. 0.85 cb after three officers placed a real handcuff key in my cell when I was mourning a third brother's death in an eleven month period; when I had no property in my cell and had only been in there 1 1/2 days.

The good thing about a multi-racial society is that it shows to all mankind that he is related to everyone on the planet and should have love them if he can. The problem with a multi-racial society is that if one is a RACIST-IN-POWER he ignorantly disowns everyone other than his mob, and finds ways to murder his fellow countrymen with the likes of the ADX.

Write to your Congressmen, tell them you do not support sophisticated murder such as the ADX.

Thank you for this moment.


						James J. Owens, #a0305-131

Dear CEML Members,

On November 28, 1994 the entire E-Unit at Marion was transferred here! The following is a summary of what has occurred since that time.

1. Prisoners are confined in box car type cells. Women are employed here but male guards began to antagonise and write inmates up placing them in the hole, on bogus assault charges. It came to my attention that when ever a staff says a convict assaults them, they are given a couple of days off with pay. But with 51 females here and 271 males for a year in a closed in building. You may infer why our transfer here was resented.

Two Marion prison guards were seen here. A Lt. Ramey told inmates on the yard, "If you all raise hell in here and tear up things these people will give you what you want." I have 3 witnesses who heard him say this. Leroy Martin 38687-066, Mario Villabona 89696-012 and Antonio Coleman. But I warned them that it was a trick by Ramey to get more of his goons from Marion up here. I was in E-Unit from November 28 1994 to May 1995. During that time, a prison guard, Marty Maness, was left in E-Unit for 3 quarter changes to write inmates up and aggravate their use of the law libraries! Or those who file writs or B-P-8s, i.e. administrative grievances.

2. The guards who were writing the incident reports are "white mates." I have filed for FOIA information for this, but they have not produced information yet.

I know there is sexual harassment here for I've heard females holler "Turn me loose!!", "Why do you keep fucking with me!!" It's a shame a woman must put up with such in order to have a job! But, with 271 males to 51 females and all males are in investigative and decision making, the women are vulnerable and helpless! The captain, a tuberculosis looking employee from Marion with Ramey, has initiated the same aggravation and harassment used at Marion, but here they have more toys, electronic gadgets to play with.

A. Spike mikes, they listen during the day and night and transmit thumping and sharp cracking sounds.
B. Built in sirens in each unit. Used at one time every 2 hours, 24 hours/day.
C. Multiple opening and slamming of doors all through the night.
D. And the old favorite of Marion by shining bright search lights in your face, i.e. eyes, at night, to deprive of sleep.

3. The education programs allowed here will be of no benefit to anyone on the streets. Nor is a rightful alternative allowed! My release date is 1/2/96. But with the 5 write ups by Marty Maness, that's an extension to that date! But no education course is available to which there is a current market for!

4. You have heard of the Furhman Tapes in L.A. California! Well a lot of racism exists here by the guards and discrimination practices. Why is so little percentages of Black women, Black men, women and minorities hired here, but 67% of all employees here are white males! I've filed in court for injunctive relief. But it was denied. Evans vs. Bill Story U.S., denied without a hearing. But see 28 C.R.P.50. 14. 3. My position is that if more women and minorities are hired, the climate would change. This prison is the safest for women to work in. No contact. Out in cuffs only!

						Isiah Evans III, #80146-020
P.S. There is a type of parasite, a tick, which guards in Marion use to put on people or in their clothes. It burrows beneath the skin and itches. Well here they have a full epidemic of them. And how can a tick get into a prison? If they are brought inside and planted.

Will you believe that in talk about lack of prison space, a whole unit has been closed down up here for lack of convicts. Also a whole section of B Unit has been closed down. I wonder why?

Dear CEML,

I hope this information finds the committee well. We have boredom, tedium, depression, sadness, or simply the blues of sensory deprivation and mental stagnation of 23 hours a day of confinement. In most cases prisoners are merely looking at a blank wall or the steel bars with no conception or pictures of the voice he is hearing entomb him 23 hours a day. This sometimes creates psychopathic, emotional distress, memory loss, deja vu for surely this is the twilight zone. I hope that you find this interesting. Let me hear from you upon receiving this info that I'm providing you. Good luck.

