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Under Lock & Key

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[Censorship] [Arizona]
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HRDC Forces Arizona DOC to Define Censorship Rules

Freedom is Never Free

In November the U.S. District Court ruled that the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADOC) must "establish bright-line rules that narrowly define prohibited content in a manner consistent with the First Amendment." These rules must be defined by mid-February. This ruling comes after years of censorship of a variety of publications by the ADOC, often as a result of arbitrary decisions from mail room staff.

In this case Prison Legal News (PLN) (a project of the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC)) filed a lawsuit in 2015 challenging the censorship of their newsletter for "sexually explicit" content. Ironically, the content that inspired this censorship was describing non-consensual sexual contact between guards and prisoners. And as most readers know, PLN is primarily a legal resource for prisoners fighting injustices like this prison rape.

Arizona bans a variety of publications, including issues of National Geographic, Men's Health and GQ.

Issues of Under Lock & Key are also on this banned list, though not for sexually explicit material. In the case of ULK, the most recent ban (that we know about) is ULK 63 from July/August 2018, which was banned for "Incite, Aide, Abet Riots, Work Stoppages, Means of Resistance". Many other issues of ULK sent to prisoners in Arizona are returned or rejected without reasons given. Our attempt to appeal this ban of ULK 63, requesting the ADOC provide more evidence than these vague claims resulted in the following response: "The pages identified containing such content are throughout, including, but not limited to, pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, and 17."

In an example of their arbitrary decisions around censorship, a MIM(Prisons) six-page guide to forming a prisoner-led study group was censored in 2016 because it supposedly "Promotes superiority of one group over another/promotes racism/degradation." This is exactly what MIM(Prisons) fights against: the superiority of one group of people over another. And this is exactly what the criminal injustice system promotes.

This court ruling requires the Arizona Department of Corrections to change the mail policy from allowing DOC staff to use their discretion when determining what's banned and to establish consistency in excluding sexually explicit material. This won't help MIM(Prisons) as it is rare that a prison claims ULK should be censored for sexually explicit material. But any progress towards less censorship and more narrowly defined policies is a good thing.

On October 22, in a different case, Prison Legal News was awarded $1.2 million in attorney fees by a federal district court in Florida after a nine year lawsuit over censorship of PLN publication because of ads for phone services, pen-pals and stamps. This victory came after the Supreme Court refused to take up the final appeal of this PLN ban.(1) This resulted in the case remanding back to the district court for a ruling on the attorneys' fees. Basically this means PLN won on their Due Process claims but lost on their First Amendment claims. So the censorship is still legal, but the DOC failed to follow proper censorship policy.

"Free speech isn't free," said Human Rights Defense Center executive director Paul Wright. "In this case, censorship by the Florida Department of Corrections cost state taxpayers almost $1.2 million — because of the vicious efforts by the prison system to censor HRDC's publications. The Attorney General's office spent over 3,000 hours in attorney time fighting this case. The real tragedy is that Florida prisoners remain unable to read PLN and other HRDC publications that will educate and inform them of their rights."(2)

PLN and the HRDC have done a lot to fight censorship in prisons over the years. And their hard work on this front benefits everyone seeking to help educate and organize prisoners. MIM(Prisons) doesn't generally have the resources to take on these legal battles, but we do what we can to appeal censorship and force prisons to follow at least basic rules and regulations. This censorship, and our failures in the courts prove a point we often make: under capitalism there are no rights, only power struggles.

Censorship is one of the biggest barriers to our work with prisoners. And it's an area where we always need more help, both from jailhouse lawyers and from lawyers on the streets. If your mail is censored, get in touch with us and let us know. We will send you a guide to fighting censorship and assist on our end with an appeal to the prison. And lawyers on the streets get in touch and help us with these battles!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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[Censorship] [MORGAN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL COMPLEX] [Tennessee] [ULK Issue 69]
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Choose Your Words Wisely - ULK Censored in Tennessee for L.O. Language

I would like to inform the supporters, comrades and my fellow brothers throughout the world, plus also in the "Amerikan Prison System," that we must be watchful of our message that we are attempting to give and spread to those who very well needs it. The ULK article that was titled "Konfused Gangster Mentality" was deemed to be a threat to the Morgan County Correctional Facility. So it was rejected by the mailroom staff. This decision was upheld by the "Security Threat Group" coordinator, and by the final decision of the head warden.

