Prisoners Report on Conditions in

Minnesota Corrections Facility Oak Park Heights - Minnesota

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www.prisoncensorship.info is a media institution run by the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons. Here we collect and publicize reports of conditions behind the bars in U.$. prisons. Information about these incidents rarely makes it out of the prison, and when it does it is extremely rare that the reports are taken seriously and published. This historical record is important for documenting patterns of abuse, and also for informing people on the streets about what goes on behind the bars.

We hope this information will inspire people to take action and join the fight against the criminal injustice system. While we may not be able to immediately impact this particular instance of abuse, we can work to fundamentally change the system that permits and perpetuates it. The criminal injustice system is intimately tied up with imperialism, and serves as a tool of social control on the homeland, particularly targeting oppressed nations.

[Civil Liberties] [Censorship] [Legal] [Minnesota Corrections Facility Oak Park Heights] [Minnesota]
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Censorship Battle Waged in Minnesota

I’m not sure if any of you have heard of my recent censorship battles, but let me catch you up on this ongoing and illegal censorship being perpetuated by the Minnesota Department of Corrections, or what we inside refer to as the Minnesota Department of Corruption.

While I was housed in Minnesota’s only Maximum Custody Prison, Oak Park Heights, I had been subjected to a bit of censorship. First it was censorship of my outgoing legal mail to national organizations for legal assistance in my Federal Suit. I had sent mail out in sealed envelopes, clearly marked “Legal Mail” to The Exoneration Project, The Innocence Project, The Equal Justice Project, The Legal Aid Society, The Lewisburg Prison Project, The Constitutional Rights Center for Prisoners and every envelope was opened outside of my presence by mailroom staff member “S. Henry” and sent back to me with a notice of non-delivery in which it said I had “sealed it in violation NOT Legal/Special as addressed.”

This is actually a violation of the mailroom’s own policy. DOC Policy 302.020 Procedure L.3 states that “An incoming or outgoing item purporting to be special/legal mail that fails to meet the policy requirements for designation as special/legal mail, or is otherwise questionable, is opened in the presence of offender by a supervisor.”

Yet, more than 10 “outgoing item[s] purporting to be special/legal mail” were opened outside of my presence and refused to be sent in a sealed envelope.

It gets worse though. After being forced to send these letters in unsealed envelopes, when these organizations replied, even when stamped with “LEGAL CORRESPONDENCE OPEN ONLY IN THE PRESENCE OF THE ADDRESSEE” i.e., me, the mailroom still opened all of this mail outside of my presence.

And when I had to file internal grievances to exhaust all remedies due to the PLRA, of course the DOC said that staff did not act in violation of anything, and of course the mailroom staff opened this mail outside of my presence again violating their own policy and court decisions. And so I filed in the Tenth Judicial District Court, only for the judge, Gregory G. Galler, to dismiss it as frivolous or malicious.

And then I was given disciplinary segregation for allegedly “lying and/or misrepresentation.” Which is illegal retaliation, but what does the Department of Corruptions care? None. Next came the censorship of publications I had been receiving from Critical Resistance “The Abolitionist”, this publication “ULK” and other mail from MIM(Prisons) including over 10 different mailings, News & Letters – all of which are political publications geared towards enlightening people on real world issues and express anti-Prison ideology.

When fighting the censorship, according to our “policy” we have to send an appeal to the Correspondence Review Authority(CRA). Yet when I did, the mailroom staff, Nancy Leseman responded instead. I had included the disclaimer that MIM(Prisons) affixes to ULK only for Leseman to state “All publications are reviewed on an individual basis & can at any time be denied for violating policy. An article advocates to organized disturbances within prison walls, activities in violation of facility rules.”

So, not only does she violate her own policy by not forwarding the appeal to the CRA, she violates the law when censoring publications as well.

But it only gets better from here.

