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.
When I first came to prison in 1995, there were hardly any for-profit corporations doing business inside Virginia prisons. Almost all services including medical care, dental care and the commissary were provided by the state. This began to change in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with the introduction of corporations like Prison Health Services to provide substandard prison health care and keep the commissary filled with high priced commissary items. Prisoners’ communication would also be outsourced to JPay, another for-profit company.
The Virginia Department of Corrections administration implemented a series of policies to manipulate us and our loved ones into accepting JPay as our only method of communication. On 6 August 2013, A. David Robertson, the Chief of Corrections and Operations, issued memorandum #073-2013, advising the prisoner class that effective 1 October 2013, our loved ones can no longer send us money orders through the postal mail and that they can only send us money through JPay, which requires our family to pay exorbitant transaction fees. If money orders were received in the mail after that day they were returned to sender.
On 7 May 2014, Robertson issued another memorandum, #033-214, advising the prisoner class that effective 1 July 2014, we can no longer receive more than 5 photographs through the mail. If a letter arrived at the prison containing more than 5 photographs, the entire letter including the 5 photos were returned to sender. This may seem small, but again this was subtle manipulation for acceptance of what was to come.
Perhaps the Virginia Department of Corrections most draconian policy implementation was detailed in a 13 March 2017 memorandum issued by the then warden of Sussex State Prison. In this memo we were advised that effective 17 April 2017,
“all incoming general correspondence, that is U.S. postal mail, will be photocopied at a maximum of three black and white photocopied pages front and back will be provided to the offender. The original envelope, letter and all enclosed documents will be shredded in the institutional mailroom. The entire correspondence and all enclosed items, including photographs, greeting cards, newspaper articles, etc. that exceed the established photocopy or size limit will be returned to sender.”
What this memo did not mention is that during the process of copying and scanning incoming postal letters from our loved ones, a digital copy of the letter along with the name and address of the person who sent it is uploaded and cataloged in a massive database. This policy was implemented under the guise of preventing the flow of drugs into these prisons, however the real motivation for this policy is reflected in the following one-sentence reminder listed in this memo:
“Individuals will still be permitted to send an offender secure messages, photographs and other attachments through the JPay system as it is currently authorized.”
Many prisoners and our loved ones view the amenity of exchanging emails with our loved ones as incredibly convenient. As a conscious prisoner I recognize that it also makes it easier for prison officials to censor and disrupt our communications and conduct surveillance and intelligence gathering on prisoners and those we communicate with. According to the Virginia Department of Corrections operating procedures 803.1, which governs offender correspondence and JPay emails inside all Virginia prisons, our incoming and outgoing correspondence is not supposed to be withheld for longer than 48 hours. However, our incoming and outgoing JPay emails are routinely withheld for several days or weeks at a time. Sometimes they are held for months at a time.
Operating procedure 803.1 prohibits prison officials from opening and reading our outgoing correspondence absent an approved mail cover from the warden, and reasonable suspicion that the correspondence violates state or federal law, or threatens the safety of the facility. However all incoming and outgoing JPay emails pass through a screening mechanism, whereby the prison’s mailroom staff and intelligence officers sit behind a computer monitor and read the personal and intimate words of prisoners and our loved ones, which, like our photocopied letters, are then cataloged and stored in a massive database.
Operating procedure 803.1 also prohibits the censorship of offender correspondence unless the censorship is based on legitimate facility interests of safety and security. However, JPay makes it easier for mailroom staff and intelligence officers to sit behind a computer monitor and with the click of a mouse block or censor the outgoing emails of prisoners complaining of prison conditions as well as incoming emails of loved ones containing information about the Black Panther Party and other progressive and revolutionary movements from the 1960s and 1970s.
The U.S. Supreme Court in Procunier v. Martinez (1974) ruled that:
“Communications by letter is not accomplished by the act of writing words on paper. Rather it is effected only when the letter is read by the addressee. Both parties to the correspondence have an interest in securing that result. As such, censorship of the communication between them necessarily impinges on the interests of each.”
This U.S. Supreme Court ruling and prison policies of surveillance and censorship listed above reveals that the fascist and repressive nature of prisons extend beyond these prison walls and adversely impacts those of you in the community. This should give human and civil rights activists, including our loved ones, additional motivation to work in solidarity with incarcerated freedom fighters to challenge these Constitutional violations via civil litigation.
Ultimately, what we need to do is develop a collective inside/outside analysis and strategy to dismantle the U.S. imperialist prison system.
In early June, a book arrived here at this facility that was intended as a birthday gift from my family. The day the book arrived I asked the property officers if I had received any books and they responded “No,” despite the fact that my sister confirmed that the book had arrived. When I informed the staff that I had gotten my family to track the package the staff acted even more standoffish, dismissive and suspicious. I suspected this type of behavior from the staff was due to the very controversial information contained in the book, but still, knowing my rights and also the purpose of the First Amendment I would not tolerate it without taking necessary legal action.
