In the past few years censorship in TDCJ has reached epic proportions. In March 2020, the board on criminal justice enacted new restrictive policies regarding mail correspondence, greeting cards, and receiving monies. After a year of wide-spread resistance to this fascist policy, an expose was written by Kerri Blessinger of the Houston Chronicle’s criminal justice department along with an inside comrade of the National Freedom Movement - TX Chapter.
The public outcry that resulted from this article which spoke specifically to the denial of greeting cards, moved TDCJ officials to annul this restrictive policy and now captives are again allowed to receive cards.
If the story ended there, things would be all well. Unfortunately, TDCJ officials have sought to retaliate against the prisoner population by instituting even more arbitrarily restrictive regulations.
Set to take effect on 1 August 2021, the newly amended Board Policy(BP) 3.91 will effectively ban ANY/ALL publications, photos, drawings, and images that We could possibly receive. This amendment bans any items showcasing thongs, lingerie, buttocks, sex toys, or bodily fluids, as well as photos that hides someone’s face.
Nearly all publications and photos one gets are subject to this rule. Harmless publications such as US Weekly, OK, National Geographic, Muscle Fitness, etc can/will be denied due to this rule. Accordingly, this denies TDCJ captives their visual stimuli, in the case of isolated captives in RHU/solitary such persyn will have NO visual stimuli at all.
The politicized prisoner collective known as Tx T.E.A.M.O.N.E. is calling ALL prisoners in teKKK$a$ to join Us and the souljas on ALLRED seg in Our campaign. We are striving to amass 75,000 grievances on this issue. Included please find a sample of a step 1, shortly We will distribute a step 2 and a petition to be sent to TDCJ Director of CID and the Chairman of TDCJ. We must showcase a show of solidarity as teKKK$a$ captives.
Offender Name:____________________ TDCJ#___________________ Unit:_________________________ Housing Assignment:____________ Unit where incident occurred:______________________
who did you talk to?_________________________When?________________ What was their response?________________________________________________ What action was taken?________________________________________________ sample: BP-3.91, amended on 6/25/21, goes into effect on 8/1/21, and effectively bans ANY/ALL publications, photos, drawings and images that we could possibly receive. This edict is in direct violation of our First Amendment rights against censorship, and fails to satisfy the four-part Turner test as TDCJ officials have failed to justify this policy.(see: TURNER V. SAFELY, 482 U.S.78(1987))
TURNER QUESTION ONE: Is the regulation reasonably related to a legitimate, neutral government interest? These magazines are non-nude, and are commonplace with no age requirement to purchase them. Thus, TDCJ cannot possibly believe such magazines may cause disorder or violence, or will hurt a prisoner’s rehabilitation. Prisoners have a right to non-obscene, sexually explicit material that is commercially produced, MAURN V. ARPAIO, 188 F.3d 1054(9th Circ.1999).
TURNER QUESTION TWO: Does the regulation leave open another way for you to exercise your constitutional rights? No. As an Ad-Seg inmate, the only visual stimuli we receive are pictures and magazines. Yet the very images that are being banned are the EXACT same content any observer can see on TV. Newspapers have circulars with bra sales, etc. Effectively banning those as well. BP-3.91 destroys our ONLY visual link to the outside world.
TURNER QUESTION THREE: How does the issue impact other prisoners, prison guards, or officials and prison resources? BP-3.91 treats ALL inmates, especially Ad-Seg, like sex offenders and pedophiles, creates unrest throughout the prison population, and punishes non-sex offenders, while GP sex offenders still see images that arouse them on TV. It punishes normal inmates while missing the intended targets.
TURNER QUESTION FOUR: Are there obvious easy alternatives to the regulation that would not restrict your rights to free expression? Yes. Restrict these BP-3.91 original to the Grievance DEPT. on (date) copy to my records BP-3.91 is too vague, encompassing a littany of correspondence (see: Alello V. Litacher, 104 F. Supp. 2d1068, 1045-81(W.D.Wis.2000) which struck down similar ban). BP-3.91 actually says, “Any photo that conceals or hides the face of the individual photographed in a manner that prevents identification of that person.” What penological interest does this serve? And during a pandemic when people are still wearing masks?