Being as N. Leseman didn’t follow policy I was forced to send the appeal to her supervisor, Lt. Jason R. Hills, in which he replied, “The publication has contents that are not allowed per DOC Policy. Appeal Denied. You may appeal to the CRA.” Again clearly he violates law for censorship, and policy.

So I was forced to send the appeal directly to the CRA, which was comprised of Cris Pawelk the Associate Warden of Operations, Sherlinda Wheeler the Associate Warden of Administration, and Byron Matthews the Captain.

In their reply they said, “We have read the material and determined the content should be denied for violating MN DOC Division Directive 301.030 Contraband. One of the articles advocates for organized disturbances within prison walls and activities in violation of facility rules. All issues are reviewed on an individual basis. Any issue can be denied if any part of the publication violates policy. Publications that [sic] doesn’t violate policy is allowed. Therefore the Correspondence Review Authority is in agreement with the Mail Room’s decision and your appeal is denied.”

The next step was to appeal to the Assistant Commissioner of Corrections Nate Knutson. His reply was, “This newspaper contains graphic depiction of violence that pose a threat to facility security in violation of DOC Division Directive 301.030 Contraband. Appeal denied.”

But that’s not the end, after that I filed suit in the Tenth Judicial District Court, only for the order to be dismissed as “frivolous or malicious” because it “has no arguable basis in fact or in law.”

Now the next step is Federal Court, and and will involve even more defendants and more evidence of censorship illegally conducted. As MIM(Prisons) can accede, more than 10 of their mailings to me have been met with censorship, causing loss of money, and all with absolutely no notice or reason given by the DOC.

Censorship is this country’s way of blinding the people to only seeing what is “favorable” to them. Freedom of speech is only true if you don’t speak out against the regime. Any advocacy critical of the standard is demonized and made to look as extremist and insane. And no wonder, when 90% of the population lives only to work, the power rests upon the sweating, bleeding, starving faces of those that toil in the dirt beneath their polished shoes. Take comfort in this: If you’re being censored, it’s because they fear the truth and its power. If you’re being retaliated against, it’s because they fear you and your truth and power. People only get mad at the truth, so go piss off those pigs!

MIM(Prisons) adds: We can confirm that we received no notification of censorship as required by law for at least 10 pieces of mail sent to this comrade in 2019 that ey reported not receiving. One of these items was our guide for dealing with censorship in prison.

We commend this comrade’s persistence and eir attitude. These battles are small ones. As our regular readers know, we win some and lose some. But either way we win when we use these battles to inspire others and expose those set on oppression.

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[Censorship] [Minnesota Corrections Facility Oak Park Heights] [Minnesota] [ULK Issue 70]
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The Censorship Is Real!

Not many people understand what censorship is. They may have a vague concept based on the albums sold at Wal-Mart that block out cuss words, but they have no clue as to how deep censorship really goes.

And that’s mostly because of the censorship in and of itself. You can’t hear about what is suppressed. And this has been happening ever since words were created.

I am currently dealing with illegal censorship of at least three publications. Each of them has a few different things in common. One: They are all free to prisoners. Two: They are all political news oriented. Three: They are all against the prison industrial complex in any of its forms. Four: They are all being sent to a prisoner who has filed a Civil Suit against the Minnesota Department of Corrections: Myself.

This all started after I filed under the 42 § 1983 for guards messing me up in my last facility. All of my legal mail was opened outside of my presence before being given to me. Then they started refusing to send out mail seeking counsel to national organizations if it was in a sealed envelope. I had a stack of over 30 envelopes that clearly indicated that they were legal correspondence. So I went through the chain of command, and anyone who’s ever dealt with that already knows the outcome of the subsequent grievance & grievance appeal: staff denied all wrongdoing.

See, I’m not stupid. I have all the DOC Policy in my cell. I keep a full legal bin of State and Federal Law along with citations of case decisions. And even when I showed these fools every piece of where they violated not only their own policy, but Minnesota and United $tates Law, they only had this to say: “Well, if I have to go to Court, I guess I will.” That was the Discipline Sgt. Glen Lissowy as I showed him all of the evidence.

