Prisoners Report on Conditions in

Pennsylvania Prisons

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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.

[Gender] [Abuse] [Pennsylvania]
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Strip Searches Only for Harassment in Pennsylvania

There is no genuine or legal justification for still using strip searches in prisons today, except to breed homosexuality and cause aggressive sexual assaults, using it as a punishment to humiliate someone. I can prove without a doubt that times have changed/evolved and this strip naked prison rule is outdated. Modernized technology has invented what is called x-ray machines, which are used to search/see the body without forcing nude search. Prisoncrats provided prisons with sufficient funds to purchase, provide such x-ray machines. Prison staff, in their sadistic practices and policies to punish captives, refuse to use the x-ray machines for body searches.

Metal detectors are stationed throughout the prison, checkpoints forcing captives to walk through them, in their policy to confiscate any and all illegal metal objects. Captives are never asked if they are allergic to the radiation of the metal detectors or x-ray machines, which explains the prison staff's complete disregard for the physical or psychological effects on the captives.

We captives of the Pennsylvania state prisons ask for legal advice in our desires to sue the Dept of Corrections for forcing the strip search policies. We live during advanced technologies and modernized minds, which dictates, strip searches are outdated, violates religious rights, breeds sexual predators, and are methods used to harass, humiliated and harm captives. Not to mention strip searchings are methods used identical to the times of slavery.

If for no other humane reasons, prison strip searches needs to be abolished, eliminated, minimized, because state prisons have been provided with the needed and necessary machinery and manpower to secure prison grounds and facilities. The time is here. We the state captives in Pennsylvania prisons ask any and all judicial scholars and students of civil law, for legal advice, and to petition the courts to abolish all prison strip search policies.

There is the questions raised about prison security being vulnerable, and breached, if the strip search policy are eliminated. Such positions, beliefs or arguments are simply said to continue this long practice of psychological slavery in prisons. When in fact, x-ray machines detect any metal or foreign objects and contraband. Therefore, since state prisons have x-ray machines and metal detectors on facility grounds, it shows any need to search a subject can be done without the need of such said subjects being forced to disrobe, strip naked. Which means, if the metal detectors and x-ray machines they have are not successful to secure the prison facilities, then their machines are obsolete and obtained falsely.

However, if such machines and technologies are vital and essential to the security orders of running the prisons, then strip searchings are deemed obsolete and performed falsely. It is our contention, challenge, calling, that because x-ray and metal detector machines are used, that shows strip searches are no longer needed or necessary. Which proves strip searching are being used simply as a form of the prison's psychological punishments.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections state prisons has implemented a new policy against sexual assaults/harassments, called the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). This PREA policy exposes its own ineffectiveness and prejudicial punishment, under the disguise of prosecuting sexual harassment and/or predators. To prove that this new PREA policy has been designed to minimize and eliminate sexual assaults in all of its manifestations on prison grounds. Then, strip searching would also be minimized or eliminated as a means to sexual assaults and sexual harassments on state prison grounds.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer makes an important point: guards use strip searches as a form of gendered power that humiliates and degrades prisoners. But we don't agree that this abuse of power causes guards (or prisoners) to become homosexual. And even if that was possible, it's patriarchal society that teaches people to use gender for power and abuse is the problem. There is no evidence that any sexual orientation is more predatory than any other. We need to focus on the real enemy here: the partriarchy which trains people to enjoy the abuse of gender power.

Prisoners are in a unique position in that they face gender oppression as a part of their imprisonment. This is true of both male and female prisoners. Strip searches are a good example of this gender oppression. This writer raises a good point about the abuse of power, and specifically gender power, that happens every time there is a strip search. This degrading practice is not for security, as this writer clearly demonstrates.

Identifying this form of oppression and calling it out for people to see is the first step in fighting back. The idea of using PREA to fight strip searches is an interesting approach. We'd like to hear from others who are fighting strip searches about what tactics are and are not working. Ultimately gender oppression in prisons isn't going away while we have a criminal injustice system serving imperialism. The patriarchy is an integral part of this system. But we can sometimes win smaller battles against these forms of humiliation and degradation.

