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Under Lock & Key

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[Censorship] [Abuse] [Red Onion State Prison] [Virginia]
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Property Destroyed as Punishment for Helping Fellow Prisoner

I haven't written to you in a while due to the fact that all my property was taken in September and destroyed. This was punishment for me helping a fellow comrade who had his food and shower denied. In fact, both of our property was destroyed by these racist pigs. All my mail, photos, legal transcripts, addresses, hygiene, radio, books, etc. So I've been in an upheaval writing paperwork up, filing this litigation.

Since that incident I've been put back into long term SHU, probably until I go home. So in the mean time I'm trying to put together a political study group - United Political Prisoners Syndicate - to try to organize against this imperialist system. Also they denied me from receiving your ULK 34, talking about how it's detrimental to security, these pigs always talking about some B.S. I'm going to appeal the decision.

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[Download and Print] [Campaigns] [Abuse] [Censorship] [Legal] [North Carolina]
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Downloadable Grievance Petition, North Carolina

North Carolina Petition
Click to download a PDF of the North Carolina grievance petition

Mail the petition to your loved ones and comrades inside who are experiencing issues with the grievance procedure. Send them extra copies to share! For more info on this campaign, click here.

Prisoners should send a copy of the signed petition to each of the addresses below. Supporters should send letters on behalf of prisoners.

Secretary, Division of Prisons
4201 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-4201

Director of Prisons
831 West Morgan Street
Raleigh, NC 27626

ACLU of NC
PO Box 28004
Raleigh, NC 27611

U.S. Department of Justice - Civil Rights Division
Special Litigation Section
950 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, PHB
Washington DC 20530

Office of Inspector General
HOTLINE
PO Box 9778
Arlington, VA 22219

Jennie Lancaster, Deputy Secretary of DOC
4201 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-4201

And send MIM(Prisons) copies of any responses you receive!

MIM(Prisons), USW
PO Box 40799
San Francisco, CA 94140

*PDF updated May 2012, July 2012, January 2013, and October 2013*

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[Abuse] [Censorship] [Columbia Correctional Institution] [Florida]
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Florida Censorship, Brutality, and Disgusting Living Conditions

I was once a subscriber to your monthly newsletter. My last 2 newsletters: Sept-Oct and Nov-Dec 2012 were rejected. The reason given for the rejection:

"It is dangerously inflammatory in that it advocates or encourages riot, insurrection, disruption of the institution, violation of department or institution rules (per Florida DOC rule book Section 33-504.401 F.A.C)."
Sorry for not writing sooner, but I've been very busy. Informing you of why I no longer receive newsletters is not the only reason why I am writing.

Our living conditions are disgusting. The cleaning chemicals are watered down to the point where they are not worth using. No bleach is giving to kill tough germs. In order to get good chemicals we have to pay one of the prisoners. Here at the annex we have air conditioning. In some of the dorms the air conditioning is broken. All windows are sealed closed so there's no fresh air. The ventilation system is very poor. The state wants the air conditioning set to 77 degrees, which is hot and does not keep germs down. Each bunk is about 2.5 feet apart and the head of each single bunk in the dorm that I am in touches each other, so it's easy to get sick from the guy in the other bunk if he's sick.

Every six months existing prisoners, and every new prisoner, is supposed to receive new white under clothes and one new blue uniform (new prisoners). Instead we are issued used clothing upon arrival (boxers with piss stains or crust marks and boxers made from bed sheets, and white shirts with holes or bad underarm stains). Prisoners go through hell and back trying to get new whites every six months. Some of the clothes look as though they have crawled from under a rock or been in a knife fight.

Each prisoner is given a fishnet laundry bag to place whites and personal laundry in. When these clothes are washed the laundry bags are jammed packed into the laundry to the point where the clothes don't even move inside the machine because it's overloaded. When the clothes do come back they are no longer white, but look as though they were washed in rusty water. Towels are cut in half and issued half to each inmate. No wash rags are given and every 7 days 1 bar of hotel soap is issued that is good for 1 or 2 showers.

