Media Review Committee
Upstate Correctional Facility
PO Box 2001
Malone, NY 12953-0901
27 July 2008
The purpose of this letter is to request a review of the decision made earlier this month to censor some materials sent by MIM Distributors to Mr. XXXXXX XXXXXX (XXXXXX) at Upstate Correctional Facility. He reports that he was notified that materials, including MIM Theory #5: A Spiral Trajectory, were censored for the reasons that they could incite violence, advocates rebellion against the government and could incite disobedience, as well as for displaying gang insignia.
I am including the Inspector General and Central Office Media Review Committee as recipients as this is one of a series of incidents in the NYS DOCS where MIM Distributors literature has been censored for the political message they contain and MIM Distributors was not notified of the decision. Literature published by MIM has always explicitly discouraged violence and breaking the law by its readers. In addition, there is nothing in MIM Theory 5, or any other MIM literature that encourages disobedience by prisoners beyond the legal grievance of misconduct by prison staff.
As you may be aware, rules 105.13 and 105.14 recently replaced 105.12 regarding unauthorized organizations within the NYS DOCS. Rule 105.13 clarifies the definition of a gang as an organization that has ?engaged in a pattern of lawlessness.? Not only has MIM discouraged prisoners from breaking the rules and laws, but MIM as a group has not broken the law in its 3 decades of existence. Therefore, the gang label claim that Mr. XXXXXX has informed us that you are using against MIM cannot be upheld.
Finally, is it no longer the department?s policy to notify the sender of censorship of their mail as guaranteed by New York Code Title 7 section 720.4(G)(1)(2)? I have written a number of times since March 2008 to ask this question and have yet to receive a response. The rules that appear online still indicate that this policy is in place. Please advise.
Thank you for your time,
Unfortunately, i've been denied "MIM Theory #5, Diet for a small planet." I appealed the issue to the highest echelon of DOC (Albany). I was denied on the ground that the publication promotes social change through violence.
letter to inspector general/central office
New York State Department of Correctional Services
Bldg. 2, Rm 112
State Office Campus
1220 Washington Ave.
Albany, NY 12226
19 July 2008
On March 16 I had written to you regarding a complaint against Southport Correctional Facility?s failure to notify MIM Distributors of the censorship of their mail as guaranteed by New York Code Title 7 section 720.4(G)(1)(2). Just today I was given a letter from Mr. XXXXXX XXXXXX (93A3756) reporting that a copy of MIM?s publication Under Lock & Key Issue 3 was censored at Five Points Correctional Facility. Once again, MIM was not notified of this censorship. Therefore, I am requesting that you ensure that this regulation is enforced, as it would be very helpful to us in dealing with these problems in a timely manner.
I have cc?ed the Central Media Review office as I am also requesting a review of the above mentioned censorship, which Mr. XXXXXX reports was justified with: ?Publication advocates and presents a clear and immediate risk of lawlessness, violence, anarchy, or rebellion against governmental authority.? As the Central Office is aware of, MIM has been sending literature to and corresponding with prisoners in the NYS DOCS for over a decade, and in that time MIM has never advocated that prisoners break the law nor has MIM ever encouraged an act of violence by any U.S. citizen against their government, on the contrary they explicitly discourage both. Upon review of ULK issue 3, I am certain you will find this to be true. So, I hope that you will grant Mr. XXXXXX his appeal, which I believe he has already sent to you.
One final issue that Mr. XXXXXX has brought to our attention is that the mail room is forcing him to leave his correspondence with MIM(Prisons) open so that they can read his mail under the reasoning that it is ?business mail.? Can you please clarify for me what the definition of ?business mail? and ?business? is as discussed under Directive 4422 (III.E.)? As you are probably aware, Under Lock & Key serves as a media outlet for prisoners to report what is going on inside prison, and it seems that correspondence with MIM(Prisons) would fall under the correspondence with a member of the Media and could therefore be sealed. Please advise.