Almost ten days after the book had arrived the only thing I was given was a ‘Notification of Publication Disapproval Form’ that was signed by the Warden. But I was told the book wasn’t here, correct?
The Warden, property office and mailroom clerk all stated falsely that the book contained “material that promoted violence, terrorism or criminal activity that violated state & federal guidelines.” I know this is not even remotely the case, being that I actually read the book in 2014 prior to my incarceration. Knowing this I was highly offended & saw the property officer’s actions and reasons for violating my First Amendment rights as not only an attempt to impede on my freedom of speech but also as an insult to my intelligence. The definition of ‘promote’ is ‘to advocate’ so I forced the staff to prove, legally, that this book, entitled The FBI War on Tupac Shakur and Black Leaders ‘promoted’ or ‘advocated’ ‘violent acts’ or ‘terrorism.’ Close examination of this book will prove anything but that.
The book actually promotes the opposite – principles almost identical with those of the United Struggle from Within and MIM(Prisons). It promotes Peace, Unity & Solidarity between tribes, gangs and lumpen organizations. And it also depicts the violent, cold-blooded & terrorist acts committed by the FBI, the CIA & local police forces in Amerikkka. We call this domestic, or, homegrown terrorism, used to reinforce the fascist policies of the capitalist social order.
My first action to get my book was to file informal complaints & grievances for violation of my First Amendment rights as well as Operating Procedures code 803.2 on the rights of prisoners receiving publications. Operating Procedure 803.2 clearly states that if the Warden or property officer found something ‘questionable’ about any publication or literature sent to an inmate then the inmate is to be notified and consulted before the officer in charge of passing out property takes further action. Then the inmate is given three options:
Have the book sent home.
Have the book sent to the Publication Review Committee.
Have the book destroyed.
The primary issue is that I wasn’t allowed the liberty to explain to the staff what the book was really about & that I never gave them the consent to hold or send the book to the Publication Review Committee (or ‘PRC’), as they claimed they had done. So, in fact, code 803.2 was violated by the property officer and the warden who signed the Publication Disapproval form which lacked my signature of consent.
This is a perfect example of fascist style censorship and violation of First Amendment rights within the Virginia Department of Corrections (D.O.C.). As Operating Procedures Code 803.2 states, “Offenders at D.O.C. institutions should be allowed to subscribe to, order, and receive publications direct from any vendor – so long as the publication does not pose a threat to the security, discipline and good order of the facility and it is not determined detrimental to offender rehabilitation.” As I mentioned earlier, Potash’s book would reveal to the reader that it actually promotes peace, unity & solidarity between tribes, gangs and lumpen organizations (very similar to the Maoist-promoted United Front for Peace in Prisons policies).
I also talked to an institutional lawyer who was very helpful & who also agreed with me 100% concerning the book. He looked up the title of the book while I was on the phone with him and he quickly observed, in his own words, that this was a very “historical” and “political” work. Policy 803.2 clearly states “educational and historic publications are not detrimental to offender rehabilitation” and that when it comes to disapproval of literature, “this criterion shall not be used to exclude publications that describe such [violent] acts in the context of a story or moral teaching unless the description of such acts is the primary purpose of the publication. No publication generally recognized as having literary value should be excluded under this criterion.”
Point of fact, the so called ‘violent acts’ or ‘terrorist acts’ that the property officer tried to use to keep me from getting this book are actually committed by none other than Law Enforcement and also covertly ‘promoted’ by the intelligence community who controls the mainstream media and who work in collusion with the local police who, as we observe on the daily news, continue to beat, shoot and murder innocent men, women and children, which can only be described as very ‘violent’ and ‘terrorist’ acts.
After constant confrontation & inquiry the staff finally gave me my book on 3 September 2020, but still tried to use psychological manipulation to make it seem as if I were the one who had done something wrong. They said I had ‘raised hell’ and caused a lot of trouble about the book when all they had to do was give the book to me to avoid all this.
On John Potash’s The FBI War on Tupac Shakur & Black Leaders
The FBI War on Tupac Shakur and Black Leaders was written by an activist and investigative journalist John Potash. He describes and documents historic events in comparison with more current events and describes, using documents & eye-witness accounts, how the U.S. intelligence & FBI target, assassinate, harass and imprison all individuals & organizations (Black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American) that ‘promoted’ & practiced ideas that were contrary to mainstream capitalist & fascist indoctrination that challenged the social order and the establishment’s chokehold on 90% of the world’s resources.
J. Edgar Hoover (former director of the FBI) once stated that the FBI must “stop the rise of a black messiah or anyone who could radicalize the civil rights movement”, “by any means necessary.” Meaning harassment, imprisonment and trumped up charges, destruction of public image or assassination. There are countless leaders; Black, white, Latino & Native American who met this messianic description and all of them fell under the cruel fate of COINTELPRO – including Mutulu Shakur, Afeni Shakur, Tupac Amarau Shakur and many of his relatives.
