During this second hunger strike it seems the prison system is working overtime making itself look stupid so the outside world can really see what we're dealing with. They are making it clear what we prisoners fighting for reasonable changes have to go through in order to bring attention to our inhumane conditions.
On September 29, 2011 they placed all of us strike representatives in Ad-Seg (isolation) on "H" row. Prison officials within CDCR were feeding propaganda to various news media that we representatives in the hunger strike are the prison gang generals, crime bosses, who are forcing prisoners around the states to not eat.
They hate to admit prisoners have had enough of these repressive inhumane conditions and want to be treated like a damn human being with some respect.
On October 5, 2011, a few of us were released from Ad-Seg. I hear the others were released a little later after CDCR officials put things in writing. I understand the 4 main representatives have actually read the writings. I hope to get a copy to share among the other prisoners that stood tall in this strike.
CDCR officials have begun retaliating by giving prisoners CDC 115 disciplinary infractions for partaking in a non-violent peaceful strike. CDCR officials actions simply say we prisoners do not even have a constitutional right to refuse to eat. We will see if a federal court will find CDCR actions were retaliatory and violate our first amendment.
I received a notification that MIM(Prisons) has been banned. These folks here are a joke and violate laws at will.
MIM(Prisons) adds: It's no coincidence that this prisoner is facing repression for activism and having his MIM(Prisons) mail banned at the same time. As activists, and especially revolutionaries, grow in our influence and organizing power the systems we oppose become more threatened and respond with more repression.
I have recently been hit with censorship of your mailing sent on 9 September 2011. I did receive prior to that the letter you sent to activists, but then on September 9 I got two 1819 forms indicating disapproval of mail. I have previously won two 602s [grievances] on this very issue, yet they cite the old 2006 memo [a ban on MIM's mail that was overruled years ago].
What happened is the regular Correctional Officer (CO) already been 602'd by me and has seen the 602 granted at the Director level, but he only works five days a week. The other two days a floater works and is not aware of my granted 602. The floater sends it to Institution Gang Investigations (IGI), who says to deny me. I guess the temporary CO is not very fond of MIM. Anyhow, I am sure I'll win the 602 I am submitting, but I know if I do it will take months. If possible, can you send whatever it was again? It seems I'll be having problems getting my mail from MIM Distributors on the regular CO's days off.
I showed my previous 602 that was granted, but was told by the temp "I don't know. They tell us one thing and tell you another. We need to get it straight." This is obviously B.S. because when a 602 is granted, especially at the Director level, it is obviously "straight."
This is a constant barrage of censorship. It's nonstop. I get a 602 granted and then someone comes who don't like MIM literature and then I'm forced to wait months appealing this and missing out on my studies. It is a protracted effort to censor MIM. But nothing MIM(Prisons) says is bad; it's political literature! And why send it to the gang unit when it's political? In Amerika this is how political literature is handled; by labeling it "gang material." This only confirms what MIM(Prisons) says, that there are no rights in Amerika, only power struggles! What happened to the so-called "freedom of the press?"
This prison's population has just gotten done with a three-week hunger strike and now it seems, as one of the participants, I'm now being retaliated on by censoring my political science correspondence course. But I thought the administrators from Sacramento came saying they would work on bettering our conditions if we stopped striking and ate? And now this is the repayment — censoring the ability to think outside this cell, controlling my thoughts, and preventing me from learning anything besides the state's perspective. I can get all the Forbes, Wall Street Journal, National Review, USA Today, etc. that I want, but let me get something that speaks in the interests of poor people and I'm deprived.
This does not surprise me one bit, and I know how to go about the process of appealing. What pisses me off is thinking of all the prisoners across Amerika who also get this Gestapo-like treatment and who won't know how to appeal, or become discouraged and don't try. This is what pisses me off the most. But I know I got to go back to the legal front and go in for another legal battle.