Action Requested: That the DRC and TDCJ repeal or annul BP-3.91 in its amended form as it does NOT pass the supreme court’s TURNER test.
ALL TDCJ inmates should file a grievance on this issue, it effects all genders and sexualities as pics with an erection will not be allowed. The paper trail begins now, and We may have to file a class action on this issue. By all means, COMBAT GENOCIDE!!
UPDATE: Grievance officers here are saying this is not a grievable matter. THIS IS NOT TRUE. We suggest that if others run into this problem they should write i60 informing the GR.DEPT that the Offender Grievance Operations Manual (OGOM) says that policy is grievable, due to the fact that We are grieving the unit’s interpretation of the new board policy. Prisoners should also see Thornburgh V. Abbot, 490 U.S. 401 (1989). Be sure to attach the returned step 1 to i 60.
Here officers are also saying that we can’t grieve it because the policy isn’t effective yet, and we can do so on 8/1 when policy goes into effect. This policy must be resisted on all fronts on all units. [By the time you receive this it will be in effect.] A separate, more extensive petition has also been submitted to the Deputy Executive Director and a phone zap was scheduled to occur on 1 August by outside supporters.
The Nevada Department of Corrections, under Director Charles Daniels and his pet warden, Calvin Johnson, at High Desert State Prison, have, since their arrival, waged an all out war against Nevada’s prisoners. This includes illegal theft and misappropriation of prisoners’ money under the guise of Marsy’s law (money which is still unaccounted for), to the ban on prisoners’ access to visits, chapel, yard, law library, or tier, under the premise of safety concerns over COVID-19. Meanwhile prisoners are still required to work in unsafe and crowded warehouses, kitchens, etc. as if COVID-19 does not target workers.
These same criminals also committed the crime of biological warfare when they knowingly ordered prisoners to work while 15 of them had recently tested positive for COVID-19 but were left unaware of their status. This was used as a way to spread COVID-19 throughout the prison more quickly. This was, by definition, a criminal act!
And now, while prisoners are fighting to get access to visits, chapel, yard, law library, and tier (since the only time they are out of their cell is when working, or their 30 minutes to shower or use of the kiosk, or phone when permitted) these criminals have taken another action to attack prisoners’ rights.
Starting 1 February 2021, High Desert State Prison will implement O.P. 750 mail procedure as outlined in Warden’s Bulletin #21-07. This revised operational procedure is an unconstitutional attack against our right to communicate and be informed.
In effect this new operational procedure mandates the following.
All incoming mail must be in a 4" x 9.5" white envelope written in black or blue ink only. If the mail received is not written in black or blue ink on the envelope, the mail will be returned to sender.
All letters and correspondence within the envelope must be written in black or blue ink. Any other colors will be returned to sender.
Any mail or correspondence received that is scented with perfume and oils will be returned to sender.
Any letter received with drawings and markings that is not from the letter manufacturer will be returned to sender.
Any letter received that are stained or discolored will be returned to sender.
Greeting cards will not be accepted. All greeting cards received will be returned to sender.
Inmates will not receive the original copy of letters and envelopes being received with the exception of legal mail. All letters and envelopes received will be scanned and handed out to the appropriate inmate. Note: the legal mail procedure will remain the same.
If the inmate name is not properly spelled, the inmate identification number is not noted, the senders name/address is missing, the mail will be returned to sender.
If there is writing on the back of a photo sent through mail, the writing must be written in black or blue ink.
After all mail is scanned and distributed to the inmate population, the mail will be properly disposed of.
All magazines and newspapers received must come from an established approved publisher.
Pamphlets and anything copied off the internet will be rejected with the exception of pamphlets received through religious services.
This new operational procedure (O.P.) is the latest in a long line of attacks against prisoner rights and protections since Director Daniels and Warden Johnson have taken on their duties. This O.P. is unconstitutional and deserves challenge.
First, in order to restrict prisoners’ Constitutional rights, the state must show how the restriction is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest. We do not believe that they can. The fact that prisoners are not receiving the physical letters/envelopes themselves, any act or restriction that bars or bans letters for scent, markings, drawings, stains, etc. cannot be in furtherance of a legitimate concern. Thus, we believe a legitimate argument can be made that these restrictions are arbitrary and unconstitutional.