The article was said to be written by a supposed gang member who has ties to the Bloods street gang. It was said by the prison officials that the way the word “confused” is spelled as "Konfused." But also that the word "Damu" that's a part of our Afrikan native people spoken language, that many of our slave ancestors spoke called Swahili. This was brought to the land of Amerika by the Afrikan slaves, who spoke Swahili and also many other Afrikan language dialects.

Even today across the great land of Amerika, you can hear Swahili spoken throughout many major cities as common language by "Afrikan Amerikans." Many may greet one another in such of a way for all to hear. "I love you Damu of my Damu!" Let me translate "I love you Blood of my Blood!" Because for we as Afrikan Amerikans we share something in common. That our people was stolen, kidnapped and then shipped across the Atlantic, during which millions of people died while being transported.

Now when we are attempting to speak to brothers, sisters, supporters, plus comrades through the ULK, we must choose and use our words wisely in our articles, so the law enforcers won't be offended. Because here at Morgan County CF they have a long history of being taught to be racist, prejudiced, biased and abusive by assaulting prisoners while being in restraints. Yeah they're country boyz here at this facility. They don't want prisoners awoken and told what they should be doing against their oppressors. Because that would mean that these coward "Correctional Officers" would be getting their ass kicked left and right when they do things to us in a wrongful act.

And last, but not least, it was said by the STG coordinator here that he didn't like that the article titled "Konfused Gangster Mentality" used the word pig to describe law enforcers. I myself thought it was funny, because this same STG coordinator at MCCF, he has witnessed his co-workers partake and possibly himself also in one or two of the foul acts I mention above.

Now we know that this is an ongoing problem that's not confined to the prison system; it also is happening in our streets of Amerika. The law enforcers are killing unarmed black males at an alarming rate as they did in 1950s thru the 1960s when our true brothers and sisters known as the Black Panthers became aware of the problems and began to form a movement to deal with them.

If you are affiliated with a gang my brother, keep your gang slang, your dissing ways toward another gang out of the ULK. Because these swine are always looking for ways to stop such articles and paper from entering into the prison systems. And that goes for being straight forward when it comes to speaking on dealing with the law enforcers. And being behind enemy lines without the system knowing that it has been infiltrated by us in all forms. Then more damage can be done against who we are fighting. This simple, but effective technique has been used by the oppressed through the world.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer raises a difficult question for those of us working to expose the criminal injustice system. We want our publication to get in to our readers behind bars. We also want to print the truth. And we want to use language that inspires and empowers our readers. This truth and this language sometimes leads to censorship. We try to walk the line, always printing the truth, but choosing our language carefully when there is an alternate word that means the same thing and can prevent censorship. We can be thoughtful about what words we put out front.

We also need to take on these censorship battles and use them to expose the prison system, and the lack of free speech under imperialism. Like this writer, we need to appeal censorship when it happens. And when you appeal, if you inform MIM(Prisons) of the censorship we will also write an appeal as distributor of the publication. Even if we don't win these appeals, we put the prison on notice that we're paying attention to their rule breaking. Often the words and articles they cite as reason for censorship wouldn't pass a review by the courts. We need to remind them of these laws. If you don't have a copy of our guide to fighting censorship, write in to request one.

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[Censorship] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 68]
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How to Fight PA Mail Policies

In the article "Pennsylvania Digitizing Prisoner Mail" in ULK 65(1) Soso points out that PA's new policy will restrict prisoners to purchasing books directly (after the publication is first approved by the DOC). By enforcing this policy the PA DOC is implementing a state-run monopoly on reading material within its prisons. The obvious reason for this imperialist act is to further censor prisoners' reading material.