The chow hall is more than just disgusting. It should be closed down. You either don't eat and starve yourself to death or eat and take a big chance on getting bad health problems. Besides the fact that the Florida Department of Corrections has been serving the cheapest meat and other food products on the market since 2009, the portion of food that is served is not the correct portion for a full grown man. Even a child would ask for more.

The bad thing about it is most of the time the staff members make them serve with a smaller serving scoops or they water down the food and say it's the correct serving. Just one or two hours after each meal you're hungry again. Some meals are so small it's as though you didn't eat at all. And if a server doesn't want to shake the spoon or water down the food they will be sent to the box for refusing to work for 60 days, and with 60 days gain time lost. If you don't have family or friends sending you money you're out of luck, which causes people to rob or steal from the ones who have money.

A lot of times the cups, sporks, and trays do not get washed with chemicals, only hot water. Sporks are issued out greasy, cups are issued with dirt around the rim and muck on the inside. Sometimes there are drops of juice left in cups from the last person and trays are served with residue from the last man. Sometimes the food is served spoiled and if you complain they tell you to eat or get out.

The worst thing is that the kitchen is infested with roaches. Most of the time they come out while the food is served and at night it looks like a million of them all over the cups, sporks, trays, and cooking ware. A prisoner got transferred today because he killed about 100 roaches and sent them to the state capital, the health department, and a news station in a letter marked legal mail. The state called the prison and ordered that they get the prisoner off the compound.

The correctional officers (C/Os) take shanks, tobacco, cell phones, or drugs from out of their pockets and place it on the prisoners or in their lockers or under the bed to get prisoners sent to confinement or close management for up to a year. When they put prisoners in cuffs and walk them to confinement the C/Os start yelling "stop resisting" when the prisoner is not doing anything at all. They shake the prisoner to make him look like he is resisting so they can slam him on the ground and kick him, place their knee in the prisoner's back or have the other C/Os jump on the prisoner. They take their authority and abuse it. They take non-violent offenders and turn them into violent offenders. We call this the Department of Corruption.

I can go on about the poor treatment of medical: getting charged $5 to get cursed out or get a handful of ibuprofen and told to take lots of water for almost any medical problem. Or the poor teaching skills in education by the teachers who say their job is not to teach. Or the canteen prices that are so high it makes $100 look like $30 and the sale of items that say "not for individual sale" still being sold individually.

Prisoners can't even write a petition without getting charged for trying to start a riot. We don't get any help by writing grievance most of the time. They either go unanswered or some form of retaliation is afflicted on the prisoner who writes them.

We seek help, answers and true care, custody, and control. Not corrupt, custody, and control.


MIM(Prisons) responds: These reports of inhumyn conditions, abuse at the hands of the guards, and illegal censorship of anti-imperialist literature are far too common in the Amerikan Criminal Injustice System. This prisoner writes that he seeks help and answers. Unfortunately, the answer is that prisons are not about rehabilitation, or even just custody, they are about social control. And so this sort of treatment is actually serving the intended purpose. We won't be able to change it without a fight, and fundamentally it won't change until the system changes. We might win some small battles for reform though, while building to change the whole system. And for that we need to pick our fights carefully and build support as broadly as possible. There is no simple form of help that we can offer to end this brutality. But we can work with our comrades behind bars to build a base of support from within, and take on strategic battles that may win some reforms. We provide educational and organizing material, and we will support your battles from the outside. This must all be done in the context of building an anti-imperialist movement that will fight to eliminate the capitalist system that requires a criminal injustice system as a tool of social control. Only when we put in place a government that serves the needs of the vast majority of the world's people, rather than one that serves only a small minority of the wealthy, will we make significant steps towards ending oppression.

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[Censorship] [ULK Issue 34]
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2013 Censorship Report

2013 Censor Chart All

As a mail-based prisoner support organization, the ability to get our mail in to our comrades and subscribers is an essential part of our ability to organize. If we can't get mail in, we can't help lead the anti-imperialist struggle behind bars. We are under no illusion that we'll ever be free from censorship; if our enemy hates us, we're probably doing something right! But the U.$. Constitution and our humynist morality support our insistence on fighting censorship as much as possible so that we can have as big of an impact on the international revolutionary movement as we can.