So after proving that the internal grievance system was completely useless, I filed a Civil Action in the District Court, only for the Judge Gregory G. Galler to deem it frivolous, and that I did not state a legal claim. Two months go by, and then I receive a notice that I am receiving a discipline for lying/misrepresentation. I was literally getting punished for filing a lawsuit against the DOC. Under Minnesota Law, this is only permissible if you lied, or filed a malicious lawsuit. I did neither; you figure that one out.

After that bit of nonsense, I received another astonishing piece of mail. A Non-Delivery Notice stating that the newspaper The Abolitionist was being censored due to it allegedly constituting a risk to the safety and security of the facility, with no further explanation. Again, I know the policy, and so I filed an appeal, which was to be forwarded to the Correspondence Review Authority (CRA). But, instead of following Policy, the Mailroom Lead Worker Natalie Leseman, responded to the appeal.

So I had to go up to her supervisor, Lt. Jason R. Hills, and cite the Policy and the Law only for him to also not follow policy and to reply to the appeal rather than forward it to the CRA. So finally, I had to mail it to the damn CRA myself. Anyone want to hazard a guess as to their response?

The Correspondence Review Authority, comprised of Chris Pawelk-AWO, Sherlinda Wheeler-AWA, and Byron Matthews-Captain, stated that they had read the material and determined the content should be denied for violating MN DOC Division Directive 301.030 Contraband because one of the articles allegedly advocates for organized disturbances within prison walls and activities in violation of facility rules.

Obviously, we all know this is not adequate to legally censor material, plus, it’s complete bullshit. So I used the second appeal and sent it to the Assistant Commissioner of Corrections, Nate Knutson. Confusingly, his reply was that the newspaper had a graphic depiction of violence and that that was why it had been denied.

While this was taking place, I received another Notice of Non-Delivery for a publication from MIM Distributors in San Francisco, CA alleging it was a “Risk to Safety & Security of Facility.” And again no further explanation was given. So I began the whole process anew. And again, Lt. Jason R. Hills failed to forward the appeal. And then the CRA failed to respond within the time permitted by Policy, and I am still awaiting word back from Nate Knutson.

The CRA did finally reply 15 days late, saying literally nothing of substance. And now I am awaiting to be approved to proceed In Forma Pauperis for a Civil Action against these poohbahs again.

But all this goes to show the lengths to which those who seek to oppress those with differing views, or who are in opposition, are willing to go. These people are willing to stake their livelihoods on performing illegal acts to people in prison, just to shut us up. And 90% of the time, they succeed.

When there are no witnesses, and no one to speak out, this type of thing goes unnoticed, and unpunished. You know they say absolute authority corrupts absolutely. If I can suppress your voice, your mail, your movements, your very life, no one will notice until you’re gone for good. Censorship is men playing god, and you’re only hearing about it because it was allowed to be said. Let that sink in.


MIM(Prisons) responds: Much respect to this comrade for all eir work fighting the censorship in eir prison. The other reason you are hearing about this censorship case is because of the independent newspaper and website run by MIM(Prisons). You won’t read about this stuff in the mainstream press. This underscores the importance of these independent institutions.

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[Censorship] [Minnesota Corrections Facility Oak Park Heights] [Minnesota]
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Fighting Minnesota Censorship Games

Okay, so yesterday I received a "Notice of Non-Delivery of Mail or Package" of a publication you sent to me that was stamped out of California on 20 August 2019. It did not properly follow MN-DOC policy or any law, even though DOC Policy Number 103.220 specifically says all employees must follow *ALL* United $tates Laws.

Up to this date, I have only received one issue of Under Lock & Key (May/June 2019, No. 68) and mail with information on "Poetry Writing Guide", "Second Introductory Letter", "Writing Articles" and "Invitation to Join Introductory Study Group 1(27)".

