The Army of the 12 Monkeys

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FE staff note: The Fifth Estate received the article below from an anonymous source. Only the first section appears in our print edition. We declined to print the second part, describing a prison uprising, for space reasons and for the fact that we cannot verify the accuracy of the facts described in the report. Readers can find more information about the 12 Monkeys online in various anarchist blog posts and podcasts.

The Army of the 12 Monkeys

The state [name withheld] Department of Retribution and Corruption described in this article is not so different from any other prison system in the U.S. In the midst of the Ignorance Belt, the government has been conservative since the colonizer brought the small-pox infected blankets. The Statehouse was constructed from forced prisoner labor. The prison system Director, [name withheld], formerly served as lobbyist for Corrections Corporation of America, a private-prisons profiteer, a modern slave-ship Amistad with its stock sold on the stock market. As director, the pimp-in-chief, allowed all of his corporate buddies to run the train on the public trust. All the corporations in the private-prisons rolodex grabbed a share of the predatory profits.

At [name withheld] Correctional Institution, it was business as usual. Located just a short distance north of the state capitol, it was a level 3 prison (between medium and maximum security). There, a Penal Industries factory made components for automobiles. The warden was a former security chief for the entire prison system.

This prison held roughly 2,000 prisoners in general population, divided into 16 blocks. Half of the blocks formed the “North Side” and the other half formed the “South Side,” each side with their own separate chow halls and recreation yards – two separate prisons within the prison, designed to prevent any kind of prison-wide organization. In addition, each side of the compound was further divided between 3A and 3B privilege levels. With 3B prisoners on virtual lock-down, 3A and 3B level prisoners never saw one another.

Essentially, in the inner workings of the prison, there were 4 separate and distinct prison populations, all kept from contact with each other. And yet, without warning and seemingly contrary to all possibility, thousands of flyers and manuals emerged in every single block. What’s more, they appeared in each block on the same day. All internally-imposed divisions designed to prevent prison-wide action had been completely subverted. The entire compound was saturated in flyers and training manuals, passing through the hands of every single prisoner.

The materials emerged out of nowhere, bearing the name and logo of a group calling itself the Army of the 12 Monkeys. Some of the flyers featured a Guy Fawkes image. On one side of the image, it said, “If you are a prisoner, consider this an INVITATION.” On the other side, it said, “If you are a warden, consider this a THREAT.” Below, prisoners discovered a laundry list of disruptive actions they could take to subversively attack the prison – from jamming staples into locks to cramming potatoes in the chow-hall drains; from destroying factory machinery to cutting phone cords with toenail clippers; from running water and electricity to increase the bills to uniting prisoner gangs to fight a common enemy.

Another flyer featured a quote from Malcolm X above an image of a helicopter viewed through the sights of a slingshot. In the corner was the prompting, “JUST DO IT.” Across the bottom: “This message of hope brought to you by the Army of the 12 Monkeys.” Other flyers simply had the Army of the 12 Monkeys logo taken from the movie bill of the film, “12 Monkeys,” showing monkeys arranged in a circle like a clock, with one monkey swinging from the clock’s hands, the ominous warning below: “THEY’RE COMING!”

Along with thousands of flyers were copies of manuals. The manuals were obviously computer generated, which would indicate that they were not printed by prisoners. Those manuals appeared by the hundreds. One described itself as an organizing manual, describing methods for non-hierarchic organizing of guerrilla columns for long-term resistance; another manual served as a direct action manual, seemingly brainstorming everything a prisoner could do, either individually or in small groups, to disrupt the prison complex.

The materials came out of nowhere, authored by no one, distributed by no one, with no further instructions and no one giving orders. At first, there was a conspicuous calm as the prison population took it in, as if everyone suspected that it all might be an elaborate practical joke. However, by the time the Fascist Bozos of Intimidation arrived two weeks later, the prison had become wholly and completely unmanageable.

As Much Fun as a Barrel Full of Monkeys…

It started with case managers and unit managers in one block or another finding they could not get into their offices because, inexplicably, their office door locks were jammed. They stood around useless for hours as the locksmiths went from block to block.

Prisoners watched. And laughed. And gathered up staples.