Illinois comrades have heard our brothers' cries for help. This policy can be fought, but it will take time and dedication to prevail. Crofton v. Roe, 170 F. 3d 957, 961 (9th Cir. 1999) is a case finding that a regulation that only allowed a prisoner to receive publications he ordered and paid for directly bore no relationship to the interest of screening for contraband. You'll need to Shepardize this case to find cases from your Circuit that support this judgment.

What does this mean? It means that you can combat the current policy denying third parties to order you books. That might seem like a small victory compared to the digitization of your mail and pictures, but any victory against the state is a victory for the people. Unfortunately, due to the security concerns regarding drugs being smuggled into the prisons through the mail, it is unlikely that this policy will be overturned by any court. The only method left for this issue is direct action in protest of the policy which garnishes public attention and support (i.e. the mass hunger strikes in California in protest of the SHU which resulted in the abolishment of indefinite placement in the SHU). In Solidarity!


MIM(Prisons) responds: We hope that this PA mail policy will be challenged in the courts. Although MIM(Prisons) does not have the resources (or lawyers) to do this from the streets, we print this letter to support our jailhouse lawyers who are working on this battle. At the same time, this writer makes a good point that we are unlikely to win these legal battles entirely. We can sometimes gain some small victories, that allow us things like greater access to educational materials in prison. But we need to keep in mind that political power only comes to those who take it. The imperialists and their courts will not give up this power without a fight.

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[Censorship] [Campaigns] [Polunsky Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 68]
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Texas Bans Mailing its own Grievance Manual to Prisoners

tdcj griev manual censorship

We just got word that the Texas Department of Criminal inJustice (TDCJ) has denied delivery of the TDCJ Offender Grievance Manual to one of our subscribers in Texas. Not just at the unit level (we were not informed of the censorship at the unit level by Polunsky Unit mailroom staff, in direct contradiction to TDCJ's own policies)(1), but the Director's Review Committee even upheld the censorship of the grievance manual. The Director.

Well, what could possibly be the reason given for censoring TDCJ's own manual which was written for "offenders"? Couldn't tell you. All the notice says is it was "received in contradiction with BP-03.91, Uniform Offender Correspondence Rules." Don't forget, BP-03.91 doesn't just say that this item is denied delivery to this particular subscriber. It says that this item is banned in the entire state for all time. Just like [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán, our "Defend the Legacy of the Black Panther Party" study pack, and multiple issues of Under Lock & Key (at least including Nos. 63, 57, 54, 51, 45, 35, 32, 28, and 27).

You might be wondering why MIM Distributors is sending in the grievance manual anyways. It's a TDCJ document, after all. And according to the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, the grievance manual ought to be available to prisoners.(2) Well, in September 2014, a memo went out that removed the grievance manual from all TDCJ law libraries.(2) Why would they do this? Don't know, they didn't say. TDCJ's grievance system is notoriously ineffective and deliberately obstructive. And Texas is historically one of the worst states when it comes to brutal national oppression. Seems to be part of those overall patterns.

We did have a "victory," so minor that it's even embarrassing to use that word. The Director's Review Committee Decision Form actually listed the name of the item that they censored! Wow! We didn't have to go hunting around in the list of mail we sent to this subscriber, guessing which item was censored based on the date we mailed it out. This is often a very difficult detail to pin down, considering how much mail we send in and the weeks- and months-long delays in the TDCJ censorship procedures.

So, we've been protesting the ineffective grievance process in Texas for almost ten years. The grievance manual was hidden almost 5 years ago. And now we can't even mail in the grievance manual. We do plan to appeal this censorship to the Director's Review Committee, but often our letters to them go unanswered. In the short term, we need people (and lawyers!) in Texas to put pressure on TDCJ to stop obstructing prisoners' access to the grievance system. Ultimately we need to overthrow this totally bunk injustice system and the economic system it protects.