I have not received any other "Notices of Non-Delivery" for anything else. So if you have sent any other materials you should be aware that not only have I not received it, I never received a notice that you had attempted to send anything to me, which consequently means you most likely did not receive any notification of censorship.

This facility is and has been illegally retaliating against me for filing a civil suit against the mail-room staff and prison officials. And even though in all Supreme Court rulings they have held that I cannot be punished for filing a complaint about prison conditions to the Courts, I was given disciplinary segregation for filing a lawsuit in the Tenth Judicial District Court, in Washington County, Minnesota. This facility constantly opens my legal mail without my consent, and refuses to send sealed legal mail to Equal Justice Initiative Center for Wrongful Convictions, The Legal Aid Society, The Innocence Project, The Exoneration Project, The Lewisburg Prison Project, and will open the sealed envelope, tape it shut, and send it back to me with one of their "Notice of Non-Delivery" saying it was "Sealed in violation. NOT legal mail as addressed." The names of the mail-room staff responsible, along with the officials involved are: S. Henry, N. Leseman, Lt. Jason R. Hills, Assistant Warden of Administration Sherlinda Wheeler, and Warden Jeffrey Titus.

I just recently had to deal with these same people illegally censoring the newspaper "The Abolitionist" published by our comrades Critical Resistance. The mail-room sent me their little "Notice" and just like the one for your mail, it said "Risk to security of facility" and offered absolutely nothing else as to what in it allegedly was a "risk." So I appealed and sent a letter to Critical Resistance explaining the issue. In response to the first level appeal, Lt. Jason R. Hills claimed that "the publication contains things in violation of DOC Policy" and failed to cite anything else as is required by law. I appealed again, and have yet to get a response.

But Critical Resistance did respond, letting me know that they had not been notified by the facility, and sent a second copy of the newspaper. And guess what? Nothing in the publication violated policy at all. I sent a "kite" to Lt. Jason R. Hills with all the titles of the articles and asked him to please enlighten me as to which one had supposedly violated "DOC Policy." Obviously, he did not respond.

Anyways, if you could please take action on your end, we can hit them from two fronts for this illegal censorship and retaliation, and if you could notify Minnesota Public Radio, and other news outlets in Minnesota as to this illegal conduct, I believe it will prove as an ultimately versatile United Front against these people actively attempting to oppress and repress me. I only have numbers/addresses for the St. Cloud Times, Kare 11 News, and Fox 9 News: St. Cloud Times: 320-255-8757, 320-255-8775; Kare 11 News: 763-546-1111; Fox 9 News: 952-944-9999.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We have sent this comrade more mail than what is noted above, which was apparently censored. This includes several political theory magazines. And we received no notification of this censorship. This violation of policy, and in fact violation of law, is common in prisons across the country. Prison administrators routinely deny mail without bothering to follow their own rules about notifications and required justifications. The censorship is typically targetting political literature, but has also extended to dictionaries, bibles, and textbooks. Retaliatory censorship is alive and well in Amerikkkan prisons.

This comrade is setting an excellent example of both documenting the problem and fighting back. When we receive notifications of censorship we always alert the affected comrades behind bars. And we need prisoners to do the same for us. In addition, all rejections need to be appealed. And if you can send us your appeals and information on the censorship, we can follow up with appeal letters from our side.

This multi-prong attack on the censorship can sometimes win small victories. Occasionally we will actually get the mail in. But even when we lose the appeals we put the prison on notice that we're paying attention, and this sort of politically-motivated censorship won't just slide by without protest. And getting other organizations to stand up and protest too is important to building the strength of our voice in this battle.

Fighting censorship is only a small part of our larger fight against imperialism. But as our movement gains strength the criminal injustice system will use repression of all sorts to try to stop us. It's particularly important that we fight censorship because this is the primary way that comrades behind bars can stay in touch with the movement beyond their cellblock. Without mail, prisoners don't even have access to study materials. So we take this struggle seriously. And we call on lawyers and paralegals on the streets to get involved. We need legal support to help with these battles.

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