Often times our subscribers don't even know how much censorship they persynally are experiencing, let alone what's going on around the country. Our annual censorship report gives our subscribers an idea of how much political repression we're facing overall.

This year we started recording our mail in more detail, and removed a lot of flaws in how the data is aggregated (although it's not perfect!). At the bottom of the chart, "% Unconfirmed" tells you how accurate the snapshot is for that reporting year; the lower number the better, because a lower percent of unconfirmed mail means we actually know what happened to more of the mail we've sent in. Unconfirmed mail not only covers up censorship in cases where the prisoner never got the mail but we haven't been made aware of it; it also may exaggerate the level of censorship we're actually facing in a particular facility or state where our mail is actually getting in to some people but they haven't told us. Of course we know the content of our literature is not held in high regard by most prison staff, so assuming we're being censored when we aren't sure what is going on is probably more accurate than not.

A facility is considered to be banning our literature for that reporting year if they have censored two or more items, and no items have been confirmed as received. An entire state is considered to be banning our literature if they have censored any mail, and no mail has been reported as received. Another note on the chart: it is only a snapshot of what is going on with our mail. A facility might be banning us in the same state where we also had victories, or a complete statewide ban may only actually affect a few subscribers (plus the potential new subscribers we might gain if our lit wasn't censored).

To improve our data on the level of censorship we're experiencing, you may receive a list from us of mail we've sent you, asking you to confirm receipt or censorship of each item. This list is called an Unconfirmed Mail Form (UMF). We recommend everyone keep a log of all your mail, incoming and outgoing, with dates received/sent, from/to who, and contents. That way if your mail with us, or anyone, is tampered with, you are one step ahead of the game. And if you get a UMF, you will be able to fill it out accurately rather than guessing. But do not wait to receive a UMF to tell us what you've gotten! When you write to us, you should always tell us what you've gotten from us since the last time you wrote. That will save time and money so we can send in more books and literature.

Facilities banning all our mail in the last reporting year:

  • Colorado - Arkansas Valley State Prison
  • Connecticut - Northern Correctional Institution and Northern Supermax
    this is the second consecutive year in Northern Supermax
  • Florida - Suwanee Annex
  • Illinois - Menard Correctional Center (two years in a row)
  • Michigan - Gus Harrison Correctional Facility
  • South Carolina - Leiber Correctional Institution
  • Utah - Central Utah Correctional Facility
  • Virginia - Hampton Roads Regional Jail (two years in a row)
  • Wisconsin - Green Bay Correctional Institution and Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution

Facilities banning ULK in the last reporting year:

  • Connecticut - MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution
    Reason: "Rejected publication per the Media Review Board"
  • Florida - Franklin Correctional Institution
    Reason: MIM investigated as Security Threat Group
  • Florida - Jackson Correctional Institution
    No reason given
  • Illinois - Menard Correctional Center
    Reasons: "Threat to safety and security"
  • Michigan - G Robert Correctional Facility
    No reason given
  • New York - Riverview Correctional Facility
    Reasons: "Incites disobedience, describes gang activity"
  • North Carolina - Marion Correctional Institution
    Reasons: "MIM Distributors on disapproved publication list," "encourages insurrection"
  • North Carolina - Warren Correctional Institution
    Reason: "On ban list"
  • Pennsylvania - State Correctional Institution Waymart
    Reasons: "Unauthorized enclosure" and no reason given
  • Wisconsin - Wisconsin Secure Program Facility
    No reason given

Florida is also attempting to classify Under Lock & Key as a "Security Threat Group," which would likely make all mail from MIM Distributors banned as gang-related, and subject anyone in possession of mail from us to disciplinary action. We have not received an update on this process since April. We do know that for a couple years Florida was a booming United Struggle from Within state, and some of our more active comrades have recently asked to be removed from our mailing list for fear of repression. We aren't sure whether the administration is threatening parole eligibility or physical abuse, or other forms of torture such as solitary confinement; or if they've already gone ahead and beaten the shit out of these comrades to get them to stop talking to us. Yet we've seen this enough times to know that something like that is going on. It's incredible the lengths Amerikans will go to to keep someone who's already locked up in prison from doing something as innocuous as reading a newsletter, participating in a study group, and talking to other humyn beings.