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[Censorship] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 66]
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Pennsylvania Mail Disrupted

Following a fifteen-day lockdown of all Pennsylvania state prisons, new policies were erected for receiving mail. Publications were halted, and hundreds of book packages from free prison book programs were returned to sender. This occurred because several staff members at various Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) prisons claimed to become deathly ill after handling prisoner mail.

DOC officials assumed it was synthetic marijuana, or K-2, being sent in through the mail. However Dr. Lewis Nelson, Chair of Emergency Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and other prominent medical staff called the DOC on their lies and excuses about the lockdown and new policies and procedures dealing with prisoner mail. Dr. Nelson blew the whistle, so to speak, when he pointed out that one must ingest or inhale synthetic marijuana to have any type of effect on individuals.(1) One cannot be affected by merely touching it, or paper soaked in K-2. Furthermore, he stated that synthetic marijuana simply does not have the type of effects that the individuals were having.

So, one might ask, what the real agenda the DOC had in the change in procedure. The DOC has wanted to control what prisoners read and what type of mail they received for quite some time. It goes to show just how much prisons seek to control others. Needless to say, the DOC is currently under investigation due to its frivolous claims. Mail must be sent to a company in Florida, where it is scanned. It is then forwarded to each respective prisoner at whatever prison he/she is confined. Pennsylvania prisoners receive copies of photos, letters and greeting cards, and the originals are eventually destroyed. Even our legal mail is opened in the presence of each prisoner, handled in a biohazard container, then photocopied. The copies are given to the prisoner, and the originals placed in an "evidence" bag, and eventually destroyed, or so the DOC claims.

We are permitted to receive books, magazines and other publications now, as of very recently. They still must be sent to a secure processing center, where they are searched and then forwarded to each respective prisoner. This is a reminder that we are all being controlled. Unless we get together and do something about it. How long will we allow prison officials to violate our rights and take away freedoms that are promised to us in the U.$. constitution and its amendments? This is a call to arms, and the need to fight the system instead of tearing down one another. I refuse to allow the U.$. prison system to continue violating my rights, and what few freedoms are afforded to me. I will continue to struggle against the wretched machine that seeks to break me. This is a call for comrades to do the same.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We wrote about this Pennsylvania mail policy in ULK 65 and since that time, a new policy to send books and magazines to yet another separate address was implemented.(2) In response to outcry by prisoners and family, the PA DOC did back down on their policy that books could only be ordered through the PA DOC, from their approved vendors. That is no small victory.

We have instances of letters sent to the Florida processing center being returned to us just stamped "return to sender" after being opened and then taped shut. No reason is given. We think it's safe to assume it's the contents of the letter that inspires this censorship, because not all our mail is being returned, and it is being opened at the processing center. In at least one case, our Guide to Fighting Censorship was the item returned to us.

This is an important censorship battle and we join this comrade's call for everyone in Pennsylvania to take up the fight. This is an easy excuse to selectively censor revolutionary material, or selectively censor prisoners who are politically active. We anticipate an increase in denials of our mail. When you are notified of censorship, appeal it, and also let us know what was censored. If you haven't received mail from us in a while, check in and let us know. We always keep up subscriptions for 6 months after your last letter to us. Also follow this comrade's example and keep us informed about changes to the rules and updates on the fight against them. For our part, we will also be appealing when we have evidence of censorship and working with you to fight from the outside.

Notes:
1. https://www.thevermilion.com/opinion/inmates-speaking-out-about-injustices-mistreatment-should-concern-us/article_4669417c-c074-11e8-8448-b76185fef536.html
2. Soso of MIM(Prisons), "Pennsylvania Digitizing Prisoner Mail", ULK 65, November 2018.
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[Censorship] [Legal] [Florida] [ULK Issue 67]
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Supreme Court Denies PLN Florida Censorship Appeal

On 7 January 2019 the Supreme Court refused to take up a First Amendment case challenging the statewide ban of Prison Legal News (PLN) in the Florida Department of Corrections. The ban has been in place since 2009. This appeal was the final attempt to challenge the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which sided with the Florida DOC.(1) Each year thousands of cert petitions are filed with the Supreme Court and most are not heard. As is typical, no reasons were given for the PLN case denial.