Second, both the sender and receiver of mail/publications must be notified that censorship occurred as well as the reason censorship occurred. They must also give each party a chance to challenge the censorship. This is a very clear due process issue.
Third, we believe that a reasonable argument against the disposal of mail without due process is that the mail itself is the prisoner’s property, thus protected by due process.
Fourth, denying all pamphlets and internet copies have already been ruled unconstitutional.
Fifth, restricting all magazines and newspapers to established approved publishers poses a serious threat as it will ultimately be used to ban inmates access to materials and publications that the prison does not wish to enter the facility, such as Turning the Tide, Revolution, The Abolitionist, Black and Pink, Prison Legal News, Under Lock and Key, and other such publications. While “publisher only” restrictions have been upheld, rules which outright ban or deny publications have been ruled unconstitutional.
We are fighting this new attack, as we are fighting others. We are calling on all prisoners within the NDOC to fight for their families and friends, abolitionists, prisoner rights groups, and others, to stand up for NDOC prisoners and call for the resignation or firing of Director Charles Daniels and Warden Calvin Johnson.
Prisoners must utilize the grievance process, friends and families, or anyone else who wishes to help must call or write Governor Steve Sisolak or write Director Daniels - 5500 Snyder Rd. Carson City, NV 89702, and or Warden Johnson P.O. Box 1050 Indian Springs, NV 89070.
All Power to the People.
Let your voices be heard.
MS1 and MS26 - Revolutionary Front - NV
Caselaw: Turner v. Safley 482 U.S. 78.89. 107 S.Ct. 2254(1987) Lindell v. Frank 377 F.3d 655 659-60 (7th Cir 2004) Allen v. Coughlin 64 F.3d 77. 80 (2d Cir 1995) Williams v. Brimeyer 116 F.3d 351 (8th cir 1997) Procunier v. Martinez 416 U.S.396. 94 S.Ct 1800 Krug v. Lutz 329 F.3d 692.696-97. (9th cir 2003) Thornburgh v. Abbott 490 U.S. 401, 414-19 (1989) Juchlovich vs Simmons 392 F.3d 420 (10th Cir 2004) Montcalm Publ’g Corp. v. Beck, 80 F.3d 105, 109-110 (4th Cir 1996) Murphy v. Missourri Dep’t of Corr. 372 F.3d 979, 986 (8th Cir 2004) Clement v. California Dep’t of Corrections 364 F.3d 1148 (9th Cir 2004) Prison Legal News v. Lehman 397 F.3d 692. 699-700 (9th Cir 2005) Green v. Ferrell 801 F.2d 765, 772 (5th Cir 1986) Mann v. Smith 796 F.2d 79 82-83 (5th Cir 1986) Van Cleave v. U.S. 854 F.2d 82, 84 (5th cir 1988)
As social conditions on both sides of the walls cause dissent and unrest, formerly disengaged elements are beginning to ask profound questions regarding the contradictions of humyn society. As these queries continue, people continue to seek out answers. It is at this point where imperialist institutions begin to up the intensity of their censorship.
In recent months, retail giant Amazon censored a book entitled Capitalism on a Ventilator: The Impact of COVID-19 in China & the U.S. The company sent a notice on its censorship of the book and its up-to-date information on COVID-19 stating, “Amazon reserves the right to determine what content we offer according to our content guidelines. Your book does not comply with those guidelines. As a result, we are not offering your book for sale.” Amazon claims to refer people only to “official sources of advice” on the COVID-19 virus, yet there are an abundance of conspiracy theory books on COVID, calling it a hoax.
People and groups on the supposed “left” have initiated a campaign on Twitter consisting of sending an ever flowing stream of tweets at Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
The above mentioned book was written by a collection of people around the world and edited by both a U.S. and a Chinese activist. The book puts forth answers to questions being asked, most importantly: “why is China doing so much better containing the virus?” Evidence and available data show that China’s containment of the virus stems from its free medical care and its planned economic system being supposedly “science-based and co-operative.” This book does an injustice to socialism by insinuating that China, Laos, Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea are socialist or are currently attempting to build socialism. That is not true. But it does stand to reason that those previously socialist nations, with their residue of socialism, are doing better because of said residue.