This censorship in prisons is part of the reason prisoners went on hunger strike. This is why people starved; because of the years and decades of not being able to read history books, not being able to take correspondence courses, not being allowed to grapple with ideas. And when prisoners do try to understand critical thought, we are repressed. And when we protest torture, we are repaid with further repression! A society that creates dungeons and employs sadists to unleash all their sick methods on captive poor people, to torture and experiment on with their psychological abuses, is a society that is warped and morally bankrupt.
Enclosed you should find Under Lock & Key number 14. I am returning it to you because prison staff disallowed it's delivery to me and confiscated it stating 1)"contains information about performing work stoppages" and 2) "photos of dead klan members (cartoons)."
Apparently the issue was confiscated in May/June 2010 while I was housed at the Pendleton Correctional Facility (PCF). I was not notified of the confiscation until July 12, 2011. I was transferred from PCF in November 2010 to the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility (WVCF). PCF staff forwarded the confiscated mail (almost a year after receipt) to WVCF staff. WVCF staff notified me of the confiscation.
I have attempted to challenge this confiscation via the offender grievance process. However, WVCF case manager Marty Hale refuses to provide me with a grievance form. On August 9 he responded to my request by becoming irate and yelling at me, "fuck your grievance... every time an issue comes up you want to file a grievance, fuck you... you're just a sniveling complaining bitch", "you bitch", and "stick a grievance up your ass." To date I am still being denied a grievance form.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Prisons in Indiana are blatantly violating what few rights they tell us prisoners have, both with their illegal censorship and failure to notify both MIM(Prisons) and the prisoner of this censorship, and by denying this comrade the ability to file a grievance. By documenting such abusive denials to grieve we can continue to expose their sacred grievance system for what it really is, a sham. Even if the public buys it, all prisoners need to understand what it means to file a grievance and what it takes to change conditions in prison.
This is the inspiration behind the current campaign to Demand Our Grievances Be Addressed, currently active in California, Arizona, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. Write to us for a copy for your state, or if one does not yet exist, help create one by researching the citations and policies specific to your state and we will type it up and get it circulated.
We rely on information directly from prisoners and returned mail to track our censorship. For the 2011 reporting year, only 72% of all mail was not reported as censored or received. This is a big improvement from last year's 83% unreported mail status. We see two causes for this change. One is that we stopped giving everyone who wrote to us automatic 6 month subscriptions, and instead required confirmation of receipt (or censorship) of a sample issue of Under Lock & Key first. This not only reduced the amount of mail we sent in by 30% from last year, but pushed those who wanted Under Lock & Key to confirm receipt of the sample issue, doubling the amount of people reporting receiving ULK.
Another contributing factor to the high reporting rate is the institution of Unconfirmed Mail Forms, which is a short form we send out to encourage individuals to report the mail they've received. We primarily send these forms to people we suspect are experiencing censorship of our materials. Even if you don't receive one of these forms, you should still tell us everything you have gotten from us since the last time you wrote. Since we ask about the entire history of mail we've sent in, not just in this reporting year, the institution of the Unconfirmed Mail Forms (UMFs) has improved our stats on past years as well. In the last year we've improved the amount of mail unreported for the July 2010 Report from 83% to 78%. We plan to continue using UMFs to better assist in tracking our censorship.
Like we reported in MIM(Prisons) 2011 Congress Summary and Resolutions, in the past six months we have been focusing our resources on building cases and recruiting lawyers rather than writing letters to administrators. Most of the victories in the fight against censorship come from prisoners filing appeals and defending Under Lock & Key in hearings. MIM(Prisons) plays a supporting role in ensuring that the administrators know that someone on the outside is paying attention and publicizing their illegal actions. So while it is not of vital importance that we write these letters, it has still helped overturn censorship in enough cases that we find it worthwhile to pick up this task again.
A major victory was won against Dona Ana County Detention Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico this year. A prisoner won a partial settlement for censorship issues. The settlement names MIM Distributors and Under Lock & Key and is in favor of prisoners' rights to receive "copied" material. If you are experiencing censorship for copies, write in for this information.
