The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

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[Censorship] [McCormick Correctional Institution] [South Carolina]
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Fighting Prison Officials' Belief that Prisoner's Have no Rights

Comrades, I received the copies of letters that were sent to Director Gary Boyd and McCormick Correctional Institution Warden L. Cartledge concerning censoring of mail from MIM Distributors. I sent Warden Cartledge a detailed request form concerning that issue also.

I think I'll wait until I receive mail from CRC and then file a grievance claiming discrimination and harassment against this mailroom. From my understanding two prisoners here have filed lawsuits against the mailroom already.

South Carolina Department of Corections (SCDC) officials are quick to tell you that they don't care about lawsuits. All SCDC officials have qualified immunity. If a lawsuit is successful the state has to pay a monetary settlement.

What makes these matters worse is higher institutional officials tell staff that as prisoners, we don't have any rights. And that the harder they make it on us the less likely we'll be to return to prison.

To them our being sent to prison was not punishment. The punishment is to come from them once we get to prison. Imbeciles masquerading as psychologists. To become a warden in SCDC all you've got to do is take a prison management class, which is provided by SCDC.

Due to a staffing shortage they're hiring new recruits who're in their 50s and 60s. They're the worst pigs to have as guards, they think they have everything about life figured out and they're really doing society a favor by working here.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We need our comrades behind bars to follow this prisoner's example and fight censorship of mail. We have to follow the legal procedures even when we know the officials are not worried about lawsuits if we want to win these battles. If you learn about censorship of mail from MIM(Prisons), let us know and work with us to fight back.

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[Censorship] [Legal] [California] [ULK Issue 25]
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Sending a Donation is Contraband

I wish to apprise you of the recent censored mail to and from your area. As you can probably recall, I promised to send you $20 off my books in exchange for reading material back in August. Well that month has long been left in our background.

I have attempted to get it processed from the start, yet finally it was blocked for the so-called reason that MIM is banned. I find that hard to believe because when you sent magazines and they were returned, the Sergeant who spoke to me checked into it and specifically told me MIM was not on the banned list. Still, in the documentation they refer to a memo from 2006.

Furthermore, the Trust Officer told me that anything over $50 has to be approved by Squad in advance. My donation was way below the $50 mark to go to Squad, yet before responding back to my request, my Counselor forwarded it to Squad. So yes, the Trust Office was just deflecting my question.

In the recent events of hunger strikes I think these pigs are getting petty and they are bringin up their repression tactics by stripping out all property from those who participated. Sending you money from my account seems to be out of the question for the time being.

The policies regarding donations is actually simple. As it states in Title 15 Section 3240.1 Donations, "Inmates may with permission of the institution head make voluntary donations from their trust account funds for any approved reason or cause. Permission shall be denied if any of the following exist: (a) There is evidence of coercion. (b) The inmate's trust account balance is less than the amount of the proposed donation. (c) The inmate is mentally incompetent. (d) The proposed amount of the donation is less than one dollar. (e) The reason or cause advocated could jeopardize facility security or the safety of persons."

None of the above pertain to the case at hand. It is an illegal stretch of the policy for this donation to be denied.


MIM(Prisons) Legal Coordinator adds: Recently, there has been much discussion and some legal challenges to the law stating that corporations are people with the rights to free speech in the form of unlimited spending on political causes. Incidents like this beg the question, are prisoners people? Do they have the rights promised to people in U.$. law? The stories printed in ULK tend to support the answer as "no."

Regarding the alleged ban on MIM, on July 12, 2011, Appeals Examiner K. J. Allen, an employee who investigates Director's Level Appeals, stated in an appeal decision to a prisoner,

“While Maoist International [sic] Movement publications were previously disallowed based upon the direction of CDCR administration staff, the publications are currently not listed on the Centralized List of Disapproved Publications. Thus, a blanket denial on all such publications is inappropriate, and the institution must process the appellant's mail in accordance with applicable departmental rules/regulations.

“As with all publications, the appellant's mailing must be reviewed and evaluated on a case-by-case basis in accordance with all departmental regulations. Unless this specific Maoist International Movement publication is considered contraband, as noted within the CCR 3006, the publication shall be issued to the appellant and/or allowed to be ordered and received.” (When citing this Director's Level Appeal Decision, it may be helpful to use IAB Case No. 1020001.)

The Director's level is the top of the top within the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). A decision made at the Director's level would generally apply to all facilities and all prisoners in the CDCR system. When the author of this article cited the above Director's Level Appeal Decision in defense of h donation to MIM(Prisons), s/he was told to omit it from h grievance because it "belongs to another inmate." How a Director's Level Decision simply re-explaining and re-correcting a CDCR practice can "belong" to only one prisoner is beyond reason.

In ULK 24 we put a call out for donations to keep Under Lock & Key functioning at its current capacity. When a prisoner is unable to send a donation to MIM(Prisons), the prison administrators are limiting our ability to publish and send out literature, thereby illegally limiting our (and the donating prisoner's) First Amendment right to free speech. When they cite a defunct memorandum to limit donations, it is even more egregious.

