White Lit Passes VA Censors
As you will see form the attached Personal Property Request Form, I have now been granted permission by the prison admin to receive your newsletters for one year. Therefore, they shouldn't send it back to you, as they did on 12/19/07 due to "no approval."
I also received a copy of the notice your legal council sent to W.D. Jennings on 12/10/07. You and your council should know that Major K. Chris and the admin at ROSP have not limited those nefarious and racist acts to just your newsletter (per DOP 803.2 #13 [MIM(Prisons): This policy reads, " Material that depicts, describes, or promotes gang signs, language, clothing, jewelry, codes or paraphernalia, gang participation, or other gang-related activity or association"]), but also to magazines such as Vibe, XXL, King, Smooth and others. They have also gone so far as to use this all encompassing rule in disapproving personal pictures sent to inmates by family and friends.
What's odd is the fact that none of the prison staff has had any formal training in "gang-related activities" by or with any law-enforcement agencies, and they all reside in southwest Virginia where gang activity is non-existant?!
Most of their true reasons for the disapprovals is actually based on racial bias and ignorance. The racial bias comes as no surprise, as it is a daily practice to see/hear various C/O's spew racial epithets at inmates, with impunity. The ignorance comes from the fact that if they can't understand it, then it must be gang-related.
That is why W.D. Jennings will never give a detailed explanation for these blatant violations of our First Amendment rights, because he would have to expose himself and his agents lack of intellect and the laws of this land! The only language they would overstand is a civil action brought against them by an organization like yours or possibly just a threat of such an action.
Your newsletter provides inmates with the type of information the VA DOC would rather we didn't know. For us to be aware of our rights means they wouldn't be able to continue to violate those rights. They probably aren't even (or weren't) disapproving your newsletters at all VA DOC prisons until it became an issue addressed by your organization, as is the case with our magazines.
I'm now preparing to file a civil suit regarding our magazines, because even though they've disapproved a number of my Vibe and Smooth mags based on "gang-related tattoos and jewelry"(?), I just received a GQ (Jan. '08) with an article specifically on the "CRIPS" in LA. (with full page pics of gang members dressed in blue attire flashing gang signs), which should never have made it to my cell. But, because GQ is viewed as a "mainstream white publication" with a white man on the cover, I'm positive not one person opened it up to "review" its contents!
So, I hope and pray your org will do what it takes to end these racist and draconian practices of the VA DOC, as it is negatively affecting all of us incarcerated in these gulags. At any rate, I hope to be reading your newsletter soon, and I pray you can help bring some resolution to our plight.
MIM(Prisons): This report supports others coming from Virginia that any literature deemed to be “Black” is being censored at Red Onion State Prison. Comrades in Virginia state prisons should take note of the apparent need to get pre-approval for subscriptions. Comrades should go through the required steps to submit a Personal Property Request Form, so that the pigs cannot justify censorship for bureaucratic reasons.
However, it is clear that every piece of literature we send to Virginia is now being censored, including many of our letters, which are being treated as “publications” contrary to the departments own 803.2 procedure. The only mail that is being confirmed received is legal mail related to this censorship battle, which is being received up to 2 months late (a violation Sizemore v. Williford, 829 F.2d 608, 610 (7th Cir. 1999)).
We must agree with this comrade's assessment of the administration in Virginia. Our legal council has put in a commendable effort to get to the bottom of the problems we are facing in Virginia, but W.D. Jennings has yet to give us one meaningful response to our council’s requests that they follow the law.
We are currently actively searching lawyers who can help us bring a civil action against Jennings and the Virginia DOC. We are also requesting that others who are being censored get in touch with us and send us documentation of your own censorship, which we will document on our website and use as evidence in building our case.
Stop Censorship at Red Onion