Red Onion State Prison in Virginia has been notorious for censoring Under Lock & Key to the point where we haven't heard of our newsletter getting in since issue 5 (November 2008). The Final Call and Prison Legal News both won settlements in favor of getting their newsletters into Red Onion in recent months. Since the treatment of The Final Call and PLN was similar to the treatment of ULK, we are hoping that those settlements will impact how ULK is received at Red Onion. This is yet to be determined.
A reasonable expectation for our anti-censorship work is that when we win a victory in a state, we should either continue to have victories there or no longer experience censorship. Of course this expectation wouldn't apply if the conditions within the state change and become more repressive. In the cases of New York, Illinois and Colorado there have been victories in the past but only censorship without victories in this reporting year. In Illinois and Colorado, some victories have been connected to outside pressure put on by MIM(Prisons). This leads to the logical conclusion that victories would be more likely if we continued to apply this pressure.
In New York there doesn't seem to have been a connection between outside pressure and victories. Those reversals in censorship came strictly from the hard work of New York prisoners fighting for their own rights. We are unsure if the current lack of victories is due to a change in conditions in the NYDOCS or a lack of prisoners fighting censorship.
There is a hunger strike happening in Pelican Bay State Prison in California that is well under way. In June 2011 we heard word that our mail had recently started getting in just prior to the start of the strike after experiencing major censorship there for years. In the last year 44% of the mail we've sent into Pelican Bay has been confirmed as received (13% confirmed as censored), compared to the previous reporting year's 25% received (57% censored). Hopefully the hunger strike will be successful in granting people held in PBSP their five core demands, including an end to mail tampering.
While we try to win as many victories as possible through writing letters, if a facility or state won't follow the law, then it eventually becomes necessary to take them to court. Due to our limited resources and time, we encourage the prisoners affected by the censorship to fight the issue as far as they can. In Arizona we came to one of these brick walls related to the censorship of a study group assignment for "promot[ing] racism and/or religious oppression" without containing any words that refer to race or religion. We reported on this issue in Under Lock & Key 18 and are still struggling to find a lawyer that will take on this important case.
And yes, mailroom staff in California are still clinging to the 2006 memo banning MIM Distributors, which was nullified in a settlement between Prison Legal News and CDCR way back in 2008. Can you believe it? The California institutions that are still favoring this method of censorship are Deuel Vocational Institution and Pelican Bay State Prison.
In Salinas Valley State Prison in California, rather than citing the overturned memo, the Warden creatively assures us that the staff was new at the time and have now been retrained, or claim to simply not see mail from MIM Distributors arriving there. This is completely bogus considering we consistently send in ULKs every time there is a new issue, in addition to persynalized letters and other literature. When we called the Warden out on the fact that there was no change after the "new staff" was "retrained," he simply baselessly told us there is no censorship and "no evidence the mailroom staff are negligent in their duties or MIM Distributors mail was illegally tampered with as you claim." No shit, there's no evidence if you just throw the mail in the trash! While some mail gets into SVSP sometimes, they are still highlighted on our list of brick walls we are determined to break.
In Nebraska the ACLU has picked up on censorship of our materials and has been doing research, writing letters, and may eventually file a suit on behalf of MIM Distributors and the prisoners facing censorship. They have reviewed most if not all issues of Under Lock & Key and have determined that "the prison is violating both [MIM(Prisons)'s] First Amendment rights and the rights of the prisoners." We are excited to be working with the ACLU to hopefully set a precedent in Nebraska that protects people held there against censorship. We encourage any lawyers on the outside to follow their example and get with MIM(Prisons) to fight censorship in prisons!
I am an American Indian here in California Correctional Institution who has had all the problems with the 602 grievance procedure here. The so-called Appeal Coordinator, K. Sampson, has repeatedly (16 times!!!) sent my appeal back to me because of complete bullshit reasons. So I wrote to your legal clinic, and you provided me with an awesome petition to send to the director about my, and all of our, appeal issues. Thank you!