A popular reason for citing censorship in Nevada has been "Per AR 750... Address labels are unauthorized." Our guess is that this policy of the Nevada Department of Corrections would not hold up in court as being reasonably related to penological interests and the safety of the institution. A subscriber in Nevada who has been missing mail due to this rule should take on this struggle in a lawsuit! Another comrade in that state reported that prison officials have admitted ULK is not banned, but now they are resorting to "unofficial censorship" by simply throwing out incoming and outgoing mail. This is another reason why it's important to track your correspondence.

Victories and Struggles

Appealing censorship and filing grievances can lead to small but significant victories. The victories in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and on the Federal level are attributed solely to prisoners filing appeals of the censorship, without any supporting letters from MIM Distributors. Of course not all appeals will be granted, and we don't expect to ever be completely free of censorship from the state. But we encourage everyone to at least attempt to appeal all censorship of their mail. Send us copies of your documents and we can publicize and track them on our website www.prisoncensorship.info.

In the last year we've focused much energy on fighting censorship in Missouri and North Carolina. In Missouri we've met some success with letter writing, but in North Carolina it has been a different story. After a surge in USW activity in North Carolina, every issue of Under Lock & Key has been placed on their ban list for over 3 years straight. Upon appeal, not only do North Carolina prisoncrats tend to simply uphold the decision of the lower level with no explanation, but when asked to explain how their "independent" review process works, we are given no response. When we filed a public records request with the state, the only documents they had to demonstrate that the independent review process existed was a stack of the original censorship notifications, further putting into question the existence of the "review process." We have comrades working on this case in North Carolina who could benefit greatly from some additional legal assistance.

Multiple subscribers in Illinois have volunteered to assist MIM(Prisons) in fighting censorship in that state, and one has two lawsuits pending on this issue. While ULK is not getting in at all in some facilities in the state, some of our subscriber-volunteers are able to receive ULK and copies of the censor documentation. Also they are intimately familiar with the mail rules and appeal procedures in their state. Although it is a slower process for volunteers on theinside working via mail, this has been a very beneficial campaign, and one that anyone with legal knowledge can contribute to in their own state. MIM(Prisons) facilitates a Prisoners' Legal Clinic (PLC) to help jailhouse lawyers plug into projects that will push forward the collective legal knowledge and experience of the anti-imperialist movement behind bars. Write in to get involved! Any lawyer or law student who is interested in helping prisoners push forward these anti-censorship lawsuits should contact us.

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[Censorship] [Olympic Corrections Center] [Washington]
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Letter Censored for Exposing Prison Problems

I am writing today because I just wrote you on August 8 and the very next day I was called into the office where I was told that my letter (to you) was of concern. The woman working in the office stated that a number of the issues I mentioned they were currently in the process of trying to fix. They have been saying this for the last year while I've been here, and for at least four years according to many of the long-time inmates here.

So like I said in the last letter, ("I'm sure to see some type of retaliation for this letter"). I've been carefully documenting everything that has been happening since I began: piss test, matrix checks, compliance checks, etc. I ask for any books or other legal material that may help with what I'm dealing with. There are no resources to be had here and I do not want OCC to ship me out under the false pretense of legal library issues. I have around sixteen months left and want to spend my time trying to fix some of this BS that is happening here.


MIM(Prisons) adds: The censorship of mail exposing what is going on behind bars in the Amerikan criminal injustice system is one of the most pressing problems that our movement must fight. Mail is our primary method of communication between prisoners and the outside, and also between prisoners in different institutions as our newsletters share news from across the country. This is why we need legal fighters, both behind bars and on the streets. Get in touch with us if you can help take these censorship cases to court.

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[Censorship] [Education]
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Does Censorship Encourage Recidivism?