The Florida DOC maintains that they are censoring PLN for safety and security reasons. The appellate court found this censorship justified related to certain advertisements in PLN including ads for pen pal services, businesses that purchase postage stamps, and third-party phone services.

We know there is no real safety and security justification for censoring PLN. It's an educational publication that helps many prisoners gain legal knowledge and fight back against injustices. PLN is, however, a threat to the institution of prisons in the United $tates. Prison Legal News fights for prisoners' rights and exposes injustices around the country. This is counter to the interests of a system that is focused on social control.

A number of groups stepped up to file or sign briefs in support of PLN. Of particular interest is one from a group of former Correctional Officers, including some from Florida. They argue, very rationally, that the complete censorship of PLN is an exaggerated response to security concerns and a constitutional violation.(2) Of course these former C.O.s, and many others who support allowing PLN into the Florida DOC, made very narrow arguments that still protected the DOC's "right" to censor anything they deem dangerous. These supporters are just opposing censorship for something so obviously not dangerous as it exposes the falsehood that prisons are censoring mail in the interests of safety and security.

This PLN lawsuit sets a very bad precedent for others fighting censorship as the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision stands. Fortunately it should not directly impact ULK as we don't run these third-party ads. Though Florida did censor ULK 62 for "stamp program advertisement." While we do accept stamps as donations, we run no stamp programs. This goes to show that when there is no justification for censorship, the prisons will just make up things not even in the publication.

Any ruling upholding censorship in prisons is a bad one. This ruling further exposes the reality that there are no rights, only power struggles. The First Amendment only protects speech for those privileged enough to buy that protection.

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[Censorship] [ULK Issue 65]
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Censors in their own words - November 2018

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 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 that give a truthful account, but far more money is put into anti-communist propaganda. Here, free speech is reserved for those with money and power.

In prisons in particular there is so much censorship, especially targeting those who are politically conscious and fighting for their rights. MIM(Prisons) and many of our subscribers spend a lot of time and money fighting for our First Amendment right to free speech. For us this is perhaps the most fundamental of requirements for our organizing work. Some prisoners are denied all mail from MIM(Prisons). This means we can't send in our newsletter, or study materials, or even 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 instances.

Denying prisoners mail is condemning them 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 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 www.prisoncensorship.info/data

Michigan

ULK 63 was censored to two prisoners in Michigan because: "throughout the publication COs/police are referred to as 'pigs.' This reference is reasonably likely to promote or cause violence or group disruption in the facility."

Michigan - Michigan Reformatory

This censorship notification for ULK provided a new justification: "1 booklet with sticker not able to search without destroying."

Florida - New River Work Camp

ULK 62 was impounded because of "PG2: Stamp program advertisement" claiming this violated the rule that "It contains an advertisement promoting any of the following where the advertisement is the focus of, rather than being incidental, to the publication or the advertising is prominent or prevalent throughout the publication: (3) The purchase of products or services with postage stamps"

Colorado - Sterling Correctional Facility

We sent a prisoner the book [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán in August of 2017. On May 8, 2018, the prison sent us a notice that the book was censored because: "Safety & Security: Pgs. multiple pgs. - 5+ pgs talks about the rise and struggles for power of the [email protected] Nation within the prison system."

Arizona

In June MIM(Prisons) received a letter from the ADC regarding Under Lock & Key 62 banning this issue:

"The Arizona Department of Corrections has determined that your publication described below contains unauthorized content as defined in Department Order 914.07 and, as a result, may be released in part or excluded in whole for the specific reason(s) given below.
Detrimental to the Safe, Secure, and Orderly Operation of the Facility
Street Gangs/STG
Promotes Superiority of One Group Over Another, Racism, Degradation
Promote Acts of violence"

Regarding ULK 63: "The Arizona Department of Corrections has determined that your publication described below contains unauthorized content as defined in Department Order 914.07 and, as a result, may be released in part or excluded in whole for the specific reason(s) given below. DO 914.07 - 1.2.3 Incite, Aide, Abet Riots, Work Stoppages, Means of Resistance."

