The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

Got legal skills? Help out with writing letters to appeal censorship of MIM Distributors by prison staff. help out
[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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[Censorship] [Green Bay Correctional Institution] [Wisconsin] [ULK Issue 22]
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Wisconsin "Security Concern" Excuse for Censorship

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.

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[Censorship] [New York]
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Continuing to Fight ULK Denials

I am writing this article in response to the article in ULK 20 entitled "We must fight ULK denials."

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.

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[Censorship] [Bill Clements Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 21]
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We Must Fight ULK Denials (Part 2)

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.


Related Articles:
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[Censorship] [Control Units] [Texas] [ULK Issue 20]
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We Must Fight ULK Denials

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.

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[Censorship] [Missouri] [ULK Issue 23]
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The System Fails Us, but We Stay Committed

On 4 February 2011, I received a Memorandum and Order regarding the Motions of Summary Judgment on the suit that I filed on two issues of Under Lock & Key (February 2008 and September 2008) that were censored, and four pamphlets from Kansas Mutual Aid (KMA). In short, summary judgment was granted on the two ULK issues.

On the February 2008 issue, the court ruled that "the first article in the publication discusses the rate of imprisonment across the United States for different races. Other articles highlight how the prison system is otherwise unfair to African-Americans and promotes 'modern day slavery.'" On the September 2008 issue, the court concluded that "the publication does appear to encourage prisoners to 'fight back' and 'unite against the unjustice [sic] system.'" Of course, the court took these statements out of the context in which they were written and implied.

When the order was received, I was doing a 30-day hit in Administrative Segregation without any of my legal materials and didn't have the opportunity to file a notice of appeal. At the same time, the Federal 8th Court of Appeals has consistently ruled against us on these issues and most likely would have upheld the lower court's ruling and hit me for another $455 for filing the appeal.

Their Motion for Summary Judgment on the four KMA booklets was denied without prejudice and they were given the option to file another pending further information. They have subsequently filed said motion and, because of the way the courts have already ruled, I expect that the court will grant their motion. I really don't expect this case will proceed further, although I am going to file a motion in opposition to their motion for summary judgment.

A tactical victory would have certainly been a good thing. On the same token, a lesson still comes out of this — that comrades must not be thinking and acting as though we are really protected by the U.$. Constitution, state and local statutes, and the myths and lies fed the settlers and colonies of the empire about Amerikkkan "democracy" and other such nonsense.

I will however continue to fight any new instances of censorship that may arise and continue to agitate, educate and organize on this and other issues.


MIM(Prisons) Legal Coordinator responds: Here the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals — which governs the states of Missouri, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Arkansas, and the Dakotas — has protected a censorship incident which might otherwise be deemed illegal in another Circuit or at the Supreme Court. Thornburgh v. Abbott, 490 U.S. 401 concluded that "Wardens may not reject a publication 'solely because its content is religious, philosophical, political, social[,] sexual, or . . . unpopular or repugnant,'. . ." In the 9th Circuit, "Prison authorities cannot rely on general or conclusory assertions to support their policies," Walker v. Sumner (9th Cir. 1990) 917 F.2d 382, 385, and "Unsupported security claims couldn't justify infringement on First Amendment rights," Crofton v. Roe (9th Cir. 1999) 170 F.3d 957. Facts in Under Lock & Key on the reality of the Amerikan prison system are no different than what one would find in any halfway decent mainstream newspaper. Any connection one might claim between these facts and a "threat to the security of the institution" is absolutely unsupported, conclusory, and based on gross generalizations.

Anyone who has read one full issue of Under Lock & Key knows that the reason given by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals for denying the February 2008 issue is taken completely out of context, like this comrade says. MIM(Prisons) is constantly putting forth the line that armed struggle under unfavorable conditions should be avoided if at all possible; any fighting back we may advocate is only within legally acceptable means, like lawsuits. More clearly explained in Under Lock & Key issue 7 (March 2009),

"MIM(Prisons) only engages in and promotes legal means of combating injustice. When the prison staff represses every educational and legal outlet for prisoners to redress their complaints then it is clear what kind of strategies they are promoting. In those prisons, we predict there will be violence, and they cannot blame it on us because they have kept us out. This is similar to what we say about all struggles for justice around the world. We believe violence is necessary to end injustice because history has demonstrated that the oppressor never stops oppressing any other way. We do not want or promote violence, we are merely stating our conclusion from reading history. In every case of revolutionary war, it was up to the oppressor to decide whether violence was used or not. History shows that the same has been true in the prison rights movement; the struggle for prisoner rights has only become violent when the state initiated such violence."

