July 2012 Censorship Report
This past year MIM(Prisons) was fortunate enough to be working with a volunteer with legal expertise on our anti-censorship campaign. This volunteer's insight and knowledge helped us send in many more letters to administrators, and with more depth and research than ever before. But sending out more complaints to prison officials means we are getting back a comparable amount of bullshit responses from them. Through this process we've learned just how important it is to be selective with who we write letters on, because sending one form letter protesting a single censorship incident easily escalates into a major research project.
One of the most common bullshit responses we receive from prison administrators is that whatever article of mail we sent was "never received via USPS." Unfortunately in these cases, the only option we have is to resend the item via Certified Mail or with Delivery Confirmation. At least this way the mailroom staff can't just throw the mail in the trash. But we won't know if your mail actually made it into your hands unless you tell us you got it.
Each July we report how much mail is unreported as received or censored for the past year. Consistently for the past few years, about 75% of the mail is unconfirmed at the time of the report. Gradually, as more people tell us what they received, and respond to Unconfirmed Mail Forms (UMFs), the amount of unreported mail drops. Our current rate of unreported mail for the 2010-2011 reporting year is down to 60%, an all-time low! We attribute this to our widespread use of UMFs, and subscribers' diligence in responding to them. But don't wait until you get a UMF to report mail you received! Every UMF we send is money we could have spent sending you actual literature, so you should tell us what you've gotten since the last time you wrote.
Appeals are Viable Tactic
Appealing censorship and filing grievances can lead to small but significant victories. In Arizona, Pennsylvania, California and Colorado, some mail from MIM Distributors which was originally denied, was allowed to be received by prisoners after appeal. 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 mail from MIM(Prisons). Send us copies of your documents and we can upload them to our website www.prisoncensorship.info.
Do we even need to say it? If you know the words, then sing along: California is still banning literature from MIM Distributors! Up to the present, administrators and staff in CDCR amazingly are still citing the 2006 ban of MIM literature, which was overturned in 2007! In another attempt to remedy this problem, we have compiled a supplement to our Censorship Guide which is specific to the California ban. If a 2006 memo is cited as a reason why you can't get mail from us, tell us and we'll send you the supplement.
Mailroom staff in Michigan are eager to protect the "freedom" of white supremacists, as this subscriber reports:
"Please know that I was able to obtain a hearing yesterday on the administration's rejection of MIM Theory 13, even though MDOC policy doesn't require one to be held due to it already being on the Restricted Publications List (RPL). The hearing officer gave two reasons for upholding the rejection: 1) It was on the RPL; 2) It was racist because there was an article against white supremacists. I found reason number 2 rather illuminating. . . I asked which article she was referring to and, quickly scanning the table of contents, asked her, "Is it the book review criticizing Adolph Hitler's Mein Kampf?" In any event, she could not point out a single reason for the rejection let alone relate it to a serious penological concern. I flipped through it and pointed out many reasons why it should be let in and, of course, one of them was that it is against white supremacy or racial supremacy of any type."
Last year we reported that we were contacted by the ACLU in Nebraska because they had been contacted by one of our subscribers regarding the ban of literature from us. They wrote at least one letter to the Warden at Tecumseh State Correctional Institution. This letter was important because it forced the Director Robert P. Houson of Nebraska Department of Correctional Services to admit that "there is no outright ban on MIM's publications at TSCI at this time and such a ban never existed in the past." Unfortunately it appears that the legal intern who favored us has left the organization, and their new legal intern isn't being as generous with their legal expertise and sway. We encourage prisoners to contact the ACLU and other support organizations to help them fill a role that MIM(Prisons) can't.
Last year we reported that Arizona was holding the position that publishers have no appeal rights if their materials are censored. In January 2012, thanks to the assistance of our legal volunteer, we were able to send Director Charles L. Ryan a letter detailing exactly the legality behind our claim to appeal rights. In June we received a letter from Assistant Attorney General Pamela J. Linnins, responding to a different letter from us in May. She has yet to respond directly to our letter from January.
"It appears that the Department and MIM Distributors must agree to disagree. The Department stands by its position and belief that you do not have a right to notice when inmates are denied access, regardless of its permanence, to your publications. However, as a courtesy to you and pursuant to your request, the Department will begin providing notice to you, MIM Distributors, when inmates are denied an issue of your publications."
At Red Onion State Prison in Virginia, multiple lawsuits reached settlement in the last few years challenging their illegal censorship of literature, namely from Prison Legal News and The Final Call. We were hoping that these settlements would have had an impact on our own literature, but we appear to still be banned at Red Onion. The amount of literature we know was censored is the same for the past 2 reporting years, but the amount of mail we know was received is about a third as much this reporting year compared to 2010-2011. This could be from delay inherent to mail correspondence, or it could be due to more censorship. It is unclear which is true at this time.
Other states with significantly large censorship proportions were: South Carolina and Florida. It is significant that wherever we have a growing population of active subscribers, repression of our literature increases. We hope comrades and subscribers everywhere will take up this important battle to protect freedom to share knowledge. If you're in a state listed above, you should especially get on board!