						Troy Hicks, #17887-034
P.S. Give everyone my regards.


The manifestation of control units in America ushers in the existence of apartheid for the 21st century secure in the rubric of conspiracy disguised as constitutionally confronting crime. The real question is does it reflect human rights violations?

In actuality the political and social containment of growing discontent, and the resistance against the trend of racism and economic oppression are the motives which are disguised by double speak thru Madison Avenue promotional mix for the Government and its agencies.

Wall Street's marketing strategy for investment in the privatization of prisons and related industries, coupled with proliferation of state and government prisons all over the United States and its colonies, securing continued labor forces, using the strategy with NAFTA Agreement, insures a protracted struggle for human rights protection against human rights violations.

Clearly, the rush to pass the new Crime Bill's death penalties were not aimed at the protection of the "citizen" or victims of crime but rather, by their nature, the 60 new death penalties under federal statute are aimed at the protection of the state and their anticipation of resistance.

The role of control units to contain the most politically aware, as well as the political prisoners and prisoners of war of National Liberation Movements and the seasoned veterans against prison repression serves as a reminder of the true intent which accounts for the vast amount of time given for non-violent offenses with no anticipation of release. These conditions provide a vehicle to raise the level of public conscience.

The major question we must address is, will we be able to present these circumstances against this force which would shock the conscience of the masses, guiding them to respond effectively and decisively.

The task facing CEML which historically has attacked the control unit at Marion at the onset of its tactical use, in 1983, with the federal prison system remains to continue its work by effectively presenting the correct analysis and work.

Support for CEML and the National Campaign to Stop Control Unit Prisons provide a very important vehicle to raise their level of struggle.

The battle to expose prisons and the inter-relationship to racism and crime is an old one but now there exist new tactics and strategies.

The re-emergence of chain gangs in various states, the legally justified acts of brutality in the many gulags in America must be confronted on all levels.

The work is essential by members of the New African Liberation Front, as well as Sister Tanaquil and Brother Dhoruba, and the Pelican Bay Information Project of California. These forces are maintaining the umbilical relationship between those of us inside with the "Free World," humanizing the prisoners in the face of demonization.

The question of fighting crime in the community in America is a real issue that must not be side stepped or evaded. The root solution for crime today must be a mass based community control solution in order to effectuate real results as well as its essentialness to self-determination and liberation.

To allow conditions which predispose people to crime and the results thereof, by evading our responsibility which will allow the implementation of fascist, racist and abusive power, creating conditions of totalitarianism, is a grave mistake. We must not be fooled.

The battle to stop control units will become a very important endeavor in the ensuing struggle in the 21st century. Hopefully, it will enlist an element which has not as of yet been motivated.

As a prisoner of war who has been in two control units, I'm encouraged by your work and presence. The struggle will be intense.

We want our freedom anyway. Our freedom is your freedom anyway.

						Stiff resistance,
						Dr. Mutulu Shakur, #83205-012

Dear CEML;

I received your letter, dated, 8-25, and I appreciate you taking the time to write to me. I also appreciate your efforts and work at CEML. I hope the fall program goes well, and I send my best regards and best wishes to everyone who attends. It's very heartwarming to know that people care and are concerned.

You asked me to comment about Florence ADX, and I shall do so, even though I'm not sure I know the words which can adequately explain some of my feelings and opinions. I doubt seriously if the words exist which can truly portray the deep feelings of loneliness, depression, degradation, alienation, and despair, which I've experienced in only seven months of being caged in Florence ADX. I speak my feelings, regardless of the reprisals that are sure to come, even if they're indirect. My mind, soul, and body, have become numb to harassment, ridicule, censorship, broken promises, and nothingness.

In court, a person found guilty of a crime, is sentenced to serve time in a prison, and their physical freedom is lost. The sentence and the loss of freedom is their punishment, and they aren't supposed to be punished again while in prison, month after month, year after year, in the most abject manner.