The jammed locks proliferated everywhere. In the kitchen, jammed locks on dry-goods closets halted food service day after day. Jammed locks to the factory cost weeks of production. But, the most comical lock-jamming involved a veritable symbol of oppression, the guard shacks on the compound.

On both the North and South sides of the compound were “yard dogs,” guards who patrolled the compound like glorified hall monitors. These guards came on shift and gathered at respective guard shacks on each side of the compound. The shacks were made of brick and had bars on the windows, but inside they were really quite opulent. They each had a couch, a small television with the cable hook-up, a Super-III radio, a refrigerator for food and beverages, and – get this – an air conditioner. Those shacks were the focal points of yard-dog power.

The first time rebels jammed the door locks to the guard shacks, the first-shift yard dogs were attempting to collect their lunch boxes and punch out at the end of a shift. When they discovered the sabotage, they were left for two hours twiddling their thumbs in the summer heat, awaiting the frazzled locksmith. Likewise, the incoming shift also stood around, unable to put away their lunch boxes.

Meanwhile, prisoners had the run of the compound, meeting up with friends, passing messages, conveying contraband of all sorts. And laughing at the yard dogs.

The following day, at the end of first shift, the yard dogs found the door locks sabotaged again. This time, instead of waiting two hours, they got a crow-bar from maintenance and pried the door open. Problem was, second shift had no way to lock the door. So, that evening, rebels snuck into the guard shacks and ate the yard dogs’ lunches. They cut the cords off the televisions. They stole the radios.

They left the sofa cushions smelling suspiciously like urine.

I won’t even tell you what the yard dogs found in the fridge.

The third day, when first shift yard dogs found the brand new door locks on the brand new doors jammed again, the yard dogs crow-barred the doors open and then strung ankle chains from one window, across the door, to the other window. This left the doors to the guard shacks so they could just be opened about six inches.

That night, in the six-inch gap, rebels flung zip-lock bags full of paint all over the interior of the guard shacks and left puddles of urine just inside the doors.

Each day, the prison population walked past those assaulted symbols of impotence to and from the chow hall. They saw the damage. They knew what was happening.

They laughed. And joined in.

In days to follow, prisoners tagged “12” on the outside of buildings, visible to the whole compound. The factory was chronically closed due to broken equipment. In the chow hall, sabotage caused brand new plumbing to collapse, destroying work that had cost the prison six figures to repair.

Rebels lit the kite box on fire.

“Kites” are internal mail, from prisoners to staff. By lighting the kite box on fire, prisoners were sending a clear message to the administration: “We are NOT on speaking terms.”

With fire alarms blaring, everyone stood outside to watch the smoke pour out of the vocational building. When staff’s backs were turned, occasional shouts of “12 Monkeys!” punctuated their powerless humiliation.

As resistance spread and became bolder, the administration was essentially paralyzed. Their enemy was everywhere and nowhere at the same time. The Army of the 12 Monkeys, without leaders, without organization, had no membership requirements. That is, no prisoner had to renounce prior associations, be it bloods, crips, gangsta disciples. To be a monkey, all a prisoner had to do was be a monkey. As one of the newsletters succinctly described it, there were only two rules to Monkeyism: 1. Fuck shit up; 2. Don’t get caught.

The Aryan Brotherhood, refusing to participate in any action that involved the “lesser races,” took it upon themselves to put their own covers on copies of the 12 Monkey manuals, so as to participate in a “separate” and simultaneous rebellion, seemingly of their own creation.

Something else incredibly perplexing and disturbing to prison officials as they faced this unified rebellion was a lack of demands. With no leadership, no prisoner had authority to issue demands. In the absence of demands, the administration was all the more powerless; there was not so much as an agenda they could meet in order to make the rebellion stop.

The Army of the 12 Monkeys, whatever that was, did not seek reconciliation with the prison administration on new terms. We sought the total destruction of the prison system. Our only demand for the Warden was that he surrender, for good, along with every other prison warden in the state…in the country…on the planet.

And as the rebellion continued, prisoners got a sense of their own power. When corrections officers began to be found unconscious here or there on the prison compound, responding officers calling for help would hear the call in the distance, “12 Monkeys!” In response, a lieutenant was stationed in the grass outside the chow-hall with a paintball gun. He circled stupidly, heckled by passing prisoners who nicknamed him Elmer Fudd.