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[Abuse] [Gender] [State Correctional Institution Somerset] [Pennsylvania]
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Retaliation for PREA Report in PA

I am an incarcerated person in a Pennsylvania Department of Corrections prison named SCI Somerset, located in Somerset, Pennsylvania. An incident happened on 9 January 2017 at 1600 hour count (4pm). The regular 2-10pm Sergeant (Sergeant Baserman) and Officer Reesman were walking past my cell to conduct inmate count. After they passed I needed to use the bathroom, so I turned my back towards my cellmate (so I wouldn't get a write up) and faced the door. The Officer and Sergeant came back around to go up the stairs, which is by my cell. Sergeant Baserman, who was second to go up the steps, stopped on the 3rd step and looked directly over at me. As soon as I noticed I yelled "do you mind I'm using the restroom" the Sergeant continue to watch me until I was finished using the restroom.

Later the same evening I sat down and wrote out what happened and asked to file a PREA report (Prison Rape Elimination Act) against Sergeant Baserman. I placed this in a plain white envelope and addressed it to the PREA Lieutenant, DL Abbott. Three days later I went to be interviewed by Lieutenant Abbott. He stated he was going to pull the camera footage. In the meantime I would be interviewed by the Psych Department to see if mentally I was okay, then interviewed by the Pennsylvania State Police. Within a week I saw both the Psych department and the Pennsylvania State Police. The Pennsylvania State Police said during my interview they couldn't find any video footage but would go back and look again. I heard nothing after that interview.

About a week later I went on writ for court to SCI Benner Township. I was gone for almost a month. The day after I came back I was called up and served with a misconduct. I was written up because they say they couldn't find camera footage and said I made up a story. A week later, I went in front of the hearing examiner S. Wiggins. Despite never having another misconduct on me or even a block card (a negative housing report) and being a model prisoner, this hearing examiner still found me "guilty" and sanctioned me to 30 days cell restriction, which is total confinement away from general population.

My family then emailed the facility PREA Coordinator Mr. Allen Joseph (also a deputy here) asking for his help in regards to this misconduct. A few days later he called me over to an office, along with my unit counselor, and states he had gotten an email from my family and didn't care if we chose to expose the conditions of the prison as my family had stated. He stated also that I deserve the punishment I received. After this meeting I returned to my cell. Let the record reflect, that I was still on the same housing unit with this Sergeant and there had been nothing but retaliation since that with the Sergeant. My family also contacted Central Office for PREA, who also stated this prison is in the wrong.

For the record, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Inmate Handbook, which is given to every prisoner when arriving to their home prison, page 7, section 8, Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) DC-ADM008 number 2, the last sentence reads "you will not be retaliated against for reporting an incident of sexual harassment or for providing witness testimony." This prison has clearly violated this and continues to violate this and many other PA DOC policies. They interpret policies the way they want and enforce them how they want. Even Superintendent Wingard does nothing to help the situations in here and instead helps make it worse by sticking up for his staff whether they are right or wrong. Please take a stand with me and expose these prisons on their intolerable wrongdoings and let them know they can't get away with this. Join with me and take a stand!


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade exposes what we've heard from other prisoners: the "Prison Rape Elimination Act" or PREA is at best ineffective and at worse turning into a tool for abuse and retaliation against those who attempt to make PREA reports. We need to continue to expose these situations. And we ask our readers to chime in on whether there is a better tactic we should consider to fight these abuses. While we often try to use the law to our advantage, filing reports and lawsuits even when we don't expect to win, we are hearing more stories of retaliation than victories using PREA.

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[Abuse] [Pennsylvania]
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Mail Issues for Migrant Prisoners

I am here in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, and like so few, I try every day to understand the ignorance of not only the staff but also my comrades. They are closed-minded when it comes to life outside the United States and they do not want to listen to some knowledge from someone who is a foreigner, as I am illegal and have no family here in this so-called great country. I really do not see it, as the only thing I came here to do is make money and return back to my homeland with the funds.

As time progressed, I was captured and brought to justice as the newsmedia reported. Well, the reason I'm even writing this is to give someone else the insight and knowledge about how difficult it is to keep in touch with your loved ones outside the United States.

A one-ounce U.S. postal letter costs $1.15 to start with. The Department of Corrections wants you to keep in touch with your loved ones or get a support system, yeah ok. Tell me how, when you can't get a bar of soap to wash yourself, but I'm going to make a telephone call to my loved ones at a rate of $38 for 15 minutes, and the monthly payroll I receive is only $12 a month with 30% of that taken out for court/admin costs.

That then leaves me enough to send one or two letters that never arrive there. They claim that once it leaves the institution, it is up to the U.S. Postal Service. The Department of Corrections charges me for international mail rates but I don't get "return to sender" services with it, and like I just said, sometimes it gets lost in delivery.

