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Under Lock & Key

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[Censorship] [California] [ULK Issue 13]
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California Ban on MIM Over... Sort of

A December 13, 2006 memo from then-Director Scott Kernan declared a systemwide ban on all publications from the Maoist Internationalist Movement. The memo misquoted and took out of context statements by MIM to justify the ban. Many comrades soon jumped into action to defend the First Amendment rights of California prisoners and their outside supporters. One comrade took this battle further than anyone else, leading to over 2 years of legal battles that ended in April, 2009.

One administrator claimed there were three banned publishers in California Department of Corrections (CDCR): MIM, Penthouse and Playboy. While MIM had received this high honor of a complete ban, others were facing severe censorship by CDCR as well. In April 2007, Prison Legal News (PLN) settled their suit against CDCR's illegal censorship. The settlement was very strategic on the behalf of the PLN legal team in that it included reforms to CDCR mail policy that affected all of us that had been having problems.

As many of our readers probably know, Prison Legal News was founded and is led by jailhouse lawyers. Their consistent work has won them the ability to recruit street lawyers to their battles. Without the leadership of prisoners and former prisoners, defenders of prisoners' rights in the courtroom are few and far between. Yet, litigating from behind the walls is no easy task, as our California comrade can attest:

"The sole reason for my non-opposal of defendants summary judgment is quite simply that I was unable to litigate the case from my current residence here in the hole. As I stated to you before I was not able to obtain the required legal materials needed to litigate, materials such as a basic copy of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), the sufficient or suitable case law required, or even sufficient copies, and typing paper.

"As I am in Ad-Seg, most of the required materials stated above are not in this building's possession, or even on the same yard. We must write to B-yard law library for requested legal texts. This is something no one bothered to inform me of 'til just a few weeks ago. Furthermore, the whole process of requesting materials is usually hit or miss in the sense that sometimes we receive our materials, sometimes we don't. Since I'm in the hole, I had to request photocopies of the FRCP. However, due to 'copyright concerns' I did not get it."

In addition to being denied needed legal materials, this comrade was denied an appeal for a lawyer to be appointed to their case. This was particularly relevant in this case where s/he was being denied access to the materials in question because they were deemed a risk to security.

For a year and a half following PLN's victory, supporters of MIM Distributors argued that the ban on MIM mail was not in compliance with the settlement. Finally, in October 2008 the CDCR released their new "Centralized List of Disapproved Publications," a product of the settlement. MIM Distributors is not on this list, and is therefore no longer legally banned in California. It is against CDCR policy for individual prisons to institute bans that are not on this centralized list.

While the final date for additions to the Centralized List was May 1 (and it is updated annually), we have not seen the new list for 2009. Experience seems to indicate that we are still not on it, since those who continue to ban our mail cite outdated documents. Prisons that continue to return mail from MIM(Prisons) unopened are High Desert and the supermax prison, Pelican Bay. Blanket bans seem to require more stringent review by the courts. Therefore, it may be more strategic for the state to avoid blanket bans in the future, thus making lawsuits like the California prisoner's more difficult to carry out.

The good news is most prisons in California no longer have a blanket ban on MIM (those that do are in violation of court orders). This may have more to do with incompetence of the CDCR staff than a strategic approach. But it also means that the censors must now justify their censorship based on the California Code of Regulations, and appeals cannot be rejected out of hand.

For a while, the prisoner who filed suit was the only persyn in h prison who was able to receive Under Lock & Key. We assumed this was to undermine h censorship claims. Yet, after the ban on MIM was officially canceled in October, all of a sudden ULK was also censored to this comrade. When one of our legal supporters wrote to inquire as to why, the Warden cited the overturned ban on MIM. This was as late as March 2009, and the same thing happened in other California prisons. It was not until 6 months after the new list was released that prison administrators acknowledged that MIM Distributors was no longer banned. We have been assured that proper training of mailroom staff has been conducted in a number of California prisons regarding the new banned list. Still, this alleged "incompetence" has led to over 2 years of no contact with many prisoners across California, and added up to uncounted costs in lost and returned mail and printed materials.