Regarding the censorship of the September 2008 issue for calling on prisoners to unite against injustices: anyone who has read a few issues of Under Lock & Key knows that unity against the injustice system is the quickest way to reduce violence in prisons and on the streets. The article Peace in the Streets, also from ULK issue 7, shares a bit of the history of the many efforts made by lumpen organizations to join together for peace, and the efforts of the pigs to shut it down. In 2006, the Pelican Bay State Prison Peace Talks were underway in Crescent City, California; "I was able to bring all relevant parties to the table, a peace plan was adopted and a cease fire was implemented." There, also, the pigs undermined the unity.(1)

More recently, comrades all across the country have come together to develop and sign on to the United Front for Peace in Prisons. This United Front (UF) is an effort to stop the unnecessary killings and divisions in the prison environment which lead to our destruction. Interestingly, one of the points of unity of the UF is Growth, with emphasis on education. The pigs don't recognize this, but we know from experience and our study of history that political education leads to peace amongst the oppressed. Far from being censored, Under Lock & Key should be distributed widely to prisoners in the United $tates, because it will have a direct impact on the safety and security of the actual people in the prisons every day, including the guards.

This comrade has adopted a positive and correct attitude in the face of disappointment and censorship. Even though s/he is unable to receive these two issues of Under Lock & Key, s/he has not lost h commitment to apply science to strategy; h Plan B isn't to lash our or give up. More of us should follow h example and put science and the study of correct strategy, not emotions, at the forefront of our political work.

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[Download and Print] [Abuse] [Civil Liberties] [United Struggle from Within] [Censorship] [Campaigns] [Oklahoma]
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Downloadable Grievance Petition, Oklahoma

Oklahoma Grievance Petition
Click to Download PDF
of Oklahoma Petition

Mail the petition to your loved ones 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.

Warden
(specific to your facility)

Oklahoma State Jail Inspector, Don Garrison
1000 N.E. 10th St.,
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73117-1299

ODOC Office of Internal Affairs
Oklahoma City Office
3400 Martin Luther King Avenue
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73111-4298

Office of Inspector General
HOTLINE
P.O. Box 9778
Arlington, Virginia 22219

United States Department of Justice - Civil Rights Division
Special Litigation Section
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, PHB
Washington, D.C. 20530

Oklahoma Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants
(OK-CURE)
P.O. Box 9741
Tulsa, OK 74157-0741

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

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

*Petition updated July 2012, October 2017*

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[Download and Print] [Religious Repression] [Political Repression] [Censorship] [Campaigns] [Missouri]
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Downloadable Petition Against Violations of Constitution, Missouri

Missouri Petition
Click to Download PDF of Missouri Petition

Mail the petition to your loved ones and comrades inside who are experiencing issues with the grievance procedure or censorship of music and literature. 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.

Tom Clements, Director of Adult Institutions
P.O. Box 236
Jefferson City, MO 65101

Chris Pickering, Inspector General (MO DOC)
P.O. Box 236
Jefferson City, MO 65101

U.S. Department of Justice
PhB 950 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530

Marianne Atwell, Director of Offender Rehabilitative Services (Missouri)
P.O. Box 236
Jerrerson City, MO 65101

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

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

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[Civil Liberties] [Political Repression] [Legal] [Censorship] [Campaigns] [Arizona State Prison Complex Central Unit] [Arizona] [ULK Issue 18]
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ADC Claims No Obligation to Honor U.$. Constitution

Due Process

As our readers already know, MIM(Prisons) runs political study groups with our comrades behind bars. And as some of you know, and have experienced, the state generally finds our non-violent, non-law breaking, communist study in poor taste. In October 2009, a study group assignment for the pamphlet "What is MIM?," which included other participants' responses to the previous assignment, was mailed to a participant held in Arizona. This study group assignment was censored because allegedly it "may be obscene or a threat to security" generally, and "promotes racism and/or religious oppression" specifically. Yes, this is coming from the state that is fighting the federal government in court to be allowed to use the color of one's skin as probable cause for investigating immigration law violations.

