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Under Lock & Key

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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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[Campaigns] [Censorship] [Santa Barbara County Jail] [California]
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Loved Ones Fight Santa Barbara Ban on Letters to Prisoners

The fiance of a prisoner in Santa Barbara County Jail is leading the call to oppose a new rule banning all letters to prisoners. The Sheriff has restricted incoming mail to postcards only citing "security" reasons, as they always do. They say this, despite the well-established fact that ties to family and the outside world help prisoners rehabilitate and reduces conflicts. This is why we question how prison authorities define "security."

Nearby Ventura County Jail already has a ban on letters in place, and has recently rolled out an email program that allows them to charge prisoners.(1) One might think that they're cutting out the U.S. Postal Service because they can't get a cut of the money. But as we recently pointed out, another advantage to going digital is easier monitoring of all communications with prisoners.

The rights of prisoners are limited in so many ways, making them a vulnerable population facing increased risks of violence, rape, suicide and many health problems. Even after release prisoners face increased rates of poverty and shorter life spans. Education, communication and integration with the outside world are important parts of any effort to rehabilitate those who are rightfully imprisoned.

MIM(Prisons) supports this campaign to allow prisoners in Santa Barbara County Jail to receive letters, just as we combat censorship in prisons across the country. Those facing censorship from Santa Barbara can provide public records to our online Censorship in Amerika Documentation Project.

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[Censorship] [Education] [Michael Unit] [Texas]
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Study Group Responses Censored by Prison

These repressive forces (Michael Unit mail room supervisor and staff) have stopped my study group answers for the On Contradiction assignment and The Universality of Contradiction assignment. This is my first submission of study group answers from this unit and apparently they are misinterpreting and/or deliberately misconstrue the content of my study group answers. Well now they need to be checked and stopped in their tracks before they get to feeling themselves.

Note in the attached censorship notification they wrote: "Correspondence contains information pertaining to unauthorized group or organization." The form I signed off includes a postscript explaining that this office will notify the mail room of this address possibly being used by gang members.

How in the hell do my study group answers on philosophy correlate with information pertaining to unauthorized groups? Obviously they are trying to make a connection to my pseudonym and my official association, which has nothing to do with my participation in the revolutionary study group. They are also intimidated by any language that uses terms that they cannot fully comprehend.

I am never passive in my affairs and had intended to catch up on my study group activity after my recent unit reassignment caused me to fall behind. I do understand the repressive tactics and strategy that these opposition forces are well known for using. Anything to criminalize a real revolutionary.

I will expose them for their incompetence and harassment. I have previous documents that will show that my involvement in study group is long standing and has nothing to do with my official association. I will file a grievance if my appeal is denied.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We run political theory study groups through the mail for prisoners interested in advancing their education. These classes study things like the Mao essay "On Contradiction." The only "group affiliation" in these classes is work with MIM(Prisons), and as of yet we have not been banned as an organization in Texas prisons. We applaud this comrade for his diligent fight against this censorship. Prisoners interested in participating in political study classes can write to us to join the next session.

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[Censorship] [Legal] [California]
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CA Gov. Brown Threatens to Further Curb Prisoner Lawsuits

Jerry Brown CCPOA
As all oppressed nations within the U.$. injustice system know there is no such thing as justice or rehabilitation, let alone rights!

In prison is where we see fascism getting out at its harshest.(1) Recently governor Jerry Brown spoke about how prisoners' lawsuits are costing the tax payers (parasites) money.(2) We should know better than this as it's a coverup to implement more restricted measures in prison. Not only is he seeking support to curb lawsuits but now Brown wants to implement policies limiting what prisoners can actually sue about. Like an enemy telling his combatant he can only shoot at the ground. Perhaps the recent events of prisoners waking up has caused prisoncrats to put a gag order on us. If tax payers really want to save money they should realize how much more officers (pigs) get paid for working in the SHU (ASU, PSU) than working in general population.

As a comrade wrote in ULK 30 about a case concerning the suppression of Black Panther literature, (Tani Toston v. Muchael Thurmer et al. no#10 cv 288) "The ruling is a joke and more about suppression and control." Here in California the state apparatus is gearing up for repression and suppression of our so-called "freedom of speech." This time they are attacking our right to redress a grievance. Prisoners should be aware of the consequences this plan can have on our fight against repression. Once this policy is implemented it'll be much more difficult to rectify issues we face. Of course when push comes to shove the state will not hold back to silence the resisters, as the Attica prison rebellion has shown us.

Time should be taken to study and realize the hows and whys. Giving them an inch will only do us harm and further sink us into the hole of doom. Combating the issue of censorship should be one of the top issues we fight right now.


Notes:
1. MIM Theory 11: Amerikkkan Prisons on Trial.
2. CBS Evening News. 2/11/2013.


MIM(Prisons) adds:
Jerry Brown knows how to rally the Amerikan tax payer against the imprisoned lumpen. Not a difficult task we might add. The federal government already passed the Prison Litigation Reform Act in 1996, which severely restricted prisoners' ability to file lawsuits. Yet Brown claims California still can't afford the lawsuits that make it past these restrictive measures. He claims lawyers are just scouring prisons looking for problems. Well, MIM Distributors was officially banned from sending mail to prisoners locked up by the CDCR for years, a ban that still comes back to haunt us every so often, by bureaucrats who didn't get the memo that it ended in 2008. Yet no lawyers came out of the woodwork to fight for our constitutional right to free speech (Brown claims these constitutional issues are easy money). And we've got a long line of prisoners with serious grievances, of not just censorship but physical abuse and neglect, who would love to talk to these lawyers looking for this supposed easy money. We'd be happy to put them in touch.

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[Censorship] [Crossroads Correctional Center] [Missouri] [ULK Issue 30]
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Censorship Victories are Possible

In 2010, the Black Order Revolutionary Organization (BORO), with the assistance of MIM(Prisons), initiated a campaign to fight censorship. BORO last provided an update on this campaign in ULK 17. Since that time there has been censorship of some issues of ULK and IRRs (appeals) and grievances were filed. Issue 28 was censored in October 2012 and we fought it. On 19 December 2012, we won the grievance and were issued the ULK on the same day.

Prison activism can be very discouraging at times, but we must hold firm to our commitment to struggle. Whenever an issue of ULK, or any other material, is censored, our advice is to not sign the censorship notification and covenant not to sue forms. Although signing these forms will allow you to send the material to whomever you want, you effectively give up your right to grieve the issue or file a legal complaint in the courts.

Another new development is that the mailrooms now have to notify publishers when they censor any of their mail sent to prisoners. This is a strategic win for us and should be further encouragement for those of you who complain "we can't beat these people".


MIM(Prisons) adds: To the comrade who wrote in asking for more news on Missouri in ULK 27, this is a good example of how to make news by carrying out work over the long term and reporting on it. We got another response to that letter from a comrade in Missouri who reported being on a solo hunger strike going on fifteen days on 1 January 2013. S/he wrote, "I'm hoping some other prisoners in Missouri will read this article and start to ride on some shit. The way they run prisons in Missouri is screwed up and it's time to stick together and change some stuff." We warn our readers that hunger strikes without support and planning can be dangerous and reckless. But make no mistake, not all prisoners in Missouri will accept abuse.

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