But again I, and all of us on my side, have run up against a potential problem. I took the petition to the law library and the CO refused to copy it. Even when I signed a trust withdraw slip to pay for it myself! She told me that the petition was all crap and that I should be written up for simply having it. She tried to take it from me. I had to "cause a scream" and get at a sergeant finally who gave it back to me. He told me he knew that our 602 process was crap and good luck! You believe that?!?
Is there any way that your office can please send me enough for at least the 10 very good people on my tier? Every single one of them was very impressed and wanted one of the petitions for unjust grievance procedures appeals process. Everyone wanted to loan it from me to get it copied, but our law librarian refuses to allow us to copy the petition. She told me if I didn't like her decisions to "appeal it" and then laughed in my face!
Thank you so much for everything you have done to help me further the struggle and get out of this U.$. gulag.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Write us to get a copy of the grievance petition for your state if you reside in California, Missouri, Oklahoma or Texas, or a generic petition that you can customize for your state if you are anywhere else.
It is always my pleasure to reach out and re-establish lines of communication. I hope that you all are in the best of God's care. One can never be too sure in this line of work. I'm well, as i get ready for this July 1 2011 hunger strike for the cruel & unusual treatment we prisoners held in solitary confinement have endured. All the same it is an enduring struggle that we must fight in order to change our reality.
I am writing because i need you all to forward me that issue dated in the month of June 2011 called Under Lock & Key, because I did not receive it. So if it's possible that I can get a back issue I would sincerely appreciate it.
Now, I look forward to re-opening the lines of communications because although it's not been my thought that they were cut off we are beginning to track it better, so it's all good sometimes.
Sincerely, a California prisoner
MIM(Prisons) adds: This writer hadn't heard from us in over two years due to censorship in California. But as the hunger strike approached, the staff at Pelican Bay State Prison were on their best behavior. While the strike organizers were already having sit-downs with the Warden's office before the strike began, censorship has eased for the many organizations that struggle to get their mail to those being held there. A month ago, staff claimed to not even know their own policies in attempts to censor our mail. But the prisoners' struggle has already had an impact of loosening their attempts to isolate us from each other.
I am currently fighting censorship by the Wisconsin Department of Corruption. I have many outside contacts who are willing to do legal internet searches, type up legal briefs and make copies of legal documents for comrades here in prison. Due to this, the WDOC has found themselves trying to restrict the flow of free legal help coming in to the prison. This help jeopardizes their industrial prison complex and jeopardizes the identity of their snitches. The WDOC is now using a "security concern" excuse to deny me any correspondence that "pertains to the personal legal information of another inmate." This violates the law and their own established policies and procedures. The WDOC believes they are above the law. The WDOC is more concerned about keeping the identity of their snitches private, although they will never admit this. I will continue to fight against this and all censorship in this injustice system.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Illegal denials of mail are just one of the tactics used by the criminal injustice system to make our struggle more difficult. Persistence from comrades like this one is key to the few victories we do win. And this persistence will be necessary over the long haul as we build a movement to take on the larger imperialist enemy to put an end to the oppression and exploitation of capitalism once and for all.
Brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers of ULK, we have to take a stand against the oppressors. Not by rioting, physically fighting, or boycotting but by means of communication. The same way the officers banned together we should put our differences to the side and unite as one!
I have 17 years in the special housing unit (SHU) mostly for fighting the oppressors physically and with my pen's ink. I've caught two new bids for going at it with the oppressors. One bid was a 2.5 to 5 years and the second bid was a 7 year flat 5 year post.
What I did is not important, but why I did it is, I did it because too many comrades were being violated. We have the right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment.
Also I don't know about the rules in the Texas DOCS, but here in New York state when we're locked down (which I am right now) we're given 1 hour out of cell recreation everyday of the week. So what should happen is whether everybody gets along or not, whoever is in this "close custody" should grieve the issue. The oppressor might fuck with five of those grievances but they won't fuck with everybody's grievance. It will be too suspicious.