Behind enemy lines on occupied Turtle Island, captives of the imperialist state have been active in resistance during the recent rise in social unrest. One of the various tactics used by the agents of repression has been to pick up the intensity of institutional harassment and mail censorship. Mail of prisoners known or suspected to be visionary leaders and protagonists has recently begun to completely disappear without any notice of censorship or denial. This same nucleus of captives has seen the disappearance of stimulus checks, political writings advocating communism, revolutionary nationalism, and writings exposing recent pig physical abuse against defenseless captives.
These disappearances are clearly politically motivated, as only activists and revolutionaries are subject to these tactics. Even more far reaching, is the delay in mail, both outgoing and incoming. Comrades within this nucleus received a recent mailing from comrades at MIM (Prisons) one month after it was mailed.
In response, it is paramount that comrades and visionary captives take steps to maneuver around obstacles put in place to neutralize our righteous revolutionary cause(s). Security culture inside the walls and out must be practiced in the extreme.
I have enclosed a bulletin that has been enforced on us here at Federal Correctional Institution - Manchester. I don’t think it’s legal but have no way to find out either way. So I’m reaching out for any help in this matter. This is not Federal Bureau of Prisons policy, only here and by this warden.
The bulletin reads in part:
“Effective February 8, 2021, the following procedures will be implemented for ordering any book. There will be a book”catalog“, placed in Education. The catalog will be the only vendor authorized… any books ordered through any other vendor or purchased by family members will not be accepted into the facility.”
MIM(Prisons) responds: The Human Rights Defense Center (Prison Legal News) already fought them on this and won 2 years ago. They will be contacting the counsel representing the prison to put a stop to this again.
The oppressor continues to break their own laws to prevent the oppressed from accessing information. The other issue we are having at this same facility is a restriction to only 5 one-sided pieces of paper per envelope. This prevents comrades there from receiving any of our resource guides or study assignments. If you have any information to provide on either of these issues please get in touch so we can hold them accountable.
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.
This is in response/follow-up to the “PA Mail Disrupted” article on pg. 13 of ULK 66. Enclosed is some info printed off of the internet that you may or may not be aware of. It substantiates what both the comrade that wrote the article and also what MIM(Prisons) responded.
You are probably aware by now, but the “policy” of staff photocopying our privileged correspondence (legal mail) has since been lifted and we now receive the original documents once again. This is ONLY for privileged correspondence from courts and licensed attorneys with approved “ACNs” (Attorney Control Numbers). This changed over a year ago and I’ve provided a copy of the policy update with this letter.
This is a huge victory and to the best of my knowledge, aside from the individual (or groups of) prisoners who I’m sure filed grievances/lawsuits,, etc. to bring about this change, I believe the ACLU played a major role in this win.
But of course it’s one battle in a much larger war. Our “regular” mail is still being scanned by Smart Communications in Florida as well as our photos from family and friends.
All books/publications still must go through the “Security Processing Center” to be heavily scrutinized and censored, which leads to it taking a MINIMUM of about three weeks for us to receive our books. Sometimes it takes upwards of two months.
An alternative to the poor quality printed (copied) photos (I’ve persynally received numerous photos that the jail has printed on the opposite side of the SAME page as my letters, which I hope I’m not the only one that sees this as ridiculous, lazy, and flat out disrespectful) is to receive “photo books” via apps such as FreePrints, FlikShop, Shutterfly, and Snapfish.
These photo books are more expensive (around $10-$15) but are MUCH better quality than receiving the printed copies through Smart Communications. But the photo books must come (from the app) through the Security Processing Center.
Clearly the DOC isn’t happy that we’ve found a “loophole” in eir ridiculous policy regarding photos and I’ve witnessed a fellow prisoner’s ENTIRE photo book be rejected because ONE out of 25 of the photos depicted eir young daughter throwing up the “peace” sign. It goes without saying that ey claimed it was a “gang” sign. How ignorant and disrespectful can ey be? Obviously this question is rhetorical because clearly ey will stop at nothing and have no boundaries when it comes to censoring and harassing prisoners here in PA and around the country.
