ADC Claims No Obligation to Honor U.$. Constitution
As our readers already know, MIM(Prisons) runs political study groups with our comrades behind bars. And as some of you know, and have experienced, the state generally finds our non-violent, non-law breaking, communist study in poor taste. In October 2009, a study group assignment for the pamphlet "What is MIM?," which included other participants' responses to the previous assignment, was mailed to a participant held in Arizona. This study group assignment was censored because allegedly it "may be obscene or a threat to security" generally, and "promotes racism and/or religious oppression" specifically. Yes, this is coming from the state that is fighting the federal government in court to be allowed to use the color of one's skin as probable cause for investigating immigration law violations.
Our comrade imprisoned in Arizona appealed this decision, and MIM(Prisons) wrote to the prison administration to request an explanation as to how this study group assignment could "promote racism and/or religious oppression" without even mentioning races, nationalities, or religions:
"It is truly fascinating that your mailroom staff could find the promotion of racism and/or religious oppression in this document. Nowhere in the letter are the following words even mentioned: religious, religion, christian, muslim, baptist, KKK, white, mexican, latino, asian or arab. The word "black" is written once in the context of a reference to the Black Panther Party's education programs. How can you even talk about religion or race enough to speak against it if you don't use any of the above mentioned words?" - MIM Distributors, Legal Assistant
No attempt has ever been made by Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) administration to address this point. ADC General Counsel Karyn Klausner offered her opinion: "I have reviewed the materials sent by MIM Distributors and find the decision to exclude the publication due to content 'promoting racism and/or religious oppression,' was appropriate." She gave no explanation of how she came to the conclusion that it was an "appropriate" violation of Constitutionally protected rights. In a later letter Ms. Klausner clarified that with this statement she didn't mean she was "upholding" the censorship in her official capacity as General Counsel of the Office of the Director of ADC, just that she agreed with it on a persynal level.
Instead of explaining how the study group mailing in any way promotes racism and/or religious oppression, ADC administrators then began to rely on their policy of violating MIM Distributors' First Amendment right to free speech and association to censor this study group assignment:
"There is nothing in case law that gives rise to a publisher's right to appeal a decision to exclude its material on an administrative appeal level. . . You are not entitled to a forum within the prison system." - ADC Director, Charles Ryan
Director Ryan clearly had not investigated the matter on the prisoner's end either. He claimed that our imprisoned comrade had not appealed the decision to censor, yet s/he had, on multiple levels, and submitted requests for the results of these appeals.
"You claim that MIM Distributors has no rights to appeal the censorship of their mail. While we are not lawyers, and may have put too much weight on the Procunier case, we still uphold that we have First and Fourteenth Amendment rights according to federal law. As employees of the state you may not deny anyone their rights to free speech and association arbitrarily and without due process. In fact, if you read Thornburgh v. Abbot, 490 U.S. 401, which you referred [COLLEAGUE] to, you will see that its procedural protection was provided because the publisher was notified of the censorship and given the right to independent review. A number of U.S. Court of Appeals decisions have upheld the right of the publisher in such instances (Montcalm Publ'g Corp. v. Beck, 80 F.3d 105, 106 (4th Cir.), Trudeau v. Wyrick, 713 F.2d 1360, 1366 (8th Cir.1983), Martin v. Kelley, 803 F.2d 236, 243-44 (6th Cir.1986) )." - MIM Distributors, Legal Assistant
And ADC's response?
"You assert that 'MIM Distributors' First Amendment right to free speech' is not being respected. The Arizona Department of Corrections is obligated to respect, within the confines of legitimate penological interests, an inmate's constitutional rights. It does not follow that ADC is likewise obliged to do the same for an independent distributor such as MIM." - General Counsel, Karyn Klausner
It is apparent that the ADC believes themselves to be exempt from the legal straitjacket of the United $tates Constitution, which they don't see as having an application in the 10th Circuit. This isn't surprising coming from an institution whose administrators believe that one can promote racial and/or religious repression without ever talking about race or religion!
Amerikans like to pretend they hold no political prisoners, yet political repression is an integral part of the U.$. injustice system at every step. In our struggle for a world without oppression, MIM(Prisons) works to build public opinion for national liberation struggles amongst prisoners through our newsletter Under Lock & Key, our free books for prisoners program, and our study groups. Within prisons, there are two primary ways in which the state enacts political repression: through physical torture techniques such as solitary confinement, forced drugging, beatings, starvation and murder; and through the control of the spread of ideas, which also includes solitary confinement as well as the censorship of mail, and outlawing oppressed nation organizations.
In pre-fascist Amerika, we are still promised certain rights under United $tates laws. While we recognize that U.$. law will never lead us to communism (a world without oppression), we still need to fight for more room to organize and educate for revolution. Fighting against the censorship of revolutionary literature is vital to maintaining the connection between the inside and out, which may make the difference between being turned on to communism or not for many people. For those already turned on, we need to fight against censorship so that we can continue to build our revolutionary understanding.
Like a MIM Distributors Legal Assistant mentioned above, we are not lawyers. We do what we can to protect our Constitutional rights from the outside with the resources we have, and we rely on prisoners to fight to maintain their rights from the inside. If there is a lawyer who wants to get involved with this specific incident in Arizona, or with anti-censorship work in general, get in touch!
You can browse incidents of censorship here.