At least one persyn in the CDCR's Director's office made at least one correct decision, at least once. We encourage our comrades to continue grieving and re-grieving the defunct 2006 ban of MIM Distributors up to the top, and take it to court if necessary. To help in this process, we've put together a history of the ban with quotations for specific facilities. We are sending out this Censorship Guide Supplement for California to help prisoners hold administrators to their word. Write in to get it.

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[Censorship] [Education] [South Carolina]
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SCDC Prisoners in the Dark

Peace, comrades in the struggle! First and foremost the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) is a modern day slave plantation. Being political is a crime within itself because once I became aware of the truth then the system considered me a threat. I'm a Black man in solitary confinement due to my passion to stay alive and I strive to use this time to analyze my legal problems and how to continue to educate myself.

I write this so-called law library to request certain law books and other legal material but I'm being denied because the law library is not up to date and lacks current books we need. Not only that, the SCDC has designated a ban on all magazines, newspapers, books, photos, etc. that come from outside sources, whether it be from publishing companies or organizations. In Special Management Unit (SMU), where prisoners are housed 23 hours a day behind a locked door, SCDC mandates all above material must come from its institutional library, where no newspapers or magazines are allowed, period. Only the inadequate out-of-date law books and library books. Because of this ban many people suffer from lack of information and educational material and legal material.

So I reached out to receive The Georgetown Law Journal 2010 Edition from Georgetown Law. I was denied permission to purchase that journal out of my own funds. Then I wrote to Prison Legal News, South Chicago ABC Zine Distro, Justice Watch, Turning the Tide, the Maoist Prison Cell, the National Lawyers Guild and the Center for Constitutional Rights. All these organizations sent me material but I was denied access to have the material and it was sent back because of the so-called policies OP 22.12 and PS 10.08. These policies can be downloaded on the SCDC website.

I have limited information I can use to fight oppression as a whole. I have offered my problems at the hands of my oppressor to hopefully serve as a springboard for further war against oppression. Times do get hectic because recently I was placed in a full restraint chair off the words of another prisoner's statement! I am aware of some cases that deal with censorship, so I'm doing my research the best way possible even though the law books inside the library don't have cases past 2001!! And the thing about it is the mailroom staff have a list of names of publications that aren't allowed to send mail to this institution. She has no education in security besides searching mail for contraband. Of course I'm aware of the Prison Litigation Reform Act; that's why I am going through the grievance procedures now. I will continue to fight this system and hopefully my voice will be heard outside of these walls.

SCDC has no educational programs so it's more about self-education, but as you see I'm limited on that also. They have even started feeding prisoners in here two meals on Saturday and Sunday due to so-called budged cuts, but Monday through Friday we receive three meals per day. This is a very hard battle but my will is to survive physically and mentally until there's no fighting left. I hope you can continue to send me updated info because I can receive up to five pages of material printed out like the Censorship Pack you recently sent. Thanks for your support.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We don't like to echo the common accusation that U.$. prisons are modern day slavery because it is misleading about who is being put in prison and why. Yet, we can't deny that the repression of basic education in South Carolina seems to be very similar to the slave days. This is above and beyond what most U.$. prisoners face in 2011, and is straight up doublespeak for an organization that claims in their mission statement that "we will provide rehabilitation and self-improvement opportunities for inmates."

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[Censorship] [High Desert State Prison] [California]
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CA Prisons Opening Legal Mail to Repress Strikers

I received a letter from an attorney which the High Desert State Prisons intercepted and allegedly "returned to sender" on October 14. I received an official "rejection" notice for that legal letter which stated "disallowed letter that encourages inmates to form a hunger strike and plan to disrupt the order of this facility."

Now, here's what I don't understand, if this was indeed a legal letter, from a legitimate attorney, how did they know what was inside the envelope unless they illegally opened it outside my presence? I am in the process of trying to obtain copies of the "rejection notice," at which time I will appeal the issue.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This sort of illegal censorship is rampant in Amerikan prisons and especially problematic in California where we have faced repeated bans on MIM(Prisons) mail because of our revolutionary politics and advocacy for prisoners. In the case of the recent Hunger Strike in California, it appears that most mail mentioning the strike was censored while prisoners were engaged in this important struggle. And in some cases the Institutional Gang Investigator (IGI) used these letters as supposed evidence of gang activity on the part of the prisoners to whom they were addressed.

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[Censorship] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California]
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Strike Leaders Isolated, CDCR Retaliating Against Strikers

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.

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[Censorship] [Political Repression] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 23]
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Censorship: Epic Battle in PBSP

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.

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[Censorship] [Campaigns] [Abuse] [Wabash Valley Correctional Facility] [Pendleton Correctional Facility] [Indiana]
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Censorship and Grievance Denials in Indiana

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.

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[Censorship] [Political Repression] [ULK Issue 21]
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July 2011 Censorship Report

2011 Censorship Graph

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.

Victories

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.

Changes

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.

Future Struggles

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!

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[Censorship] [California Correctional Institution] [California] [ULK Issue 21]
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Grievance Petition Copies Refused in Library

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.

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[Censorship] [Campaigns] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California]
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Isolation Already Loosening at Pelican Bay

MIM Distributors,

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.

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