“What are you hunting, lieutenant?”

“Are you hunting MONKEYS?”

“Hey, there goes one! Right there!”

“No, no. There! There’s one!”

Apart from collecting all the loose copies of 12 Monkey materials, prison staff could do very little. Any response would only legitimize the danger that the rebels posed; non-response only reinforced the administration’s impotence. So, every day, the situation deteriorated more and more. Every day, more prisoners joined the rebellion. Prison administrators were paralyzed.

The state prison administration called in the FBI.


As soon as the FBI arrived, prison officials employed a counterinsurgency response. Guards conducted sweeps in order to apprehend and lock up certain “ideological” prisoners. At the same time, prison officials leaked rumors, falsely asserting to have captured and neutralized all of the “ring-leaders,” some of whom had absolutely no affiliation with the 12 Monkeys at all. They eventually released all but four of the prisoners they had locked up, claiming the twelve monkeys were neutralized by having locked up four prisoners.

Bad math.

After the initial sweeps, the prisoner resistance intensified. Assaults on staff intensified and as the weather turned cold, rebels began smashing windows with batteries. Specifically targeted were the windows high up above the guards’ stations in the blocks. As a result, when it snowed, guards stood in the blocks with their coats on, getting snowed on.

Unfortunately for long-term resistance, we had made two critical mistakes. First, we had released the flyers and manuals at the same time. This turned out to be a serious mistake, as prisoners read the flyers and began small acts of sabotage and rebellion, but had not read the organizing or direct action manuals. Prisoners had no deeper identification than staples in locks or potatoes in drains, so when repression came, prisoners flushed the manuals and went back to compliance. Had we first introduced the manuals and given the population a chance to build their networks of resistance before releasing the flyers and promoting action, the population would have already prepared for repression and the seizure of the manuals would have mattered little since the population would have already digested the information contained in them.

Second, we had not planned in advance for alternative means to continue getting the message out. When the crackdown came, we had no access to copying machines or other means of spreading word of the rebellion, which would have been critical in order to keep the whole population involved.

As a result, over the course of a couple of months, the frequency of sabotage greatly diminished until the prison resumed normal operations.


In the wake of the 12 Monkey rebellion at the first prison, prisoners at another prison [name withheld], went on a weekend riot-binge. Most of the violence was directed at staff and when the dust settled, 40 prisoners were emergency transferred to [prison name withheld] into a segregation unit, in quarantine. When confronted with questions as to whether prison officials were consolidating the 12 Monkey prisoners in one place, officials emergency transferred 30 prisoners back out.

Rumors abound that 12 Monkey manuals have been found at one prison or another, or that other prisoners have been caught with 12 Monkey materials and shipped off to supermax. But one thing is certain: the rebellion at the first prison was of such a magnitude that the Fascist Bozos of Intimidation were on-site and directing the response in two weeks.

No doubt, the federal government recognized the danger that the Army of the 12 Monkeys posed to a singular prison; and anything that could pose a danger to a single prison, if spread, could destabilize the entire prison system; and anything that could destabilize the prison system could essentially contribute greatly to the unraveling of the larger control system. In short, the FBI response demonstrates that the federal government saw the Army of the 12 Monkeys rebellion at the prison as a serious threat to the larger order, indicating to us that we should duplicate and replicate that rebellion far and wide.

Think about what could have been. If free world folks were to access those 12 Monkey materials at and and or by going to, and print off copies…

Then, the next crisis to confront the prison industrial complex and the larger system would only require consultation with rebel prisoners to develop dozens of methods for getting those manuals into prisoners’ hands.

Imagine the possibilities, taking away the capacity to punish by tearing down the entire prison complex from the inside. Imagine 12 Monkey rebellions, not at one prison but at thirty…or a hundred…across the country…around the world.

We’re talking about an end to prisons.

We’re talking about an end to the state.

We are the future and we know it.

We are everywhere. We are growing.

Join the Army of the 12 Monkeys.

Monkey #4
Army of the 12 Monkeys