[UPDATE: In late December we got confirmation that the fees for the suit were paid by a comrade in Anti-Imperialist Prisoner Support. We no longer need people to contact the judge, but are still collecting postcard signatures and can use your help.]
[NOTE: At the end of this article the author asks you, the reader, to contact the Judge about the TDCJ blocking court fees for a prisoner’s lawsuit to fight censorship. This is part of an ongoing campaign. We are also asking people to print and gather signatures on postcards that you can download from the campaign page along with fliers to use in outreach around this campaign to oppose political censorship in Texas.]
When i initiated the Juneteenth Freedom Initiative (JFI), and the fliers for that action began to find their way into every prison in Texas, Allred Unit’s Warden Jimmy Smith commanded the unit mailroom supervisor to place me on a ‘watchlist’ – purportedly to provide a greater level of scrutiny to my outgoing mail.
This measure first began to disrupt communication between cadres and myself throughout the state. The state has policies and courts have upheld bans on such communications under the cloak of a fear of gang organizing.
The watchlist measure intensified and all reading materials were made to go through a months long process of scrutiny. Texas has a part of its Mailroom Operations policy that they need not announce to a prisoner when a publication has arrived at the unit, even when it is subject to further review. This results in reading material being sent and one not knowing of its existence until it is officially denied. At the point of denial, We’re supposed to be allowed to appeal through the grievance procedure. What i’ve experienced , however, is that the unit grievance investigators don’t allow me to grieve a Director’s Review Committee decision. My battle with the UGI subsequently slows up the exhaustion of administrative remedies.
Eventually, the watchlist measure intensified to the point that ANY material from MIM(Prisons) was purportedly denied at the command of the DRC in Huntsville. This political police tactic is what led to the state-wide censorship of the Revolutionary 12 Step Program. The 12 steps is an anti-drug abuse and anti-reactionary program that is definitely needed in the Texas prison system. The state has upheld this censorship with the vague statement, ‘may incite inmate disruption’.
In recent times Texas has made national headlines due to the governor’s reactionary policies that repress social and political narratives that counter dominant narratives and positions. This trend, which tarnishes the First Amendment so-called rights, has made its way into the Texas prison system.
To understand how this has occurred one must have knowledge of connection, the family tree of repression if you will, that connects Jimmy Smith(Allred Warden), Brenda Kelley(Allred mailroom supervisor), Tammy Shelby(Mailroom system coordinator’s panel-chair), and the DRC, to Texas’ highest levels of government.
When a governor is elected in Texas they appoint people to the Texas Board of Criminal Justice. The TBCJ is charged with making Board policies, revising them, and thus make the overreaching rules and regulation that determine the day-to-day lives of over a hundred thousand captives.
The Governor also appoints the Director’s Review Committee (DRC), which is charged with, among other things, determining the content that can/cannot enter or leave prisons. The DRC is the ultimate authority on matters regarding denials of mail, publication, visitation.
We should be asking the questions: where is the transparency, and democratic decision making in the selection of TBCJ and DRC officials? These positions are handed down to careerist politicians who’ve made their living on the backs and misery of the prisoner class and Our families. In the future comrades must organize an outside force to force Texas to remove the veil between these backdoor chambers of power and the common public. We need readily accessible information on these so called public officials and representatives of the people.
So We have a clearly reactionary governor who’s appointed a clearly reactionary Board and review committee. In Texas the only way to overturn a DRC decision is through litigation, and therefore most censorship bans last indefinitely.
While Jimmy Smith and the other prison careerists play prison politics, in an effort to quell dissenters and self-determination of the prisoners, there is a fatal drug wave crushing Allred Unit. As i write this in late October 2022, 7 prisoners have died this month due to overdose.
The Revolutionary 12 Step Program is currently at the point of training cadres to be able to facilitate the program at their locale. The censorship of this program, in conjunction with the indefinite solitary confinement of many cadres, act to circumvent what could otherwise be a highly effective and influential peoples’ initiative. And therein lays the problem, at least from the administrator’s perspective, they seek to circumvent the rise of any influence among the prison population. Instead of differentiating between types of influence, their practices put a blanket on ALL influence and influential people or initiatives among the prisoners, and seeks to disrupt them.
Of course this can’t be done totally, and what results (as what resulted in previous generations of the Prison Movement) is that the mass influence of the prisons and prisoners falls in the hands of the most reactionary prisoner forces. The admin elects to deal with the lesser of two ‘evils’. It has seen that the reactionary forces are easier to contain, to appease, to divide and conquer, in contrast to an awakened, drug free, unified and determined population.
Active political prisoners and prisoners of war are the exemplary prisoners among the masses. They are leaders. Texas’ desire to conserve ideological, and social hegemony over the population has and will continue to cost people their lives.
In the civil case, Owolabi V. TDCJ Allred Unit, et al., 7;22-cv-00094-0, one such political prisoner has challenged political censorship of the Revolutionary 12 Step Program, and other communist, revolutionary nationalist, anarchist, and abolitionist materials.
The sitting Judge, a George W. Bush appointee, for the US District Court of the Northern District of Texas is Reed O’Conner, who has a reputation as a highly conservative Republican reactionary. O’Conner has moved to dismiss the case, not on the basis of the case alone, but due to prison officials withholding and delaying the processing of the check for court fees. Unit prison officials have ignored the plaintiff’s request to have the check processed. The Plaintiff has informed Judge O’Conner of this problem, and filed a motion for extension. The court has yet to respond to the plaintiff’s motion.
We’re asking all those among the public who have an interest in stopping political censorship in Texas, to contact the Court, inform Judge O’Conner and the Clerk of the Court that the Allred Unit is refusing to process the check for court fees.
Contact info for the court is here: https://www.txnd.uscourts.gov/judge/district-judge-reed-oconnor