Potash describes Mutulu, Tupac & Afeni’s efforts to create peace between the Bloods, Crips, Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords, Black P. Stone Rangers, Latin Kings & Young Lords and also to convert them into political organizations that would serve the communities that they exist in. This program is a direct influence of Huey P. Newton & Bobby Seale’s strategy that was used to create the Brown Berets, Chinese Red Guard and the Young Lords.
Potash also details the predatory and very cold blooded nature of the ‘Far Right’ neo-conservative, fascist & capitalist powers in the U.$. and how the intelligence community utilizes informants and undercover agents to harass, spy on, falsely accuse, set up, imprison & assassinate leftist revolutionaries or any musician, actor or politician as well as business person associated with revolutionary organizations or movements, that promote peace & unity rather than violence.
After reading & examining closely, for the second time after seven years, I feel an obligation to quote and cite John Potash’s work as well as all the revolutionaries he worked with before and after this book’s publication.
In Chapter 21 (pp. 101-104) Potash describes what is called ‘Penal Coercion’, which is a way to break down certain prisoners psychologically, physically & spiritually.
“They found that the U.S. Department of Corrections had a ‘Special Services Division’ to carry out operations on prisoners. Researchers working from divergent groups, such as the Bureau of Prisons and Amnesty International, described several particular prison tactics as akin to both torture and brainwashing and referred to them as ‘penal coercion’.”
“A 1983 Amnesty International report on torture presented CIA-designed techniques outlined in Biderman’s Chart of Coercion – 8 general penal coercion methods prison officials used to psychologically tear down individuals in order to manipulate them. These methods are isolation, monopolization of perception, induced debility, threats, occasional indulgences, demonstrating omnipotence, degradation, and enforcing trivial demands.”
One of the most tragic & ironic cases of this is that of Afeni Shakur’s son – Tupac Amaru Shakur. Tupac was targeted the same way his mother was – five assassination attempts, constant harassment from so-called law enforcement and incarceration under false charges. He was practically sentenced to ‘Death Row’ for his revolutionary work, forcing him, after FBI ‘penal coercion’ into a corner after which he finally gave in and went against his better judgement and signed with Suge Knight on Death Row Records, a label whose symbol & trademark was a man sitting in an electric chair. This label promoted drugs, sex, violence and ignorance and no higher social causes whatsoever – going against all Tupac & his family of activists stood for. Potash writes, “Tupac’s jail conditions also helped influence Tupac to finally sign with Death Row Records.”
“Tupac finally stopped rejecting Time Warner’s request to sign with its subsidiary, Death Row. Tupac had spent 10 months in jail. The appeals court refused Tupac’s 1.3 million bail offer for those many months that he waited for his appeal trial, but within days of Tupac’s September 1995 signing with Death Row Records, the Court of Appeals accepted virtually that same bail offer and released Tupac.”
“…Years of accumulated evidence supports that the FBI orchestrated the murder of rap icon Tupac Shakur, and that they used similar tactics to murder other leftist black leaders. Thousands of pages of U.S. intelligence documents reveal how the FBI and other intelligence agencies have waged a war on black leaders. The U.S. Intelligence targeting of Tupac and his Shakur family provides a window into intelligence targeting of leftist black leaders from 1965-2005. U.S. Intelligence (Defense, CIA, FBI and police intelligence) historically opposed leftists – those working to make changes in society to gain more equitable sharing of wealth and resources. The CIA’s leadership, the directors of intelligence agencies until 2001, were comprised of the wealthiest American families. Their founders also saved thousands of Nazis [after the end of WW2] and put them to work on intelligence projects.”
So be watchful of all correctional officers, deputies, staff and prisoners because the capitalists of the ‘criminal culture’ that is fueled by drugs, sex and violence has captivated the minds of the 85% (majority of oppressed masses). And they have no real loyalty to any higher social causes and they will sacrifice anyone, and anybody, to keep whatever they gained from capitalist society and for whatever material or position they are trying to acquire. No matter how low they are on the pyramid, as Paulo Freire writes, “the oppressed class subconsciously emulates, imitates and identifies with their oppressors.”
All conscious, political & revolutionary prisoners, within and without, in prison & at home; the intelligence community has perfected the art of utilizing the informant and the undercover agent for decades and has been proven to be their most valuable asset, used to assassinate (as in the case of the late Nipsey Hustle PBUH) and bring down countless revolutionaries. Be wary of all people (inmates and staff) who become super defensive and ultra-sensitive when you are critical about the current social order and the establishment. Most likely they are either active agents, informants or have friends & family members who work for Law Enforcement, the CIA, FBI, or U.$. Military – three institutions that are interlocked in the same criminal network.
All of our great leaders and revolutionaries; Black, white, Latino, Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern or Native American, have all pointed to the same facts and for this, like Tupac Amaru Shakur, Malcolm X, Che Guevara, Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, Clarence 13X, Marcus Garvey, George Jackson and Geronimo Pratt, they were harassed, imprisoned unjustly, or assassinated for it. Peace be upon them, for they are the true prophets and messengers of this age, and it is only men & women like them who will lead us into the new age of Revolutionary Transcendence.