Where is my mail going to? When the post office tells me to spend money on tracking numbers, but U.S. mail is not the same as international mail, so once it leaves U.S. waters and then enters international waters, the U.S. tracking number becomes null and void and the money is gone just like the mail.

I am trying my best to learn American English, not only to fight for myself but also the next foreigner that gets in trouble in this so-called great country. So, with no help or support I sit here in the tomb and write in hopes that maybe someone will respond and be able to help me out with the necessary logistics, and moral support, etc.

The ignorance and apathy of some of these so-called Americans eats me inside. Why not try to do better for not just yourself but your loved ones? But they act like there is no future for them.

For all my comrades all over the world, I send my blessings and urge you to never stop the fight & struggle.

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[Abuse] [State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh] [Pennsylvania]
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SCI-Pittsburgh Shutting Down

I write this letter to report that SCI-Pittsburgh is shutting down due to political reasons. I'm an SRTU (Secured Residential Treatment Unit) prisoner. The SRTU is designed to provide management, programming and treatment for prisoners who exhibit serious mental illness, chronic disciplinary issues, and demonstrate an inability to adapt to a general population setting. According to what Pennsylvania DOC policy states, all inmates are to be transferred to other prisons. The approximate shut down date is June 30, 2017. Staff, officers and prisoners will be relocated between now and June 30.

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[Mental Health] [Control Units] [State Correctional Institution Greene] [Pennsylvania]
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Mentally Ill Prisoners: the Real Dilemma

It has come to my attention that inmates with serious mental illnesses (SMI) are being abused on a daily basis here at this institution.

The problem lies in what are termed Psychiatric Observation Cell (POC) Overflow here in Restricted Housing Unit (RHU – Solitary Confinement). The POC is basically suicide watch. Per policy, these POC are to be located inside the medical unit, therefore be monitored closely by medical staff and properly trained officers; a hospital-like environment. However, more often than not, the POC in medical is full or has unserviceable cells for whatever reason. Then the first seven cells on FC block are used to house prisoners in need of POC.

The staff are persistent in claiming that the POC overflow cells are the same as POC in medical. Nothing could be further from the truth. These prisoners are treated no differently than prisoners in solitary confinement are treated. Meals are often denied these humyns, and showers are non-existent. Additionally, these prisoners are often the target of prisoners in the other regular cells that house solitary confinement/disciplinary custody, and are verbally abused. If they were housed in POC at medical, they would receive their showers and steps would be taken to ensure they get all their meals and then some.

These inmates are often psychotic and/or suffering from intellectual disabilities. There is a tendency to wreck havoc on prisoners on FC for disciplinary custody (non-POC) being disruptive and a major cause of sleep deprivation. I am firm in my belief that this is done intentionally by the fascists as a means of control. Who can resist when sleep is non-existent? I know that something needs to be done! I thank MIM(Prisons) for giving me an outlet for my frustration at things going on around me. Together we will make change happen!

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[Abuse] [State Correctional Institution Benner] [Pennsylvania]
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Cruel Denial of Access to Bathrooms at SCI Benner

It has been over a year now since the staff at SCI-Benner placed a padlock on the inmate's bathroom door, because two inmates were allegedly indulging in a sexual act. This is the only bathroom available for the inmates to use in the education building. Now we have to report to the guard's deck and wait on him to open the bathroom. Since this absurd procedure started, numerous inmates had to file grievances, because they were denied by the guard to use the bathroom. Just last week, an elderly inmate was forced to urinate on the carpet in the law library, because the guard refused to allow him to use the bathroom. This incident infuriated the librarian.

Placing a padlock on the bathroom door won't stop a sexual behavior that has been around for centuries. The staff think that inmates have an off and on button that control their urine, because several of the guards become arrogant or get irritated when an inmate ask to use the bathroom.

This inhuman decision not only exposes the administration's irrational thinking, but the passiveness of the inmates abiding to this cruel procedure. To cooperate passively with an unjust system makes you no better than your oppressors. Power precedes nothing without a demand, it never has and it never will, and a demand is only as good as the force which backs it. God will not change the condition of a people until they first make an effort themselves.

If you don't stand up for something, you'll be treated as nothing. And if you don't believe that the pen is mightier than the sword, then try it.