I constantly ask myself if this is the humanity which the Constitution implies, and is this what a so-called Christian society calls justice. Even animals at shelters are treated more humanely. The government brainwashes and teaches society to want this and to pay for it, as prisoners are exploited and used as scapegoats for all of society's problems, and for all of the government's problems.

It would seem that being warehoused in cages for years would be punishment enough, yet here at Florence ADX, we're viewed by many of the staffers, as being feral and implacable, and that we must be tamed. All I recall ever asking for or expecting, is to be treated and recognized as a human being.

Our mail is harassed, read, copied, and often delayed, while our two fifteen-minute phone calls each month, are listened to, recorded, and listened to again and again. Visitations are often very difficult to get approved, if at all, and even when family members visit, they too are treated like prisoners. They resent us having any outside ties with friends and family, and they try very hard to discourage it. Often at night, we can hear them laughing as they read our outgoing letters, or hear them discussing things we say. Many of them think (very wrongly) that our personal lives and the personal lives of our friends and family members, is/are some of their business or concern. It isn't; not at all.

One gets the feeling that many of the people working here, were sent here from other prisons, either because promotions were very slow for them, or else they had problems in other prisons and couldn't adjust to the environment. Therefore, after arriving here, they become overeager and attempt to exude their very little power over the totally powerless, and prisoners are exploited for promotions.

Some staffers also develop personal vendettas, and they take our legal cases personally. I've never murdered anyone; I've never raped a woman, and I've never molested a child, or harmed anyone. I'm in Florence because I escaped, which is the crime that the Bureau of Prisons views as being the worse crime there is, thus, I'm hated here by staff members.

The media was correct when they said that the Florence ADX prison would house the "worst of the worst." They forgot to mention that they meant the staffers (some of them). Thank you.

Note: Carolyn sometimes asks me why I never smile when I take pictures in here. I really try to smile, but somewhere between my lips and the camera lens, my smile fades. Maybe it's because of the environment, or maybe it's the way the staff members look through me, as if I don't really exist. In here, it can only be existing, because we aren't living.

					In love & togetherness,
						Woody Raymer, #09346-074

Dear Friends,

I've been in Florence, Colorado since February 15, although I've yet to see a buffalo. Since entering ADX I haven't seen anything that falls into the category of living except for my few neighbors. When another political prisoner was transferred from Marion to ADX on February 14, I was ready the following day because they've shown a propensity to run these so-called "high profile" shuttles back to back (2 prisoners per Lear Jet). Sure enough, they're at my cage the morning of the 15th. Breakfast in Marion, Illinois; lunch in Florence, Colorado.

February 15, morning, I get taken to R&D (processing) and then to what passes for a hospital in the joint. Legironed and cuffed I get a government memo put under my nose. The BOP regional director has authorized them to do an abdominal X-ray. I refused to sign a consent form, but it was of no consequence. Up goes the shirt, down go the drawers, and I get radiated (but missing my head where the real dangerous stuff is). They went into my nose, ears, and mouth with fingers and penlight. Next was a "non-intrusive" rectal search-- meaning the hack doesn't go into your rectum, but he does put his grubby hands all over your ass while snooping around with a light. If they weren't prison guards, they could be indicted for assault.

I get further trussed up and black-boxed by the UNICOR manger who ain't hardly forgot what I once told him to do with their military production. With simple movements of his thumb and fingers he made me pay for my indiscretion.

Out the door we go into a light drizzle and a gang with guns. I'm in the company of one other prisoner. The flight took approximately 2 1/2 hours -- mostly over heavy cloud cover so didn't see much until we began a descent over Colorado. This particular part of the state is scrub brush, soil erosion, and various wastes. One beauty spot is the distant allure of snow-capped peaks. We land -- my first time in Colorado since 1975 when I found myself uncomfortably close to the war the police were waging against Mexicans. The commercial areas near the prison(s) are the ultimate in tackiness, about what you'd expect from people who beg to have prisons built here. Most of the surroundings disappear as you enter the federal complex. It all disappears in ADX.