I would like to comment on one of the articles in the Spring 2020 No. 70 issue of ULK, page 20, “Feds Threatening First Amendment with New Polices” by a Federal prisoner. Here in the state of Virginia at the Greensville Correctional Center they’ve been doing pretty much the same thing, since about April 2017. We were advised that this was for all security level 2 and above institutions within the Virginia Department of Corrections.
Please find enclosed a copy of then Lead Warden Eddie L. Pearson’s memo relative thereof. I’ve highlighted the most relevant sections.
"The original envelope, letter and all enclosed contents will be shredded in the institutional mailroom….
“Offenders will be limited to receiving a maximum of three, 8 1/2 X 11, black and white photocopied pages front and back to include the photocopy of the envelope. Each item in the envelope i.e., photograph, newspaper clipping, drawing, each side of a letter, etc. will be considered one photocopy.”
A few years since being enacted in Virginia, these policies are now spreading across the country. This means that a lot of the educational materials and resource guides that MIM(Prisons) provides to prisoners of the United $tates are now impermissible for having too many pages or being two-sided (per new Federal rules). The departments implementing these policies claim to be concerned about drugs, when most drugs are being brought in by their own staff. The net effect is that people in prison have less information on how to combat the oppression they are facing every day.
26 December 2018 — A lot of situations have been happening since my last letter. As you can see my location has changed once again. Reason being is because at the last/previous slave-pen that held me many prisoners, including myself, filed informational complaints and grievances on a situation that occurred with two pig-officers. To make a long story short, these two pigs taunted and encouraged a mentally-ill prisoner to cut his wrist with a razor-blade. While this mentally-ill prisoner is in the shower or even in his cell, he is not allowed to be in possession of a razor. This is a rule laid by River North Correctional Center (RNCC), and of course this incident happened in the Restrictive Housing Unit (segregation). Knowing this prisoner came from the SCORE unit, which is a unit that houses mentally-ill prisoners, these two officers was excited to attempt to get this prisoner to slice his wrist. Well, the prisoner did cut his wrists.
Now, this is where everything begins to hit the fan. These two pig-officers (C.O. Devine and the C.O. Denton) began to panic. The prisoner is bleeding out and now has to be rushed to the medical unit. Both pigs are immediately questioned by their superiors as to how the prisoner got hold of an open razor. They lied and tried to stage the whole incident as a self-motivated suicidal attempt.
Their superior, Sgt. May, tells two things: 1) to search the prisoner's cell and see if they could find anything that could assist their claim, and 2) if they're unsuccessful, find other prisoners on the tier to open as many razor casings as they can to support the pigs' cause. How I know all this? Well for one I'm on the tier it occurred, two, C.O. Devine came and practically begged me to help him get out of that situation. I felt disgusted, angry and disrespected!!!
Right then and there, I began to organize the unit to act in assistance with the mentally-ill prisoner and to expose the corruption and wickedness of RNCC's pig-staff. We filed paperwork, wrote out to ACLU, the DOC, the media, and got our lawyers involved with our family. At this time, the pigs were harassing each prisoner who was in the movement. We continued to push with agitation and exposure. More repression came down. Still we continued and are continuing. Then, the pig-admin started to separate us and transfer us to different prisons but the movement continues!
As of right now, I've been transferred from RNCC to another Maximum Security prison in Virginia. However, the movement is still at full swing. Two other participants have been shipped here along with me. We still remain in contact with the others also.
Well, that's the mini-story of what happened, and the struggle against repression followed us at this site. Mind you, that situation happened on 5 November 2018, I was removed from the prison shortly after, and today I'm just receiving my property. In addition to that, pig-officers here will cut off my commode for long periods so that I'm unable to flush my toilet. When I try to file Emergency Grievance, they either don't take it up or take it and don't give me a receipt. Who knows what they'll do next. I'm up for the fight!
On another note, I am still active in my teaching mode. I have organized political education classes on the tier and one of the two subjects I started with was teaching dialectical materialism and the whole dialectical transformation process. I felt good starting that class because I have enough information regarding dialectical materialism. However, the other class on what New Afrika was and New Afrikan revolutionary nationalism. I struggled because my knowledge of it is low! But I tried given the circumstances.
Nevertheless, my class on dialectical materialism was successful in bringing an understanding of its definition and its operation to my students. I used the information you provided me in the "Introduction to the Materialist method by MIM(Prisons), October 2017" and "Choosing One Ideology over Another: The Materialist Method" by MC5 of the Maoist Internationalist Movement. I explained how dialectical meanings of material things, people, and ideas transform in a struggle for liberation. I explained how the dialectical transformation moves in a perpetual sequence from without to within to without back within, and just keep going on and on. I gave examples on how it works in a way they could better understand, and tried my best at breaking it down and building it back up.