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[Censorship] [State Correctional Institution Graterford] [Pennsylvania]
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Censorship Victory in Pennsylvania

I have received some good news. Executive Secretary of Corrections Shirley Moore-Smeal of Pennsylvania DOC has fired two of the mailroom staff here at this prison. These staff were found to be stealing and discarding mail from prisoners that they didn't agree with or didn't like the contents of. The study group material was among the mail these two staff stole and destroyed. Ms. Moore-Smeal made it clear to all staff here at this prison that prejudice or bias displayed against any prisoner regardless of political viewpoints, religion, gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. will not be tolerated unless a significant security or penological interest warrants it. You might remember me sending you a letter to forward to Ms. Moore-Smeal, concerning this issue or something very similar.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This is very good news, and if this comrade or anyone else in Pennsylvania has a copy of an order from Ms. Moore-Smeal about censorship and discrimination please send it to us. If this order exists in writing it will be very useful in appealing future censorship. Of course we know these victories are temporary and often reversed or ignored so we will take advantage of it and encourage our Pennsylvania comrades to write in to request study material while they can. Be sure to let us know what work trade or payment (stamps and checks accepted!) you can make in return.

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[Censorship] [Education] [State Correctional Institution Benner] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 49]
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Communist Education Threatened with STG Status

Last week I received a visit from Deputy Superintendent Ondrejka, who is the head of the security department of this institution. He told me that he received word that I'm having some "undesirable contacts" sent to me in education materials. He stated that the mailroom supervisor is a Christian and that she feels offended when she sees communist materials in the mail when she searches it. Ondrejka said that he is aware that a lot of my communist mail is burned by the mail lady, even though it is illegal to do so.

When I asked Ondrejka if he is going to stop it from happening again, he said "Why should I? Stop getting things like that sent in and you won't have to worry about your mail being burnt." I stated to Ondrejka that I find it funny that the mail lady, who claims to be a Christian, gets offended at political study material, but lets all types of pornography in to inmates via the same channels. Ondrejka said that he could care less about the smut, he is concerned about the communist literature that gets sent into his prison. He told me that the administration is about to start cracking down on anarchist and communist materials, and start labeling those who possess them as Security Threat Group (STG). He said that any further MIM literature will be stopped and deemed contraband.

This being said, I can see for myself just how critical political study really is. If the slavemasters are threatened by it, then it must have incredible worth. I am a firm believer that knowledge is the ultimate power, the greatest weapon there is. The pigs try to stop real education in the gulags, because they know that when we have a true education and know the truth about the way things really are, they are defeated.

I call all my fellow prisoners to arm yourselves: not with knives or guns, but with educational resources - knowledge. With these weapons we can defeat the powers of imperialism and capitalism! I salute all of my fellow comrades who are fighting the pigs on a consistent basis. I am right here on the battlefield with you. The pigs censored my first study assignment from MIM(Prisons), but I will not give up! My motto is and always will be resist, resist, resist! I want to thank MIM(Prisons) for giving me ground to stand on in this political battle we are fighting. I look forward to receiving more from MIM(Prisons).


MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this comrade that knowledge is a very powerful weapon in our advance toward communism, and it is essential to a successful movement against all oppression. However knowledge alone is not going to enable us to defeat the powers of imperialism and capitalism. When we are strong enough and the conditions are right, we will be forced to pick up knives and guns in order to assert power over the oppressors — they won't have it any other way.

We distribute a Censorship Pack, which has basic information on how to fight censorship of political materials. The mailroom staff in this anecdote is acting in complete violation of established caselaw on the issue of censorship in prisons. Below is an excerpt from the Censorship Pack, citing relevant caselaw.

"The decision to censor or withhold delivery of a particular letter must be accompanied by minimum procedural safeguards against arbitrariness or error." Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S.396. 94 S.Ct 1800
"Wardens may not reject a publication 'solely because its content is religious, philosophical, political, social[,] sexual, or . . . unpopular or repugnant,' or establish an excluded list of publications, but must review each issue of a subscription separately." Thornburgh v. Abbott, 490 U.S. 401
"When a prison regulation restricts a prisoner’s First Amendment right to free speech, it is valid only if it is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests." Lindell v. Frank, 377 F.3d 655, 657 (7th Cir. 2004), citing Turner v. Safely, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987).

We are looking forward to continuing to study and struggle with this comrade, in whatever way is possible. It might mean fighting off this illegal censorship first, and our Censorship Pack is a good place to start that battle.