Meanwhile, MIM Theory 8: Anarchist Ideal & Communist Revolution was deemed such a threat that the court would not allow the plaintiff to view the magazine alone in h cell to prepare h case. The CDCR legal team even attempted to seal MIM literature from the public because it allegedly posed such a threat to security. In their motion to have the documents sealed, the CDCR also refers to MIM's "anonymity" as a threat to security. It is not clear to us how identities of those working with MIM are relevant to the security of prisons run by CDCR, but we do see anonymity as justified given the history of harassment and intimidation by CDCR's Investigation Unit and the CCPOA of citizens outside of prison. MIM(Prisons) takes these threats very seriously.

On June 29, 2009, the US District Court issued a summary judgment dismissing the claims against CDCR. In the summary judgment the court recognizes our comrade's exposure of the CDCR for misquoting MIM Theory 8, using ellipses as Scott Kernan did in the 2006 memo. Still, the court deferred to the biased judgments of the prison officials, citing Overton v. Bazzetta, 539 U.S. 126, 132 (2003).

The comrade responded by writing,

"I am extremely disheartened by the aforementioned facts. Disheartened, not defeated, yet I see no positive outcome to the civil matter."

S/he goes on to state,

"Once again I am extremely and hopefully apologetic. It was not my intention to have done all this work for the past 3 years just to have it all come to a crashing halt in the period of three months. I have let not just myself and the movement down, but the people as well.

"Not all is bad though. This was certainly a learning experience and I definitely learned a lot for a 7th grade drop-out. I have been inspired to take a paralegal course, after which I will be of better use to MIM and the people."

For this comrade in California, it is certainly natural to feel disheartened, and it is good to hear that you are not defeated. In the imperialist countries, the task of the revolutionary movement is to carry out long legal battles. Mao said this in 1975, and it is still true today. This means that many of us will have to spend long hours learning and applying bourgeois law, while recognizing that the law has class character and is not designed to serve the oppressed. In addition, "legal work" does not just mean in the court room. An important aspect for keeping our work focused and sane is to carry it out as part of a larger movement. This comrade didn't have a victory in court, but h efforts were simultaneous to petitioning of the CDCR, to public education around censorship, to other prisoners filing appeals, and to PLN's own lawsuit. We will face many failures along the way, but these failures become easy to accept when we study and understand the weaknesses of imperialism as a system, and see our strategic role in contributing to ending all systems of oppression.

We commend this comrade's drive to continue legal studies. The more effective each of us become in our work the easier it is for all of us to succeed. Becoming more effective requires studying others' experiences, learning from them and developing strategies as a movement.

In a more recent letter our jailhouse lawyer wrote,

"Some key points I've learned from all of this is that you definitely have to be committed when engaging the oppressors and their legal system. You always have to keep in mind that you are facing seasoned veterans with all the tools and obstacles of the state at their beck and call. It's never going to be easy, just less difficult at times. Long periods of research and study are also essential with these legal battles long before you decide to actually bring your case into the courtroom. You can also never let yourself be discouraged because discouragement is key to the oppressor's victories which in turn establishes precedent making it that much more difficult for us to succeed."

Prison Legal News and the lawyers supporting their work are the exception to the rule. Most of the time it is prisoners, sometimes with little or no formal education, as this comrade can attest to, who must fight these battles in a maze of complicated language and jargon, where you are starting out at a huge disadvantage. That is why it is important to keep in mind what we are dealing with. The u.$. state is an imperialist state. The court is not a just and benevolent god. Mumia introduces his new book Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. the U.S.A. discussing prisoners who have gone mad after years of learning and applying the law only to lose their just cases, or to have them thrown out before even getting a trial. Such outcomes are to be expected for the oppressed under imperialism and this is an important lesson to learn.

To our readers in California, it is more important than ever that you write in to tell us what mail you are receiving from us so that we can build on this struggle. To date, only a handful of people have acknowledged receiving ULK 10 on Hip Hop.