Bottom line, this is proof that we can achieve victories, albeit small ones, but victories nonetheless when standing up for our rights against the systematic oppression at the hands of our captors (the State).
So I hope it will encourage all of us to keep fighting and keep standing up for the what we believe in and what we know is right.
I am writing you this letter to bring to your attention a serious situation that is about to occur at this facility. On 16 March 2020, the Acting Warden is about to implement a Draconian, repressive, and extremely restrictive mail policy. This policy DOES NOT conform to the Code of Federal Regulations and is in violation of the United States Postal Regulation.
This policy includes the ability to arbitrarily censor a prisoner’s mail without warning and without providing any notification that it is being done. This new policy affects ALL General Correspondence, which includes letters from families, the courts, religious organizations, financial institutions, and every other type of correspondence that is not a newspaper, magazine, or book.
The institution is using the influx of “spice” (synthetic marijuana) as an excuse to enact this policy. A review of the existing Code of Federal Regulations already gives the institution authority to place a specific prisoner on a restrictive mail policy for specific reasons (such as introducing or using drugs). This new policy affects everybody, even though the population that is abusing the drugs is less than 5%.
Also, the local warden shouldn’t be allowed to enact new rules at the local level. I wish to provide an example. Let’s say that every local postmaster could enact local rules. A postmaster in San Francisco could raise the postage by $0.15 per stamp. A postmaster in Chicago could end deliveries on Saturdays. A postmaster in New York could dictate that only mail weighing less than 10oz can be delivered. If every local postmaster could enact their own postal rules at whim, this would completely disrupt the delivery of mail across the country, and I am certain the public wouldn’t allow it.
The most egregious rules are:
All correspondence must be on white paper and in white envelopes, or it will be rejected. The problem with this is that most courts, and many businesses, mail documents in manila envelopes.
All accepted correspondence and photos will be removed from the envelopes and photocopied. The photocopy will be delivered to the prisoner and the originals will be destroyed. Basically, the Acting Warden has changed the rules so that he can destroy your property without your permission. How can an prisoner know if something even arrived? The mailroom can simply destroy it and no one would be the wiser. There is no law or federal rule which authorizes the warden to open up people’s mail and make photocopies. Think of the privacy concerns. Suddenly the institution is now storing a digital copy of your private mail somewhere. Are they keeping this in a database for future review?
I ask the reader to think of the importance of photos in your life. Childhood photos, wedding photos, graduation photos, vacation photos, etc. For prisoners who cannot have visits and are locked up for decades, photos are the single most important way to convey information of loved ones. To simply replace a quality photo with a cheap photocopy completely diminishes this important visual connection AND since there is NO EVIDENCE that photos can be used to hide drugs, this new rule is arbitrary and capricious and only serves to increases the hardships and burdens of being in prison.
You (the public) pay the United States Post Office (USPS) a fee to deliver the mail to the recipient (prisoner). The prisoner has signed a CONTRACT with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to allow them to open and check the envelope for contraband, then deliver the envelope with the contents. Now the Warden is violating the terms of this contract without having the prisoner sign a new contract.
Since this is a NEW RULE, ONLY the agency itself can make this type of change. In order to do so the agency MUST submit the proposed rule change to the Director of the Federal Register, who will publish it so the public can review and comment on the changes. If each local Warden can suddenly change the rules without following this process, what stops them from limiting the number of hours to access religious services, visiting, or access to medical services?
All correspondence shall have no more than five pieces of white, single-sided, 8.5" x 11" paper per envelope. A person can currently mail much more than 5 pieces of paper in an envelope at a cost of $0.15 per additional ounce. This new rule effectively increases the cost to send any additional ounces to $0.55. This will negatively impact the poor.
Also, many organizations, legal firms, businesses, NEED to send in more than 5 pages, or print on both sides. This new policy will allow the Warden unlimited power to arbitrarily reject mail he doesn’t like (ACLU, Prison Legal News, etc.), under the guise that it violates the page limit rule. Again, there is no security risk to printing on both sides of a piece of paper or mailing more than 5 pieces in the same envelope.
All incoming correspondence shall have envelopes which DO NOT have mailing labels. All addresses must be written in ink. Many organizations, legal firms, businesses utilize mailing labels to reduce costs. Again, this policy allows the Warden to arbitrarily reject mail that he doesn’t want.