Oregon - Two Rivers Correctional Institution - and New Jersey

This report comes from a prisoner now held in Oregon.

While being held captive by this imperialistic government in the oppressive state of New Jersey, I was a regular subscriber to ULK. However, once the pigs searched my cell for contraband all they found were back issues of ULK. As a result of that cell search, the New Jersey DOC banned any and all published material from MIM publications.

In November I was transferred to the Oregon DOC, and recently I asked the comrades at MIM(Prisons) to add me back to the mailing list. On 1 May 2018 I received a mail violation for a ULK issue. Their imperialistic reasons for rejecting the issue were: "Any other material that the Department deems to pose a threat or to be detrimental to legitimate penological objectives."

However, I am pleased to say that I did receive the May/June 2018 ULK 62 publication, so keep them coming comrades and I'll continue my quest for liberation through education, and continue to spread the word about MIM(Prisons) to all those who remain in their oppressive darkness mentally!

Pennsylvania

Notification sent to MIM(Prisons) regarding ULK 63: "This is to notify you that the publication referenced advocates and calls for solidarity among prisoners on September 9. The decision of the correctional institution is for this publication to be DENIED, and the inmates in the PA Department of Corrections will not be permitted to receive the publication. The correctional institutions will be notified by the Policy Office of the decision."

North Carolina

ULK 62 was denied by the NC DOC because page 2 "Has verbiage that may incite distributive behavior." This was further clarified for a prisoner who appealed the rejection. The objectionable section is "Page 2 under What is MIM(Prisons)?" which the prison claims: "Could likely precipitate violence among races/classes of people."

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[Censorship] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 65]
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Pennsylvania Digitizing Prisoner Mail

Pennsylvania DOC has a new mail policy requiring all prisoner mail be sent to Florida, care of Smart Communications (SmartCom).(1) This company scans in all mail and forwards it to PADOC to be printed and delivered on site. No original mail will actually reach prisoners. Prisoners receiving greeting cards or photos are being given shrunk, black and white copies.

Some prisoners in Pennsylvania are circulating a request for legal help to fight this new practice. They list multiple concerns. These changes will dramatically impact the mail PA prisoners can receive including almost certainly denying them access to political books and magazines. SmartCom will keep scanned mail in a searchable database. This will likely be used to profile people who send mail to PA prisoners. Under the pretense of security concerns, this new policy is also about political control.

Prisons are allowed to restrict prisoners' First Amendment rights to free speech, but it is "only valid if it is reasonably related to ligitimate penological interests." (Turner v. Safely, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987)) In this situation, PADOC is citing incidents of "multiple staff members being sickened by unknown substances over the past few weeks." In September 2018, it says there were eight staff emergency room trips for drug exposure.(2) It is focusing on mail restrictions because "[i]t's speculated that the majority of contraband enters the facilities through the mail."

PADOC is building a lot of hype on its website about how drugs come in thru the mail and with visitors. Yet in its photographic report, "Examples of Drug Introduction into Facilities," not one example is given of staff bringing drugs in.(3) Anyone familiar with prison culture knows that prison staff are a likely source for smuggling. It's lucrative and relatively easy. PADOC's presentation of the situation is skewed. And according to its FAQ on the new procedures for how it's going to handle this alleged poisoning problem, no additional screening or testing for staff seems to be on the radar.

The new mail procedures imply that subscriptions for magazines and periodicals will continue direct to the prison: "For now, you will continue to receive issues of current subscriptions. If any issue is compromised, it will be confiscated and destroyed. No future subscription orders may be purchased except through the kiosk." The memo given to prisoners made it clear that all future subscriptions must be purchased through PADOC. PADOC will purchase subscriptions in bulk and have magazines shipped in bulk to the facility to deliver to prisoners. The DOC will set the cost and select the vendors.