Why does a political newsletter such as Under Lock & Key get denied on a regular basis, but so called urban novels and other related material is allowed in to flood the cell blocks? The answer is simple, political material is dangerous to the established system of injustice. By censoring or abolishing political material the door is open for a replacement and how convenient that the replacement consists of literature conveying tales of drug peddling, murder, deception, racism and other criminal activity. The system uses this replacement as a means to keep ignorant prisoners in a criminal mindset and out of a revolutionary one, because if the lumpen spent the time wasted reading replacement novels with revolutionary research and education, we as a whole would be one stepping stone closer to complete abolishment of the injustice system. Sadly the ignorant prisoner cannot in his mind put down such material because the tales described leap out to him in an enticing manner. This is why the system wins and continues to operate in a full capacity.

The censorship doesn't stop at just political material, education period is under attack. The mail room drones will use any excuse to deny material which they feel would encourage an individual to think for himself and question the tactics of oppression deployed by the injustice system.

I chose this topic because I feel the individuals who fill their minds with system approved propaganda are the ones who suffer most in the long term and need to be reached out to and have the system's hold on their minds broken. I truly hope the many comrades who read this understand my point and will reach out to the ignorant and build them into solid comrades instead of pawns played by the injustice system.

I close this with the following: education is what will deliver the captives from the chains that hold them, but knowledge is not limited to just politics. One must be educated all around in order to attack this oppressive system from all sides and angles, because without education we are everything they want us to be: dumb, ignorant, and harmless. In all reality censorship does encourage recidivism, and as long as the oppressed remain ignorant to the tactics the system has nothing to fear. I encourage all who read this to put down system approved urban novels and pick up an education based book or newsletter, sign up for all political newsletters and educate those around you. Form a study group and become a part of the United Struggle from Within. With unity and solidarity we can abolish the injustice system and we will break these chains of oppression.


MIM(Prisons) adds: As we have documented extensively, prisons across the country regularly censor Under Lock & Key and other political literature and even letters that we send to prisoners. This comrade is right that this is politically motivated. Denying prisoners political education while providing them with trash to read is one way the prisoncrats try to prevent political organizing. We need the help of lawyers on the streets to work with the Prisoner Legal Clinic on the day-to-day battles against censorship.

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[Censorship] [High Desert State Prison] [Nevada]
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Small Victory in Nevada Censorship Fight

We have one small victory on the censorship front on admission that ULK is not on a restricted distribution list and subscriptions will be delivered. Though this was issued in January, one issue still never arrived. That is being grieved. Aside from that a recent ULK subscriber received a Prison Legal News "survey" concerning censorship which appeared to be a precursor to litigation against the NDOC by PLN concerning censorship.

The principle problem which we encounter now is unofficial censorship, such as mail being withheld/not delivered without notice, mail being returned without notice (such as happened with ULK) and not stamping the received date on our mail, which is then not delivered on time.

In one extreme example, a kid got a letter form his family who had not been able to locate him for a couple of years because all of his incoming/outgoing mail to family had "disappeared" and they were just recently able to locate him. Apparently officials wouldn't explain why or where he was.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade is on top of fighting censorship in his prison, and provides a good example for others who are experiencing similar problems. We need everyone to grieve censorship whenever it happens, pursue all administrative remedies, and attempt to contact outside organizations that might also be fighting censorship or willing to help with a lawsuit. If you have experienced censorship in your prison, write to us for a guide to fighting censorship, and be sure to report all mail (both received and rejected) to us so that we can accurate track censorship.

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[Censorship] [Illinois]
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Censorship Victories and Banned Lists in Illinois

As I believe you are aware, I have been involved in several battles with the prison system to secure your publications, and am now receiving them without incident. Therefore, I was surprised to read that prison authorities were claiming that Under Lock & Key was on the "banned list." The next time that I am at our law library, I will examine the banned list, to see if the zine is on it, but I rather doubt that it is, as this facility would not have given me it if it were.