These are just SOME of the new rules the acting warden plans on implementing on 16 March 2020. This will have numerous negative effects upon BOTH the public and the prison population. Further, if local wardens are suddenly granted the power to create any new rule they desire, without going through the proper process, then the entire federal system can be abused by a local authority, WITHOUT THE PUBLIC’S KNOWLEDGE!! The Warden ALREADY has UNDER EXISTING POLICY to reject ANY Correspondence if it is deemed to have contraband. What ISN’T ALLOWED is for the Warden to REJECT the Correspondence of ALL PRISONERS simply because of the Warden’s belief that contraband COULD be in a particular piece of mail.
As prisoners, we are often forgotten. Everybody hears and sees the stories of family separation of people from other countries at our border. But what about the ongoing family separation of our citizens confined within our prisons? As prisoners confined within these prison walls, our resources are limited to fight this “EXTREMELY RESTRICTIVE” mail policy. Most prisoners want to take action but worry about being harassed and retaliated against by staff when they make their complaints known. I know this from personal experience. MY personal property has been gone through and destroyed. My mail is being rejected or “lost.” I have been threatened with sanctions and retaliatory transfer.
WE NEED YOUR HELP!!! Please contact your local federal representative (Congressperson or Senator), the Western Regional Director, The BOP Director, the Director of the Federal Register, the Postmaster General, post this to your Facebook page, make your feelings known on Twitter, contact a media representative and ask them to investigate, make a request to a civil rights organization (ACLU, FAMM, etc.) or a religious organization and ask for their assistance.
MIM(Prisons) adds: For those of us involved in supporting prisoners we know that the First Amendment rights to free speech and association are a constant battle in this country. Fighting censorship in prisons and combating the unaccountable grievance system where prisoners are punished for voicing such concerns are part of defending the basic civil rights of oppressed peoples here in these United $tates.
FCI Lompoc can be contacted at: 3600 GUARD ROAD LOMPOC, CA 93436 Email: LOX/[email protected] Phone: 805-736-4154
We encourage people to write and call to express their concerns about the proposed policies. It seems that they may have already gone into place based on the timeline our comrade provided above. We will update this article as we find out more. Please email us with your updates or any reports on your attempts to contact the BOP on this issue.
Our most recent censorship notice came from GOA T. Bates at Thumb Correctional Facility in Michigan. The reason our mail was censored? “MAIL - WITH LABEL AND POSTAGE STAMP”. So you can send mail to prisoners in Michigan as long as you don’t put a postage stamp on it. Do they understand how the postal service works?
Of course they do. Violations of our First Amendment rights for illogical reasons is common occurrence here in these United $nakes. There are no rights that we don’t stand up for and defend. Right now we are behind on fighting censorship battles, and we could use your help in increasing the pressure on such egregious cases as this.
See our prison censorship database for examples of protest letters, and our legal/caselaw page for existing court precedents. Please email us any letters you send, or let us know about any phone calls you make. We are eager to help people, especially friends and family of our subscribers, join in our anti-censorship efforts!
19 October 2016 – I received ULK 52 today and in one article I see that it states that the literature [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán is banned in Texas. Well, I have a copy of this book and back in June when the STG officers seized all my property before locking me up in Ad-Seg, the book was found among my property. I was questioned extensively about me being in possession of the book, because of the reason they were investigating me. They say that I am a ranking member of a security threat group that coincidentally is the Texas Chicano Brotherhood! They tried to say that the book was propaganda of said group! I argued that it in no way had anything to do with any group as they assume. I was still placed in Ad-Seg, but ended up being able to keep my book. If it was banned I believe they would of confiscated it.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is correct that the book [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán is not related to the Chicano Brotherhood. However, the term Security Threat Group is used frivolously to label and restrict any group organizing in its own interests, if those interests are different from the state’s. Oppressed nation people (e.g. [email protected]) organizing for their own interests is inherently in opposition to the interests of the United $tates, because the United $tates has stolen the land of the [email protected] people, and oppressed [email protected] for as long as the two groups have been interacting. The term Security Threat Group is not about gangs or violence, it’s about politics, capitalism, imperialsm, and national oppression.