As a part of this change, PA is banning anyone from sending any books in to prisoners.(4) "Inmates can make a request to purchase any book. The DOC will provide the inmate with the cost of the book. Once the inmate submits a cash slip for the book, the DOC will order the book and have it shipped to the inmate." No independent orders are allowed: "All publications must be purchased through DOC." Books sent any other way will be returned to sender. While outside folks can deposit money in prisoners' accounts so that they can purchase approved books from approved vendors, they will now have to pay 20% more than the cost of the book because that is deducted from incoming money to many prisoners' accounts as costs or restitution.

This is a ridiculous policy change, under the pretense of security. While an argument is being made that preventing all physical mail from entering facilities will cut down contraband, it is an unnecessary obstruction to First Amendment rights of prisoners. The impact on prisoners, whose contact with the outside world is mainly through the mail, will be dramatic. Mail delays will likely increase, but more importantly, many will no longer have access to education. Cutting off books and magazines, limiting people to only content that is pre-approved by the prison, means that organizations like MIM(Prisons) will no longer be able to send literature to prisoners in PA.

This new policy is only serving to impose greater control and isolation on prisoners in PA. The results of cutting prisoners off from outside contact, and denying them educational materials, will just increase the already high recidivism and likely fuel more conflict behind the bars. This is what the prison wants: keeping prisoners fighting one another rather than educating themselves, building ties to the community, and building opposition to the criminal injustice system.

Notes:
1. FAQ New Procedures, PADOC. https://www.cor.pa.gov/Initiatives/Pages/FAQ-New-Procedures.aspx
2. Drug Interdiction Indicators, PADOC. https://www.cor.pa.gov/Initiatives/Documents/Drug-Interdiction-Indicators.pdf
3. Examples of Drug Introduction Into Facilities, PADOC. https://www.cor.pa.gov/Initiatives/Documents/PA%20DOC%20Drug%20Finds.pdf
4. In September, it appeared PADOC was going to force all prisoners to only acquire books via e-readers. There was much public outcry against this policy, and as of 1 November 2018, it appears PADOC's primary tactic regarding books will be to have them all sent through a processing center in Bellefonte, PA.
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[Aztlan/Chicano] [Censorship] [Colorado] [ULK Issue 63]
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Colorado Fears [email protected] Activism

I'm reaching out to bring awareness to Colorado's state prison system's "off record" policy to keep Chicano inmates in fractional warfare/oppression. Colorado has been plagued with the same brown-on-brown violence and ideology as California's systems for the past 30 years. Only recently has an awakening transformed the "gang banger" mentality of the masses into a revolutionary mental state in the liberation and struggle for Aztlán. This has been met with all levels of repression such as out of state transfers to secret locations, MCC (Colorado’s new politically correct name for SHU/Ad-Seg STG lockdown where inmates can only come out of cell every 72 hours to shower, etc.)

On June 14, [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán was denied by the publication committee for the following reason: "material which poses a potential threat to the safety and security of the offender population or DOC employees, contract workers, and volunteers by advocating facility disruption or non-compliance with prison rules or regulations." The truth of the matter is it was denied because it was coming to me at the specific time period when the Chicano masses in Colorado have decided to stop being the puppets for capitalistic racist oppression of a system which actively has aided and facilitated the destruction of our people by putting our lives in danger in numerous ways. The following are small examples of these conditions.

Putting rival members in pods where they are sure to be assaulted so severely that death or attempted murder are likely scenarios. Opening cell doors of rival STGs while inmates are cuffed and shackled to tables, so that they may be assaulted etc. This has been the norm for years. Now that we have risen above the tribal mentality in an effort to educate and raise awareness to the racist genocide of our people that the system has manipulated us into doing with our own hands we are being slammed in cells, censored, and oppressed even harder. I'll be surprised if you ever receive this letter.

Currently I am in grievance procedures over books. Any material that may help or contacts to further our struggle would be greatly appreciated. Once I finish the grievance process I will send copies of all material on the issue. Thank you for your time. In solidarity with the struggle to end oppression and liberate Aztlán.

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