Central Office Media Review upholds censorship
I have received a response to my appeal of a decision rendered by the Facility Media Review Committee of Five Points CF, regarding censorship of the "Under Lock & Key June 2008 #3" issue you sent me a couple of months ago. The decision was appealed to the Central Office Media Review Committee of NYSDOCS in Albany, And the response of the COMRC is as follows:
"The decision of the Five Points Facility Media Review Committee denying you the right to receive the publication Under Lock & Key, June 2008 #3, has been affirmed by the Central Office Media Review Committee for the following reason: This publication violates Guideline E of Directive #4572 on pages 3, 5, 6, 7 and 10 by providing information in pending litigation against NYSDOCS, equalin [sic] inmate labor to slave labor, and alledging physical mistreatment of an inmate at a specific NYS facility. In the opinion of the COMRC, this material could incite disobedience towards prison personnel." (date of 8/29/96 for Directive #4572 text relied upon for decision)
My next step is to file an "Article 78" action, to be litigated in New York State Court.
Senior Mail Clerk
Hampton Roads Regional Jail
2690 Elmhurst Ln
Portsmouth, VA 23701
12 August 2008
This letter is in regards to the censorship of mail from MIM to XXXXXX XXXXXX (#19543) at Hampton Roads Regional Jail. Mail Clerk P.L. Pumlei returned a letter to Mr. XXXXXX and a copy of MIM?s newsletter Under Lock & Key, stating that they were ?Inappropriate material for the correctional environment? (see enclosed).
I am quite sure that upon review you will see that this was a violation federal law. The First Amendment to the Constitution still upholds freedom of speech and association, and THORNBURGH v. ABBOTT, 490 U.S. 401 (1989) upheld the First Amendment in the context of a prison setting with the exception if the material is found "to be detrimental to the security, good order, or discipline of the institution or if it might facilitate criminal activity." The ?appropriateness? of said literature is not a legal justification for censorship.
The second sheet of paper sent with the returned mail to MIM (also enclosed), is a list of things that cannot be sent to prisoners at Hampton Roads Regional Jail. The highlighting on this paper implies a threat of criminal prosecution for sending ?Gang Related Materials? to a prisoner at the jail. If this is a serious accusation, please cite the portion of the literature that is deemed ?gang related? by your staff, what gang it is related to, and what federal law we are violating. Otherwise, I expect Mr. XXXXXX, and others at Hampton Roads, to be allowed to receive mail and literature from MIM Distributors.
W.D. Jennings, Management Lead Analyst
Virginia Department of Corrections
PO Box 26963
Richmond, VA 23261-6963
4 August 2008
The mailroom supervisor seems to have come up with a new reason for denying MIM?s communications with prisoners at Red Onion State Prison. The enclosed notice claims that a recent letter ?violates DOP 803.1 Paragraph 7 Section B.? Could you please send me a copy of DOP 803.1 so that I may ascertain what this violation is about?
Mr. Peter Huibregtse, Warden
1101 Morrison Drive
PO Box 1000
Boscobel, WI 53805-0900
11 July 2008
Dear Mr. Huibregtse,
I am writing you regarding the enclosed notice of non-delivery of mail, which notified MIM Distributors of the censorship of a letter that was sent to Mr. XXXXXX XXXXXX at WSPF. The notice gives 2 reasons for the censorship. The first claims that the letter concerns illegal activities. Not only are there no illegal activities promoted in the letter, but if you refer to the second paragraph, there is a notice stating, ?We encourage prisoners to join these battles while explicitly discouraging them from engaging in any violence or illegal acts.? We advised MIM to add this notice in response to facilities such as WSPF, which have repeatedly claimed that their mail promotes illegal activities.
I am requesting that you send me a copy of DOC 309.04(4) c 8.b., which is cited on the notice. Until I have read this rule I cannot speak to the claim that the letter may violate administrative code, but we certainly hope to work with you to ensure that MIM?s correspondence with prisoners at WSPF is not violating these rules in any way.
The second charge is that the letter poses a threat to the facility. As the letter explicitly discourages prisoners from engaging in violence or breaking any laws or rules, there is clearly nothing to substantiate this claim. As you are probably aware, censoring mail due to the opinions and political perspectives therein does violate the law, starting with the U.S. Constitution.
I hope that upon review of this matter you will concur that these violations are unfounded and will allow Mr. XXXXXX and others to receive mail from MIM Distributors as is their legal right. I also look forward to reviewing a copy of your DOC 309.04(4) c 8.b. policy.