I want to ask you if you can send me anything that I could use in our P.E. classes to help educate us in what New Afrikan revolutionary nationalism is and how did it originate, and just the whole concept of the New Afrikan nation. If I have to pay for it let me know, but it'll be a while before I can purchase it because I'm suffering from economic hardships as of right now but eventually I could scrabble something up. Just let me know.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We are happy to send study materials to people who are running study groups and organizing locally. We have two articles that discuss the concept of New Afrika that were printed in ULK that we can send you. The New Afrikan Subcommittee of the USW Council is interested in commissioning someone to turn the content of these articles into a flier (with art) if that is something your study group (or anyone) is interested in. For more in depth reading on the theory and history of Black/New Afrikan nationalism we have a study pack on the legacy of the BPP($6) and one on revolutionary feminist proletarian nationalism($8). Send in a donation to the address on p. 1, or equivalent work-trade (e.g. a report on the organizing and political education you're doing, like this article!).
We also print this letter as an excellent example of organizing in spite of conditions of repression. This writer is working with others to fight the criminal injustice system from multiple angles. First there is the fight against the pigs who pushed the prisoner to cut eir wrist, and tried to get others to help them cover it up. Then there is the repression that followed, with the transfers and keeping up contact with other activists. And finally there is the study group, pushing forward both learning and practice at the same time.
This comrade is setting an example of perseverance in defending revolutionary principles, and building and maintaining unity with others.
U.$. imperialist leaders and their labor aristocracy supporters like to criticize other countries for their tight control of the media and other avenues of speech. For instance, many have heard the myths about communist China forcing everyone to think and speak alike. In reality, these stories are a form of censorship of the truth in the United $tates. In China under Mao the government encouraged people to put up posters debating every aspect of political life, to criticize their leaders, and to engage in debate at work and at home. This was an important part of the Cultural Revolution in China. There are a number of books available in this country that give a truthful account, but far more money is put into anti-communist propaganda books. Here in the United $tates free speech is reserved for those with money and power.
In prisons in particular we see so much censorship, especially targeting those who are politically conscious and fighting for their rights. Fighting for our First Amendment right to free speech is a
battle that MIM(Prisons) and many prisoners waste a lot of time and money on. For us this is perhaps the most fundamental of requirements for our organizing work. There are prisoners, and some entire prisons (and sometimes entire states) that are denied all mail from MIM(Prisons). This means we can't send in educational material, or study courses, or even supply a guide to fighting censorship. Many prisons regularly censor ULK claiming that the news and information printed within is a "threat to security." For them, printing the truth about what goes on behind bars is dangerous. But if we had the resources to take these cases to court we believe we could win in many cases.
Denying prisoners mail is condemning some people to no contact with the outside world. To highlight this, and the ridiculous and illegal reasons that prisons use to justify this censorship, we will periodically print a summary of some recent censorship incidents in ULK.
We hope that lawyers, paralegals, and those with some legal knowledge will be inspired to get involved and help us with these censorship battles, both behind bars and on the streets. For the full list of censorship incidents, along with copies of appeals and letters from the prison, check out our censorship reporting webpage.
The Chair of the publications review committee for the VA DOC, Melissa Welch, sent MIM(Prisons) a letter denying ULK 56, and then the next month the same letter denying ULK 57. Both letters cite the same reasons:
"D. Material, documents, or photographs that emphasize depictions or promotions of violence, disorder, insurrection, terrorist, or criminal activity in violation of state or federal laws or the violation of the Offender Disciplinary Procedure.
"F. Material that depicts, describes, or promotes gang bylaws, initiations, organizational structure, codes, or other gang-related activity or association."
Last issue of ULK we reported on the censorship of ULK57 in Pennsylvania. After sending a protest letter to appeal the decision we had a rare victory! From the Policy Office, PA
Department of Corrections:
"This is to notify you that the publication in issue does not violate Department Policy. As such, the decision of the correctional institution is reversed and the inmates in the PA Department of
Corrections will be permitted to receive the publication. The correctional institutions will be notified by the Policy Office of the decision."
If anyone in PA hasn't received ULK 57 yet, let us know and we will send another copy to you.
Pennsylvania SCI-Camp Hill
From a prisoner we were forwarded a notice of incoming publication denial for ULK 57: "create a danger within the context of the correctional facility" p.21, 24
The description quotes sentences that can't be found within ULK including: "PREA system strip searches for harassment in PA", "Black prisoners deserve to retaliate against predominantly white ran system", and "This is a excellent reminder of PA importance of fighting." They are making up text as reasons for censorship in Pennsylvania.
Texas - Bill Clemens Unit
A prisoner forwarded us a denial for ULK 57 "Page 11 contains information that could cause a prison disruption."
In March 2017, our study pack Defend the Legacy of the Black Panther Party was censored for
"Reason C. Page 9 contains information that could cause a strike or prison disruption."
This adds to the growing list of our most important literature that is banned in the state forever, including Settlers: Mythology of the White Proletariat and [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlan. We need someone with legal expertise to challenge Texas's policies that allow for publications to be banned forever in the state.
Florida - Santa Rosa Correctional Institution
A prisoner forwarded us a notice of impoundment of ULK 57. The reason cited: "Pages 1, 11, 14, 15, & 17 advocates insurgency and disruption of institutional operations."