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[Censorship] [State Correctional Institution Huntingdon] [Pennsylvania]
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Pennsylvania Censorship Victory

Fuck CensorShip
This is a followup letter to notify you fine folks of the outcome of the article in ULK 46 about textbooks being censored by Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC). Any time a prisoner receives a publication it gets screened for any possible reason they might be able to withhold it. This is done by a committee, and these people may consult other prison employees for help in the decision on whether or not to allow a given publication into the prison. If this committee, the Incoming Publication Review Committee (IPRC) deems a publication does not fit the criteria to be possessed by a prisoner, they hold it, and send the prisoner a notification. The prisoner has a certain amount of time to reply before it gets destroyed. The prisoner can request the publication get mailed out, at their expense (only first class postage), or they have the option to appeal IPRC's decision to the superintendent.

I had three computer programming textbooks denied over the course of 5 months and appealed each one in turn. The superintendent here at SCI-Huntingdon responded to me by saying that I wouldn't be getting my books. He told me that IPRC's decision is final, and that he can't approve them. Around that time I wrote to you and got your censorship packet. I appealed the superintendent's decision to central office by writing a letter to the department policy director Dianna Woodside. In the letter I told her that, although the IT department was consulted, they were incorrect in determining that the books were a threat. I demonstrated my preexisting knowledge of the subject, and listed several cases where the prisoners were awarded monetary damages for being denied books, including one that was specifically about programming textbooks. I told the official that I was sincere about trying to pursue a possible career in programming computers, and reiterated my willingness to go to court. I am unsure of why exactly she decided in my favor, but in the end I got all three of my books sitting right here with me. I am sending copies of the decisions along with this letter.


MIM(Prisons) adds: The books this prison initially denied were Java in a Nutshell, Build Your Own Website the Right Way Using HTML & CSS, and Object Oriented Programming. This shows both the random and unfounded basis on which prison administrators decide what literature to censor, and the potential for successful appeal with persistence. It's obvious that prisons in Amerika can not possibly have a rehabilitative goal if the very books required for education into a productive career post-prison are denied for no reason.

We certainly don't win the right to our incoming mail often, but it is well worth the time to appeal every instance of censorship possible. If nothing else, it provides documentation of the denials and lack of reasons, and may pave the way for a future court case. For those facing censorship, write to us for a copy of our censorship packet that will guide you through the appeals process. And be sure to send us any documentation you have on censorship of our materials, your appeals, and administrators' responses to your appeals. We put these documents on our website at www.prisoncensorship.info.

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[Censorship] [State Correctional Institution Huntingdon] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 46]
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Pennsylvania Censors Textbooks

Oppose Censorship
Prison administrators here in State Correctional Institution (SCI) Huntingdon have recently begun to deny all of the programming textbooks that have come in the mail for me, stating that the books contain writings which advocate, assist or are evidence of criminal activity, or facility misconduct. I am unable to properly appeal the publication denials to the facility's superintendent, who told me in person "You're not getting your fucking books." He told me that the decision by the Inmate Publication Review Committee (IPRC) is final, and his responses to my attempts to appeal publication denials reflect this statement. I am unable to use the facility grievance system to file complaints about my mail and incoming publications, which are meant to be handled some other way. I am unable to ask exactly what misconducts or crimes the books advocate, assist in, or are evidence of, and facility staff have been unable to specify.

I am writing to your organization to respectfully request any assistance, or information you may be able to provide which could help to right this wrong. These books are purely educational, and as such are entirely neutral. Disallowing them could not serve any legitimate penological interest.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This letter shows that education can never be "entirely neutral" under imperialism. Educational textbooks, while generally devoid of any progressive political content, still present a threat to prisons because of the opportunity they provide for educational advancement. Through this education prisoners may become more aware of the basis of the criminal injustice system and their own oppression, and it could lead them to seek out more revolutionary education. Keeping prisoners uneducated is a good way for the oppressor nation to maintain its privileged position.

Denial of books can also be used as punishment for a prisoner who is seen as a trouble maker. The fact that this comrade knows how to file grievances and is working to gain education may be the cause of these denials. Part of the system of social control in prisons is the use of arbitrary rules to contain prisoners who might be a threat because of their understanding of legal rights and their ability to fight for these rights.

For both of these reasons, instead of arguing about what constitutes "legitimate penological interests" we point out that the penological interest really being served by the Amerikan criminal injustice system is social control. Censorship is a key tool the prisons use for this end. And for this reason we focus some of our limited time and resources fighting against censorship. For this comrade we have provided a copy of our guide to fighting censorship. But what we really need, in many states across the country, are lawyers who can help us bring censorship cases to court to establish legal precedent. Of particular priority to us are those cases where the censorship is of explicit political material. Textbook denials like the one described above do happen, but they are far less common than the denial of Under Lock & Key and other revolutionary literature.

This article referenced in:
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