Director?s Review Committee
Texas Department of Criminal Justice
PO Box 99, Huntsville, Texas, 77342-0099
April 17, 2012
RE: Appeal of the censorship decision regarding book sent to prisoner XXX from MIM Distributors.
To Whom it May Concern:
I am writing this letter about a censorship incident that recently occurred at John B. Connally Unit. MIM Distributors sent the above mentioned prisoner a photocopy of a book titled ?The Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation?.
We recently received from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice a publication review/denial notification which informs us that the publication was denied ?in accordance with Board Policy 03.91?, because it allegedly ?contains material that a reasonable person would construe as written solely for the purpose of communicating information designed to achieve the breakdown of prisons through offender disruption such as strikes, riots, or security threat group activity.?
With the present letter MIM Distributors appeals the negative determination and requests the decision be reversed and the publication be delivered to the above prisoner as soon as possible.
The mailroom staff at John B. Connally Unit seems to have completely misunderstood the content and the purpose of the publication we sent to the above mentioned prisoner. The book is written by a very well-known scholar (David C. Brotherton), associate Professor and researcher at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and by an Episcopalian minister and college professor (Fr. Luis Barrios), who?s also an exponent of liberation theology, activist scholar, and new Co-Director of Pastors for Peace.
The book is the account of the self-transformation of a street organization into a social movement acting on behalf of the dispossessed, renouncing violence and the underground economy and requiring school attendance for membership. The publication focuses intentionally on the social and structural aspects of the group, analyzing the internal reform that brought it to renounce violence and become a social movement with strong roots in the communities that live in the poorest New York City neighborhoods. As it should be very clear even by briefly reading the table of contents, the purpose of the book could not be further from ?information designed to achieve the breakdown of prisons through disruption." Instead, the book is a well researched sociological and anthropological inside-view of a unique street organization, whose internal struggles with the above mentioned process of reform towards non-violence raised great interest in many different research fields.
How such a publication ? whose focus is on non-violence, on making peace between communities and within prisons ? may be viewed as an attempt ?to achieve the breakdown of prisons through offender disruption? (as your censorship decision states) remains a mystery. Without doubt, if there were less prisoner-on-prisoner violence, and if more organizations were able to reform their goals and structure towards non-violence, that would relieve much of the occupational hazard for Correctional Officers and actually increase the security and good order of the correctional system, and personal self-discipline of the prisoners.
In other words, it couldn?t be more evident that the mailroom staff at John B. Connally Unit have completely misunderstood the content and the purpose of the book we sent to Mr. XXX or, in the alternative, that a thorough review of the publication hasn?t actually been conducted at all.
In addition, it is important to note that the U.S. Supreme Court has already stated in Procunier v. Martinez, 416, U.S. 396 (1974) and in Thornburgh v. Abbott, 490, U.S. at 416 n. 14 (1989), that prison officials violate the First Amendment when for reasons unrelated to legitimate penological interests they engage in "censorship of . . . expression of 'inflammatory political, racial, religious or other views'".
Lastly, the motivation alleged to support the censorship determination seems to be too vague and not sufficiently articulate to satisfy the threshold of adequate motivation established by the U.S. Supreme Court. Federal Courts have stated in several occasions that "Prison authorities cannot rely on general or conclusory assertions to support their policies." Walker v. Sumner (9th Cir. 1990) 917 F.2d 382, 385 and that "Unsupported security claims couldn't justify infringement on First Amendment rights." Crofton v. Roe (9th Cir. 1999) 170 F.3d 957
Based on the above considerations, we request:
1) the censorship determination be reversed,
2) the publication be allowed to the above mentioned prisoner,
3) and future censorship decisions be accompanied by thorough review of the material being censored prior to denial of delivery.
We appreciate your assistance in this matter and look forward to your response.
Bailey Clarke, Legal Assistant
PO Box 40799
San Francisco, CA 94140
CC: Affected parties