We appealed this denial and got a response from Dean Peterson, Library Services Administrator for the Florida DOC, reiterating the reasons for impoundment and upholding the denial: "In their regularly scheduled meeting of August 30, 2017 the Literature Review Committee of the Florida Department of Corrections upheld the institution's impoundment and rejected the publication for the grounds stated. This means that issue will not be allowed into our correctional institutions."
Following up on a case printed in ULK 57 regarding Florida's denial of the MIM(Prisons) censorship pack, for no specific reasons. We received a response to our appeal of this case from the same Dean Peterson, Library Services Administrator, named above.
"From the number of the FDC form you reference and your description of what happened it is apparent the institutional mailroom did not handle the Censorship Guide as a publication, but instead handled it in accordance with the Florida Administrative Code rule for routine mail. As such, the item was not impounded, was not posted to the list of impounded publications for any other institution to see, was not referred to the Literature Review Committee for review, and thus does not appear on the list of rejected publications. That means that if the exact same Guide came to any other inmate mailroom staff would look at it afresh. In theory, it could even be allowed into the institution. ...
"The Florida Administrative Code makes no provision for further review."
Florida - Florida State Prison
ULK 58 was rejected for what appears to just be a list of titles of articles, some not even complete:
PGS 6 Liberation schools to organize through the wall (talk about the hunger strikes)
PGS 8 DPRK; White Supremacy's Global Agenda
PGS 11 Case law to help those facing
PGS 19 White and gaining consciousness
Florida - Jefferson Correctional Institution
Meditations on Frantz Fanon's Wretched of the Earth: New Afrikan Revolutionary Writings by James Yaki Sayles was denied to a prisoner at Jefferson Correctional Institution because "inmate has received a second copy of the same edition of this publication violating chapter 33-501.401 (16)(b) and procedure 501.401(7)(d)."
Washington state - Coyote Ridge CC
The invitation to and first assignment for our correspondence introductory study group was rejected by Mailroom Employee April Long for the following reasons:
"Advocates violence against others and/or the overthrow of authority.
Advocates that a protected class or group of individuals is inferior and/or makes such class/group the object of ridicule and/or scorn, and may reasonably be thought to precipitate a violent confrontation between the recipient and a member(s) of the target group. Rejected incoming mailing from MIM. Mailing contains working that appears to be referring to law enforcement as 'pigs' it appears to be ridiculing and scornful. There is also a section in mailing labeled solutions that calls prisoners to take actions against prison industries and gives specific ideas/suggestions. Nothing to forward onto offender."
A recent study assignment for the University of Maoist Thought was also censored at Coyote Ridge. MIM(Prisons) has not yet been informed of this censorship incident by the facility. The study group participant wrote and told us it was censored for being a "copy of copyrighted material."
The material in question was published in 1972 in the People's Republic of China. Not only did that government actively work against capitalist concepts such as copyright, we believe that even by the United $tates' own standards this book should not be subject to censorship.
Clallam Bay CF rejected ULK 58 because: "Newsletter is being rejected as it talks about September 9 events including offenders commencing a hunger strike until equal treatment, retaliation and legal rights issues are resolved."
Coyote Ridge CC rejected ULK 58 for a different set of reasons: "Contains plans for activity that violates state/federal law, the Washington Administrative Code, Department policy and/or local facet/rules. Contains correspondence, information, or other items relating to another offender(s) without prior approval from the Superintendent/designee: or attempts or conveys unauthorized offender to offender correspondence."
We received the following report from a Canadian prisoner who had sent us some stamps to pay for a few issues of ULK to be mailed to Canada.
"A few months ago, on July 18, I received notice from the V&C department informing that five issues of ULK had arrived here for me. The notice also explained that the issues had been seized because of a Commissioner's Directive (764.6) which states that '[t]he institutional head may prohibit entry into the institution of material that portrays excessive violence and aggression, or prison violence; or if he or she believes on reasonable grounds that the material would incite inmates to commit similar acts.' I grieved the seizure, among other things, citing the sections on page 2 of ULK, which 'explicitly discourage[s prisoners] from engaging in any violence or illegal acts,' and citing too the UFPP statement of peace on page 3, which speaks of the organizational aim to end needless conflicts and violence within prisons.
"Well, I can now report that my grievance was upheld and that all copies of ULK were released to me, but not without the censorship of drawings deemed to portray or promote the kind of violence described in the above-cited Commissioner's Directive. It's a decision I can live with for now."
We got reports from two people that the blanket ban on ULK in Missouri was removed and ULK 58 was received. If you're in Missouri and still not getting your ULK, be sure to let us know.
Michigan - Richard A Handlon CF
ULK 58 was rejected because "Articles in Under Lock & Key contains information about criminal activity that might entice criminal activity within the prison facility - threat to security."
Illinois - Stateville CC
ULK 58 was rejected because: "The publication appears to: Advocate or encourage violence, hatred, or group disruption or it poses an intolerable risk of violence or disruption. Be otherwise detrimental to security, good order, rehabilitation, or discipline or it might facilitate criminal activity or be detrimental to mental health. Detrimental to safety and security of the facility. Disrupts order. Promotes organization and leadership."