For all of your Illinois readers, I would suggest the following actions if they are having difficulties in receiving any of your publications:

  1. Regularly examine the "banned publication list" which is available in every prison library.
  2. It should be noted that only the Central Publication Review Committee can actually ban a publication; a prison can request it, but only the CPRC can approve it, and there will be a paper trail if anything is banned.
  3. The following documents spell out a prisoner's rights regarding publications; all are available through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). However, if they are available at the prison's library, they will tell you to review them there. (Any person in the free world can obtain them.)

a. Illinois Department of Corrections
Staff Development and Training
Office of Inmate Issues
Publication Review Procedures

b. Departmental Rule 525
Part 525 - Rights and Privileges
Subpart C: Publications


These documents can be obtained from:
Ms. Lisa Weitekamp
FOIA Officer
Illinois Department of Corrections
1301 Concordia Court
PO Box 19277
Springfield, IL 62794

[For a report from a comrade who is having these problems see: Legal Pressure Wins Some Censorship Victories in Illinois]

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[Censorship] [Political Repression] [Gang Validation] [Florida] [ULK Issue 32]
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MIM Investigated as STG in Florida

It has recently been brought to my attention by the Security Threat Group (STG) coordinator at this Correctional Institution that the Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) and cells thereof is/are currently pending STG classification in the Florida Department of Corrections. As a result all MIM publications will be subject to censorship as "STG material," the possession of being punishable by disciplinary action/confinement.

I am discontinuing my subscription(s) as well as correspondence due to the coordinator's interview as mentioned above.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We are still gathering information on this situation in Florida. We have seen a complete blackout of our literature to select individuals, but not the overall population.

We have repeatedly addressed similar situations in the past, stressing that the physical safety of both prisoners and staff at facilities where prisoners study Maoism and work with MIM(Prisons) has only improved to date.(1) Meanwhile, according to U.$. law, it is still illegal for the state to censor political speech, affiliation or association because they find it disagreeable.

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[Abuse] [Censorship] [Illinois]
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Fabricated Protests and Repression

29 April 2012 — Greetings with love and peace. I hope you're all well and peaceful when you receive this scroll. My six month date to check in has arrived so here it is.

I have received the November/December 2011 ULK issues. I received the January/February 2012 issue as well. There was an article in there about some alleged protest at Stateville Correctional Center in Illinois. Also, an article about the cruel and unusual conditions of confinement at Menard Correctional Center.

I was sent here to Pontiac Correctional Center because Stateville I.A.[?] members — in retaliation for me filing grievances and a 1983 on them — framed me as a ringleader in that alleged protest. I have since come to find out (as I suspected all along) that no protest occurred. Yet, I was punished with a year segregation for the false ticket I.A. issued against me.

I wrote an 11-page letter for ULK to publish in which I addressed this, the issues at Menard Correctional Center, and how I filed a suit on the I.A. for issuing me two false tickets in retaliation for me exercising my First Amendment rights.

The I.A. here intercepted that letter and wrote me up for Dangerous Communications, and attempting Dangerous Disturbance. I was found guilty and given six months segregation amongst other things. I filed a grievance and for the second time in my 12 years within Illinois Department of Corrections the ticket was expunged. The Grievance Officer called the Director and the Director told him to expunge the ticket and Final Summary Report.

Hopefully, this letter reaches you. Did the February 2012 letter of mine reach you? Just wondering if it went out since the ticket was expunged.

I had to refile my suit and did so last week. I think the judge may have appointed me counsel (as she should) because I filed another 1983 in the same envelope against Correctional Officer Christopher M. Medin from Stateville and already received a form to serve on him via the U.S. Marshal.

It is imperative that this letter be published as other prisoners were set up as well. My suit is in the Northern District under the title Mejia v. Harrington, et al., No. 12 C 2824.

All of the ULKs I received were confiscated by the I.A. here (Paul Blackwell) and I have grievances pending on those matters. Now all of a sudden I cannot have the March/April 2012 ULK. I have a grievance pending on that. Well, it's that hour for me to withdraw but open your minds and not your porno mags and state property boxes.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We are publishing this letter almost one year after it was sent to us because of the recent campaign being initiated in Illinois to expose and fight the censorship of Under Lock & Key and other mail from MIM(Prisons).

As is demonstrated here, we have limited access to information coming from behind the walls, and rely on the reports of our correspondents on the ground to tell us about how the prison movement is developing. The article from ULK 24 reported a unified uprising against conditions of confinement in the same spirit as the California action in July 2011. The more correspondents who write in on the political movement in their prison, the more sound information we will have to report on in ULK, particularly where we can cross-reference different reports to get an overall picture of what is going on. Get in touch if you'd like more direction on how to become a ULK Field Correspondent.

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