Our comrade imprisoned in Arizona appealed this decision, and MIM(Prisons) wrote to the prison administration to request an explanation as to how this study group assignment could "promote racism and/or religious oppression" without even mentioning races, nationalities, or religions:

"It is truly fascinating that your mailroom staff could find the promotion of racism and/or religious oppression in this document. Nowhere in the letter are the following words even mentioned: religious, religion, christian, muslim, baptist, KKK, white, mexican, latino, asian or arab. The word "black" is written once in the context of a reference to the Black Panther Party's education programs. How can you even talk about religion or race enough to speak against it if you don't use any of the above mentioned words?" - MIM Distributors, Legal Assistant

No attempt has ever been made by Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) administration to address this point. ADC General Counsel Karyn Klausner offered her opinion: "I have reviewed the materials sent by MIM Distributors and find the decision to exclude the publication due to content 'promoting racism and/or religious oppression,' was appropriate." She gave no explanation of how she came to the conclusion that it was an "appropriate" violation of Constitutionally protected rights. In a later letter Ms. Klausner clarified that with this statement she didn't mean she was "upholding" the censorship in her official capacity as General Counsel of the Office of the Director of ADC, just that she agreed with it on a persynal level.

Instead of explaining how the study group mailing in any way promotes racism and/or religious oppression, ADC administrators then began to rely on their policy of violating MIM Distributors' First Amendment right to free speech and association to censor this study group assignment:

"There is nothing in case law that gives rise to a publisher's right to appeal a decision to exclude its material on an administrative appeal level. . . You are not entitled to a forum within the prison system." - ADC Director, Charles Ryan

Director Ryan clearly had not investigated the matter on the prisoner's end either. He claimed that our imprisoned comrade had not appealed the decision to censor, yet s/he had, on multiple levels, and submitted requests for the results of these appeals.

"You claim that MIM Distributors has no rights to appeal the censorship of their mail. While we are not lawyers, and may have put too much weight on the Procunier case, we still uphold that we have First and Fourteenth Amendment rights according to federal law. As employees of the state you may not deny anyone their rights to free speech and association arbitrarily and without due process. In fact, if you read Thornburgh v. Abbot, 490 U.S. 401, which you referred [COLLEAGUE] to, you will see that its procedural protection was provided because the publisher was notified of the censorship and given the right to independent review. A number of U.S. Court of Appeals decisions have upheld the right of the publisher in such instances (Montcalm Publ'g Corp. v. Beck, 80 F.3d 105, 106 (4th Cir.), Trudeau v. Wyrick, 713 F.2d 1360, 1366 (8th Cir.1983), Martin v. Kelley, 803 F.2d 236, 243-44 (6th Cir.1986) )." - MIM Distributors, Legal Assistant

And ADC's response?

"You assert that 'MIM Distributors' First Amendment right to free speech' is not being respected. The Arizona Department of Corrections is obligated to respect, within the confines of legitimate penological interests, an inmate's constitutional rights. It does not follow that ADC is likewise obliged to do the same for an independent distributor such as MIM." - General Counsel, Karyn Klausner

It is apparent that the ADC believes themselves to be exempt from the legal straitjacket of the United $tates Constitution, which they don't see as having an application in the 10th Circuit. This isn't surprising coming from an institution whose administrators believe that one can promote racial and/or religious repression without ever talking about race or religion!

Amerikans like to pretend they hold no political prisoners, yet political repression is an integral part of the U.$. injustice system at every step. In our struggle for a world without oppression, MIM(Prisons) works to build public opinion for national liberation struggles amongst prisoners through our newsletter Under Lock & Key, our free books for prisoners program, and our study groups. Within prisons, there are two primary ways in which the state enacts political repression: through physical torture techniques such as solitary confinement, forced drugging, beatings, starvation and murder; and through the control of the spread of ideas, which also includes solitary confinement as well as the censorship of mail, and outlawing oppressed nation organizations.

In pre-fascist Amerika, we are still promised certain rights under United $tates laws. While we recognize that U.$. law will never lead us to communism (a world without oppression), we still need to fight for more room to organize and educate for revolution. Fighting against the censorship of revolutionary literature is vital to maintaining the connection between the inside and out, which may make the difference between being turned on to communism or not for many people. For those already turned on, we need to fight against censorship so that we can continue to build our revolutionary understanding.

Like a MIM Distributors Legal Assistant mentioned above, we are not lawyers. We do what we can to protect our Constitutional rights from the outside with the resources we have, and we rely on prisoners to fight to maintain their rights from the inside. If there is a lawyer who wants to get involved with this specific incident in Arizona, or with anti-censorship work in general, get in touch!

You can browse incidents of censorship here.

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