Before I close, I want to enlighten you on the new draconian mail policy which went into effect on April 17, 2017 in all Virginia prisons. We no longer receive the actual letter and contents of the letter (e.g. newspaper clippings, pictures, greeting cards, etc.) sent to us. We receive only a copy (photocopy) of said letter and all original letters are destroyed. In addition, this policy places a restriction on the number of pages of incoming letters which is three pages (front & back). A copy of the envelope itself counts as one page so in actuality the maximum length of the incoming letter is two double-sided pages and one single-sided page.
If you want to see the actual policy for more clarity and to possibly post a link to it on your page as example of a veiled attempt to censor incoming political literature, you can view it at the following link: https://www.vadoc.virginia.gov/offenders/prison-life/mail.shtm. If comrades in Virginia are complaining about not receiving mail from you since April, this policy and its’ page limitation is the reason why. The packages you sent to me containing the literature above may have gotten through to me because you shipped them to me in a big manila envelope, and so it was handled and processed by the Personal Property Dept. here rather than the Mailroom Dept. So, keep that in mind when sending literature to comrades in the VA Prison System.
As of today October 29th, 2017 I am in a battle with the medical department here at VA. Beach Correctional Center in the state of Virginia. As of Sept. 6, 2017, I woke up with both eyes really dry, burning and blurry. I submitted a sick call slip. I was seen by a nurse for this problem, and was told that she would see what she could do. That was on Sept. 8, 2017. Since that date I have started losing my eye sight in my left eye, it took a month for me to actually see the doctor, in which he took one look at my eye and immediately sent me to an optometrist who ordered MRI's, blood work, chest x-rays, and a lumbar puncture. All the results except the lumbar puncture have come back negative. At first the medical department said I had to pay for me to go to an outside doctor, I explained that I was an indigent inmate and could not pay for it, before they even reacted to my complaints (emergency and standard grievances).
This facility has denied me proper medical treatment for so long that there is a possibility that my blindness could have been prevented. So for the last 7 weeks I have been completely blind in my left eye, and they (medical, optometrist) don't have an idea what caused my blindness. I'm waiting to go to an optometrist neurosurgeon, for further testing. I am currently awaiting for a 2nd standard grievance to be answered, so that I could appeal to the next step, so that I have exhausted all grievances or avenues before I can file a 1983 lawsuit.
I just wanted to write and let you know what kind of issues this institution has made me go through. I also know that if put into restricted housing (SHU) they leave the lights on 24 hrs a day, you're locked in a cell with another inmate, and your handcuffed to the shower railing by one hand in which you can't properly wash your body, the only time you come out your cell is for court, medical or showers. This is cruel and unusual punishment.
So if there is any possible suggestions or information you can provide it will be highly appreciated. Thank you for your newletters and a platform to fight the injustices we prisoners face on a daily basis. I've tried to get others on the inside to push the abuse and injustice we face. There is no unity at this facility because inmates are scared of the repercussions they may have to endure. Once again thank you for your organization and your cause.
I am a prisoner housed here at Sussex One State Prison. One of the three supermax prisons in Virginia. I have been housed here at Sussex One for about a year. Most of the prisoners housed here are Black and most of our overseers who work here are also Black. This is a very repressive regime with no chance of a prisoner rehabilitating himself. We are a lost and dead people who suffer from the Willie Lynch syndrome. Most prisoners do not care about their human rights, because we as a whole allow our overseers to violate our human rights without any challenge. We as prisoners are human beings, who have the same cares, concerns, and are capable of love, like any other human being. However, our overseers sees us as less than human and a lot of the prisoners here sympathize with their overseers, the same people who violate our human rights every day, who sees us as less than human beings, who only sees us as objects to be controlled and manipulated. Some of us will reenter society one day. How is it possible to reenter society and be successful when us prisoners are not given the tools to be successful. We act out against each other and a lot of us don't even know each other. That's what happens when you are lost and dead people. Most of us do not even know what is happening to us. Chaos and disorder is the order of the day. A lot of us don't have a voice because our family and friends have given up on us and abandoned us, there is no hope for lost and dead people.
I would like to bring to your attention a proliferating issue and a sophisticated form of manipulation and capitulation by certain female guards here, which is threatening my motivational efforts and energy of prisoners who are trying to mobilize pockets of resistance. The prisoners in our immediate cipher and midst on a daily basis, in the disguise of recreation, study groups, or just basic conversations, are involved in some alarming episodes of perversion here at Sussex Sucks I State Prison. If we stand by and just criticize, make fun of, or gossip and back bite about those prisoners who get snaggled up in this spider web/trap, then the pigs are going to use this misguided erotic behavior to destroy the elements of positive aspirations that iz being pushed forward by a different segment of conscious prisoners here on this slave pen of oppression.