As you approach the compound, it's a bit deceiving. First thing I saw was the minimum security "camp" with its New Age veneer that houses small-time corrupt politicians, thieving public officials, embezzlers, and snitches. Next we pass by the medium security FCI, which is not quite so art deco, but no assault on the senses either. You know you're getting warm as you pass by the maximum security USP with its multiple fences, rolls of razor wire, and gun towers. (I would've been satisfied to get dumped here.) Unfortunately, we proceed to the literal end of the line for both the compound and the federal prison system -- Administration Maximum(ADX)-- looking half-buried. It isn't, but it might as well be once you're inside.

They're anxiously awaiting to process the two of us (the money, the money!). SORT's toy soldiers had told us to expect a high intensity processing at first. (SORT is the BOP version of SWAT, part of the security detail.) Basically it amounted to little more than posturing by muscle-heads with clubs. After all I've been through over the years I pay little attention to such displays unless they want to get physical. Besides, I was still pissed over that Marion pig fumbling with my ass.

My wrists were cut and bleeding from the black box so I got swabbed and bandaged. They made out a medical report stating that this was the condition I arrived in. Ever watchful over their little corner of the fiefdom.

Further into the bowels becomes disorienting. Can't see outside. I'm in here and everything else is out there -- somewhere. Took me several days just to figure out the configuration of the cell block, 12 cells per tier, 3 tiers per block, over and under. My traveling companion and I opened up a new tier. The cells are sound-resistant, designed to suppress human sound. Forget casual conversations. And yet, there really is an echo in the cell when you speak (which isn't often unless you want to talk to yourself). A cough sounds like a racket ball carom.

You get a standard B&W idiot box. First time I snapped it on I see the face of Flush Rush Limbaugh spread across the screen. He plays like a bad omen. I got a concrete bunk, felt strip mattress, and steel toilet. A telephone booth-size shower further restricts our movement outside the cell. Water comes out in 90-second sprays that makes me feel like a house plant. The outer door is solid steel with a peep show panel of plexiglass. Through this door is a small trap of dead space, then a second door of steel bars. Can't see left nor right-- only the wall across from the cell. Meals are in cell. Lots of strip searches and cell shakedowns. All movement is in restraints.

"Outside rec" is an area at the base of the cell block. There are high concrete walls with numerous sides -- I'd guess the longest about 140 feet, another about 2/3 of that, and the others considerably shorter. As a runner I find this particularly troublesome. The surface is concrete and very uneven. Look straight up and it's criss-crossed with I-beams and covered with steel mesh. Look through this and you can see a patch of blue. Two other prisoners were recently added to this tier so four of us rec in this area. "Inside rec" is a cell about 30 x 15 feet with chin-up bar. Sound resistant plexiglass walls separate each rec cell, with only one prisoner per solitary rec. They alternate outside and inside rec.

When I first arrived there were approximately 58 of us here, spread out through various cell blocks. On Feb. 21, forty prisoners from Marion's D-block arrived. These are the same guys the BOP tried but failed to transfer to ADX on Jan. 11. (I've written about this fiasco elsewhere). ADX capacity is 550.

Isolation appears to be the cornerstone of ADX. One underlying purpose is to inflict enough sensory deprivation and psychological pain to have prisoners desperate for transfer. (Once they're gone, they're someone else's problem.) It won't work for any constructive end, but that's beside the point.

This yellow ribbon war on crime is about money and power, who profits and who suffers. Corrections used to be the bottom feeders slowly but steadily eating up their relatively small portion of taxpayers' dollars. No more. Today we have this huge swine with its snout deeply implanted in the public trough. Neocons, liberals and closet fascists make noise about money spend on Aid to Families with Dependent Children, yet throw enormous sums into a bottomless rat-hole of concrete dungeons.

The only program I'm in is sleep deprivation, with the constant clanging and banging of electronic doors throughout the night as well as the periodic flashlight beam in the face and cacophony of idle guards. It sometimes feels like the methamphetamine boogie.