Every ULK I get the mailroom got something to say about it. With ULK 20 they said the articles on pages 3, 10, and 13 (continued from 3) posed a threat to the safety and security of the facility. Those articles were entitled "Light of Liberation" and "NJ Avalon Crip signs on to UF Statement." So once again they've taken our right of freedom of speech, the 1st Amendment and swept it under the "security risk" rug, just like the other comrade stated. So let's stand together as one and "take" our rights back.
So remember comrades, yes we're imprisoned but we still have rights!
MIM(Prisons) adds: Unity in the fight against oppression is a key element of this fight. As this comrade says, we need to put aside our differences to join forces against a common enemy. Filing grievances is a good way to get this fight going, and we have initiated a grievance campaign to help prisoners fight grievance denials. Write to us for a copy of the letter and petition.
This is a follow-up article to the We Must Fight ULK Denials article I wrote, published in ULK 20. For my comrades who follow the news published in ]ULK, you will recall that I was denied my right to receive ULK issue 18. I am now sitting here writing this article with issues 19 and 20 in front of me.
After being denied ULK issue 18, I sent the publication and denial form to the Directors Review Committee (DRC) for an appeal of the denial of the publication. As I said in my last writing, if you do not do this, at least in the Texas prison system you will enable the mailroom staff to keep denying the publication. It gets placed on a ban list and is no longer allowed. Sure if you choose to appeal, you may lose then the publication will still be denied to our comrades. But what if you win? If you win you not only win an appeal against the system, you also win for all our comrades united in this movement.
I was never given a response from the DRC on my appeal, and I still did not receive the issue of ULK that I appealed in the first place. However, since the appeal I have received two other issues of ULK along with other correspondence from MIM(Prisons). It may not seem like much and maybe some who read this will say to themselves, "if you didn't get an answer from the DRC and you didn't receive issue 18, then how did you win?" That is the kind of thinking these people in control want us to have. They don't want us to win or even think that it's possible for us to win in our struggle. This victory is just a stepping stone for future victories. It has provided the necessary paper trail for future action.
I know that my fellow comrades see the point I am making. I also understand that not all prisoners understand or even want to understand the importance of fighting for a cause. But to my brothers and sisters united in struggle let this be a stepping stone and encourage us to keep punching back. Remember, you cannot win if you don't fight.
I am writing this article to encourage and support my fellow prisoners to appeal the publication denials for Under Lock & Key. Don't give up in our fight for our rights. By not appealing the denial you are also stopping other prisoners from a chance to receive the above mentioned newsletter that many enjoy reading.
I am housed in the "close custody" section at a high security prison farm in Texas. We are always having our rights taken away here on "close custody." Don't know about General Population (I've never made it there, due to the constant harassment of the officers in charge here) however, I am sure that just like any other prison, things are not too much different.
I'm restricted to a two-man cell, 24 hours a day with no movement. Everything comes to you. What a privilege, right? I don't feel so privileged. We are allowed recreation only when staff feel like coming to their jobs to work. If you're not on recreation restriction, you may go to rec once a week. If you are a prisoner on rec restriction, and most are here on close custody, then you may see the "yard" once every two months. We receive the same excuses that I'm sure all prisoners have heard, "we are understaffed and short-handed." Although, lately it has been due to the "fog" which they say is a security risk. The rec here on "close custody" is separated into six cages, under a concrete roof. How exactly does the fog pose a threat in this situation? To me it is just another way to take away our rights by sweeping another excuse under the "security risk" rug. Which brings me to my point that we have to continue fighting for our rights.
On 25 February 2011 I was notified by mail room staff that my publication of Under Lock & Key was denied and I wouldn't be receiving it. The reason given was "page 10 contains material of a racial nature." Now who's rights are being violated? What happened to "freedom of speech" in America? There was also a box checked that reads: "It contains material that a reasonable person would construe as written solely for the purpose of communicating information designed to breakdown prisons through offender disruption such as strikes, riots or security threat group activity." Sounds like another excuse swept under the "security risk" rug. Don't you agree?
Although imprisoned, we do still have rights, but only the ones we continue to fight for. When asked, "do you want to appeal this denial?" always appeal, if not for yourself for the others on lock. You cannot win if you don't fight.