Everyone is aware of the enormous amount of jobs that become available because of the booming rise in the prison construction throughout the Amerikkkan colony. But no one seems to have noticed the alarming amount of female guards that are subsequently recruited, hired and then trained for a job inside this bulging prison culture complex! So today, a lot of these same female guards are assigned to the actual cell blocks/pods that house many of the state's most violent male prisoners. And as a direct result of the placement of these female guards inside each of these components, you now see these same so-called violent prisoners becoming mentally and emotionally hypnotized by the astute beauty of some female guards who exhibit this aura or facade with their tour of correctional duty and within their clandestine episodes of flirtation.
In some of these housing components, I have even witnessed female guards displaying their siren characteristics in an attempt to control and compel the feeble-minded guys into conforming with the prison rules and regulations. In some cases these female guards are playing mind games, as they get off on the drama of seeing several men chasing them and even fighting over them, and manipulating them into becoming pod police by telling and doing the police job as an incentive. These female guards want the prisoners to help them stroke their own clandestine exotic or erotic fantasies while making money as a past time and advancing their career in law enforcement!
Before I commence my conclusion, it iz essential and imperative that I maintain the organizational strategy by indicating that there are numerous female guards who despise being exploited by the display of male sex organs in the workplace, and I really support all of these female guards who take a stance against this form of sexism. Because to subjugate women in general and solely on the basis of gender iz not only wrong, but dudes who believe and practice these subjective axioms and the actions that stem from this obnoxious belief are really saying that women are not worthy of genuine respect, or perhaps those prisoners think that a woman cannot be feminine without being submissive! All prisoners, brothas, all nations must begin the task of taking a personal analysis of themselves immediately and we should be self-critical. Otherwise we won't understand what our criminal thought pattern iz doing to the overall struggle of the masses here in North Amerikkka.
Correctional male chauvinism must be eliminated if prisoners really plan to make it past this adolescent crisis that arises to the level of this extracurricular prison activity.
In closing, I felt the need to proselytize to the conscious prisoner class, clearly it iz better to err acting to bring about positive change than to do nothing for fear of erring. Please spread this word and cogitate what has been evaluated and written here in adroit-like fashion, because we have to stop this new wave of mental, physical, and emotional ignorance. Peace!
I want to know if other comrades are dealing with these same issues. If so, no one is speaking on it. Stop watching the idiot box, it's hypnotizing you!
MIM(Prisons) responds: This is a good point to raise for discussion which we hope will inspire others to write in. There is, as this prisoner explains, a general contradiction in imperialist society, with the treatment of females under the patriarchy. But in prison this situation is changed. There is still some clear gender oppression of females, but in male prisons (which are the vast majority in this country) there is a reversal of roles in some ways. Males face gender oppression due to their unique status as prisoners.
We see this with the example given here of female guards manipulating prisoners through sex and flirting. The female guards are using patriarchal objectification to keep male prisoners passive, and even serving the very system that locks them up. We need to expose this manipulation and talk about why it can happen, and what we can do about it. It should not be ok to do any guard's bidding, male or female. Are other people seeing this? What can be done to fight back?
I read with interest the article on the lack of a constitutional right to a grievance procedure ( Prisoners Unite Against Suppression of VA DOC Grievance Procedure) in ULK 54. This happens to be an issue I researched a few months ago. Unfortunately I'm Federal, not state, so I can't file a §1983 anyway, which is a shame because I'd just love to take this one to the Supreme Court.
This legal argument should work. However, the only place I can see it working is at the Supreme Court itself. I offer it in the hopes that someone else can run with it.
The article is quite correct. There are many 4th circuit opinions throwing out prisoners' §1983 actions for denial of or retaliation against filing grievances, most of which go back to Adams v. Rice 40F.3d.72, 75 (4th Cir. 1994). This opinion, however, was before the 1995 Prison Litigation Reform Act, 1997(e). The argument is that, as 1997(e) came later than Adams v. Rice, and congress could not have intended to make a constitutional right (the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances under Amendment 1) contingent upon conduct that is not constitutionally protected, that therefore Adams v. Rice and all subsequent case law should be declared null and void.
Digging a bit deeper, I found that Adams bases its opinion on Flick v. Alba, 932 F.2d 728, 729 (8th Cir 1991) claiming there is "no constitutional right to participate in grievance proceedings."
The problem with this is that Flick v Alba states, "When the claim underlying the administrative grievance involves a constitutional right, the prisoner's right to petition the government for redress is the right of access to the courts, which is not compromised by the prison's refusal to entertain his grievance." After 1997(e), of course, that last clause is false, 1997(e) specifically and deliberately makes a prison's refusal to entertain grievances compromise the right of access to the courts. That's what 1997(e) is for!
If there be any justice, this is a slam-dunk argument. Of course, there isn't any justice. But occasionally a judge, wanting to gain status by overturning a long-held precedent might do the right thing, if only accidentally. It might also have some value as a rallying point for activism.
One might also argue a violation of equal protection under the fourteenth amendment, but I'm not sure how much that would add. A couple of paragraphs couldn't hurt, though.