This is the first time I've occupied a virgin cell. No one has lived in this cell before me. I've never had a new house, new apartment or new car, but now I've damn sure got a new cell. There's something about occupying a proto-techno-fascist's architectural wet dream that leaves me feeling the loneliness of the long-distance runner in worn out shoes. I may already be in my grave.

Shortly after arriving I received a copy of the Feb 5 Sunday Denver Post with bold front page headline "America's Most Dangerous." There are 7 show-and-tell photos, including mine. If I hadn't been subjected to so much of this yellow dog journalism in the past, I'd think the Post's editors have lost their minds. The article purports to profile the type of prisoners sent to ADX and expresses wonder with the Administrative control-unit model.

						Ray Luc Levasseur, #10376-016

Dear Friends,

A friend of mine told me to write you, that you wanted to hear from some of us. I got to U.S.P. Marion, Illinois on 6/95. Guards that's what they told me I had to work my way out of U.S.P. Marion. The "Program." Apparently as a result of the first congressional hearings and observations by congressional consultants, Marion authorities developed what they call a graded unit program, whereby one can supposedly "earn" one's way out of Marion. The program provides for a person to move from the least privileged setting (22.5 hours a day in cell) to the next level ("C-Unit") (21.5 hours a day in the cell) to other privileges permitted, yet still no contact visits). "As a general rule for an inmate to be considered eligible for C-unit, he will need at least 12 months clear conduct." B.O.P. Marion institutional Supplement 5220.4b. One is eligible to move to B-unit after 18 months clear conduct at Marion. B.O.P. Marion institutional supplement 5220.3a. The "program" is totally stopped up, such that people with 24 and 36 months of clear conduct have not been moved out of the least privileged units.

Often those who have accumulated this much time with clear conduct receive arbitrary disciplinary reports. The same conduct which is condoned on one day is condemned the following day. The effect of a disciplinary report is to wipe out all the accumulated clear conduct. Men have "forfeited" years of clear conduct for "offenses" such as having a towel placed on the bars. At one point the warden indicated that at least half the population was eligible to move up. What does this say about the legitimacy of authority? Now they (staff) play that same B.S.! here a very good example of this. They (staff) would not let convict Huerta Heriberto #38827-115 send money to his mother from his inmate account. They gave him an incident report for asking a family member to send money to his mother and son. There's nothing wrong with that at all. It ain't against policy to call and ask to send money, to a family member that is also in prison. I got here on 2-21-95 and their policy here is the same B.S. Like Marion they send who they want. I have over two (2) years clear conduct and I went to this hearing for J-Unit on 3/3/95. I was shot down 6 months, no reason given to me.

But here is a very good example. They do what they want. Nich Gonzles came with me from Leavenworth K.C. to Marion. He has the same clean conduct of time. He was allowed to go to J-Unit. I have seen convicts go to this unit but not me; that's discrimination towards me. To date, no justification has been presented to me to determine why any other convict should be treated any differently than me here. This General Population and step-down unit operations is just like the Marion program, just different words and a lot of Bull Shit. Here is a BP-a and you will see they never answer the issue at all.

I believe the ADX regimen of extreme isolation amounts to a form of psychological warfare. I don't think it's designed to drive people crazy exactly, but to break them. That's why they have the "nuts" rec by themselves and other inmates that don't come out of their cells. The files and logs here prove that! I have to deal with not only the Catch 22's of B.O.P. policy but the long-term effects of solitary confinement, about which little is known -- none of it good. If I lock you up in your room for 22 hours a day, you're not going to get into too much trouble. But when they let you out, you're going to get into trouble you would never have seen before. I have never met anyone who's been exposed to isolation and abuse whose attitude didn't harden. I know a lot of people that were sent here that never got shots or caused any problems at all. Ronnie Bruscino is one of them. He got sent to USP Marion from Lompoc, CA. They just didn't want him at Lompoc no more. He has the paper work to prove it! I'm a very good friend of Luis Talamantez. Him and his staff did a good job on that Pelican Bay case in California. Well I better close this for now. You can use this letter and BP-a for your article or whatever you want to say or write. Take care of yourself.

						with lots of respect

						George Bustamente, #68872-012

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