This is the second of our regular reports on incidents where prisoncrats censor MIM Notes, correspondence between MIM and a prisoner, or revolutionary books MIM sends to prisoners. As before, the accuracy of this list is limited by the nature of state repression. For example, when a prison censors MIM Notes, that prison is not always required to send notification. In order to distinguish between conscious censorship and bureaucratic SNAFUs - prisoners are moved often, making it difficult to stay in touch, and some prisoners just stop writing - MIM sends letters to prisoners who may have been censored explaining the situation and letting them know how they can fight to get their MIM Notes. More and more frequently, even these letters are censored.
States which have censored MIM Notes or MIM Theory within the last six months to
eighteen months are marked on the map on this page:
(http://www.prisoncensorship.info/archive/etext/mn/mn257.pdf) States which censored MIM Notes in the past six months: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin.
States not listed above which censored MIM Notes in the last eighteen months (we may have no evidence of censorship in these states over the last six months either because they cleaned up their acts or the managed to sever communications between prisoners and MIM): Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia. Of particular note, MIM recently stopped sending newspapers to the SCI Green prison in Pennsylvania because the administration there consistently censored them. Several prisoners, tired of receiving rejection notices and not getting any response to their grievances to the administration, asked us to stop sending MIM Notes to save money. One prisoner has started to work on a lawsuit to stop the prison's censorship. Censorship is nothing new at SCI Green. The prison houses Mumia Abu Jamal and created new regulations to deny him access to media interviews. SCI Green is one of the prisons that admits it censors MIM Notes because of its political view that armed struggle will be necessary to eradicate oppression although it does not admit the hypocrisy in that position (see article below). A prison in Oregon rejected MIM's journal on anarchism and communism because of symbols on its cover. A Washington prison rejected an issue of MIM Notes because it contained "propaganda re: anti-imperialist mass organization of prisoners."
Of course, not every prison admits it censors for political reasons. Some hide behind asinine regulations. For example, a prisoner wrote to us explaining how the "two book" rule at the Delaware Correctional Center is a form of "Cruel and Unusual Punishment". First it turns out that for no reason the administration confiscated a reference book on criminal law that he ordered from a publisher for $250.00. Upon complaining about this the administration cited a "two book" rule and proceeded to confiscate religious and political books in the name of this rule. He says: "I can't practice my religion because of this rule. I showed them cases where courts have deemed 25 books to be an adequate amount to have for religion and that as long as a prisoner's case is in court there should be no limit on law books but they didn't care." Oregon prisons deny materials from MIM, claiming they only allow books "from the publisher." Prisoncrats recently denied MIM permission to send in books (although Amazon.com has permission, even though they are not a publisher). A United Struggle from Within prisoner is leading the battle to get materials besides MIM Notes into Oregon prison.
Prisoners in some states have fought and won battles against the censorship of MIM Notes or MIM Theory - with the help of MIM and its allies. (This does NOT mean that censorship within the state has been stopped entirely.) For example, an Oregon prisoner recently wrote, "On 10 October, a hicktown oinker that worked in my housing unit confiscated the 1 Sept & 15 Sept issues of MIM Notes because he thought that they were 'gang-related' and constituted a threat. I went the normal route, not expecting to get them returned, and what a surprise it was when I did receive them: in November! The only reason I'm telling you about this is because my accomplishment using the tools of the regime was an extreme rarity. (I can't emphasize the word 'extreme' enough.) A minor victory, but victory nonetheless."
Sometimes prisoncrats do not relent, even in the face of strong public pressure. A member of the MIM Supporters Group writes, "We collected almost 1000 signatures to oppose the censorship within Michigan prisons. The response received only reiterated the statements on the rejection notices. The rejection notices typically stated that 'MIM Notes is a threat to the security and good order of the facility.' Receiving a reply which merely repeats this statement and ignores the request to justify how MIM Notes is a threat only underscores the MDOC's position as weak. MIM Notes does not pose a threat to the MDOC in the way that the prisoncrats indicate - that it could cause violence among prisoners or towards staff - but it does pose a threat to the brainwashing practices within the MDOC. There is now a different director of Michigan's DOC and MSG intends on continuing the pressure to lift Michigan's ban on MIM Notes and stop the MDOC's frequent tampering of mail sent by political organizations."
The work prisoners do to improve MIM Notes' circulation is not without costs. A prisoner in Maryland who had been receiving MIM Notes took it upon himself to begin circulating MIM Notes in the prison and get other prisoners tuned into Under Lock and Key. In his own words he explains the backlash he experienced against his political activism by the prison officials and the censorship of MIM Notes: "They held my mail for anything from two weeks to a month and they told my family that they could not visit. But what really made me hot was when the C.O. used my MIM Notes as a mop to clean up some water. I didn't even get to read them."
MIM Congress resolution: Amerikan prisons censor MIM Notes, MIM correspondence
Exerpted from a resolution by the MIM 2001 Congress.
President George W. Bush is not being censored in prisons despite his philosophy of violence as demonstrated in his bombing of Iraq [and now Afghanistan]. [N]ewspapers quoting Bush or endorsing him or his opponent [Al Gore] who also favored the war in Iraq-these papers and television stations are not so often censored. Hence when prison wardens say we should be censored for threatening "security" through our "philosophy of violence," they are attempting selectively to oppose violence of the oppressed and exploited. In addition, prison wardens are contradicting the stated beliefs of the authors of the "Declaration of Independence" and Abraham Lincoln, who said explicitly in his first inaugural address that the people have a "revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow" the government.(1)
[Such hypocricy] is inherent to the injustice system as the Mumia Abu- Jamal case proves. The prosecutor against Mumia pointed to Mumia's quoting from Mao Zedong that "political power grows out of a barrel of a gun" as evidence against Mumia in his court case. Meanwhile, MIM has yet to hear of anyone being accused by prosecutors of distributing the New York Times despite its backing of numerous wars and coups and quoting from people like George Bush Sr. and Jr. who bombed Iraq. As a matter of compromise, MIM would agree not to send its present literature to a prison if a prison warden concerned with rehabilitation only allowed pacifist literature into prison. We would accept that as a principled compromise, but there is no prison warden proposing or implementing such a policy.
Notes: 1. www.bartleby.com/124/pres31.html.