Campaign info:
MIM Banned in CA!
This article referenced in:
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[Censorship] [Abuse] [Clinton Correctional Facility] [New York] [ULK Issue 11]
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Kkklinton Censors Article then Cracks More Skulls

Under Lock & Key No. 10 page 11 has been found unacceptable for the following reason:

"page 11 violate guideline IIE of Directive 4572 as they allege that an inmate at a New York State Correctional Facility was being mistreated by New York State Department of Correction Staff. It is the opinion of the Media Review Committee that this article, if introduced into a correctional setting, could incite disobedience toward correctional personnel."

There is no way that an article could incite disobedience toward correctional personnel in this facility. Since my arrival at this very racist, corrupt, biased, gang-oriented facility, security personnel here have been on a war path brutalizing numerous convicts unchallenged. Three guys remain here on SHU who were allegedly engaged in fights with other prisoners who were brutalized by security staff. One of them was not only beaten in general population by security staff, but when he went on an escort call out of the SHU one of the officers who was involved in the first assault against him orchestrated an ambush while the prisoner was being escorted through the hall returning from this call out. The officer busted the man's head open while he was in a waist chain and hand cuffs.

Most of the prisoners assaulted by gang staff members are alleged affiliates of prison organizations, yet none of their cronies raised up to the occasion. So how in the hell could an article incite disobedience?

MIM(Prisons): The article in question was one of a series of reports from prisoners at Clinton documenting the abuse there. As laid out in Johnson v. Raemisch, it is illegal for prisons to censor publications because they are critical of staff. Lesson from Clinton staff: if you utilize legal grievance procedures, you'll have your rights and your persyn violated. But use of violence and abuse on the oppressed will get you a well-paid job with the state of New York!

This article referenced in:
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[Organizing] [Censorship] [New York]
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Building Peace is Political

Yesterday the study course materials from MIM(Prisons) were withheld by the facility Media Review Committee, who once again stated that study materials promote and incite violence. So I naturally appealed it, because I know for a fact those claims are false and absurd! Last time they did the same thing and I appealed it and won due to those frivolous claims. How many times do we have to show these sadistic pigs that we are not reactionaries, nor do we promote senseless violence or disobedience towards prison staff? I understand they don't want to see growth and development and for one to do progressive things in prison, but I'm a revolutionary with a righteous cause and I will prevail by all means.

I just read an article written by the Chicano Mexicano Prison Project in the Bayview newspaper that dealt with a riot that exploded in Chino concentration camp by Mexicanos and Afrikans once again. The article stated that this violence went on for 11 hours with slashings, stabbing, cuttings and over 200 were hurt and several critically injured! I get highly frustrated when I read Black and Brown people's violence towards each other, this is counterproductive and reactionary to the fullest. This inter- or self-oppression we commit towards each other empowers the pigs and their capitalist-imperialist system. This old "divide and conquer" strategy is really in full effect and as long as the lumpen are at each others throat and can't make an analysis between who are our real enemies and who are our comrades in struggle, then we will never be liberated!

I suggest we do another ULK on Peace, Unity and Solidarity because this is needed in order for us to make revolutionary change! Brothers who are studying with MIM in Cali Concentration Camps need to really put theory into practice and stop this ignorance and senseless violence amongst Black and Brown peoples.

MIM(Prisons) responds: As we have stated before, we see the principal contradiction within U.$. prisons to be that between the different groups of oppressed people. So yes, we will continue to work on this issue of peace, and hope to put out a ULK dedicated to this work again in the next year. We want to be able to make progress in promoting peace agreements and protocols, but as this comrade stated, it is up to those involved to step forward and put the theory into practice. MIM(Prisons) cannot create peace from the outside.

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[Censorship] [Texas] [ULK Issue 7]
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XXL Just Wants Your $12.99

Revolutionary greetings, comrades. I consider myself to be a conscious brother. I'm also a realist. I can't help but notice that prisoners are writing in, complaining about issues that are minute. And/or of no interest to Us that are dedicated to and about the struggle (total liberation of Our people mentally, spiritually, and physically).

Take for instance the problem with censorship. True, it's a problem that needs attention. However, complaining over magazines such as Vibe, XXL, and King is ludicrous. These publications don't give a damn about these concentration camps we're housed in. As long as that capitalistic business receives our $12.99 they are straight. Let's support those that support us such as MIM(Prisons).

Also comrades, we're all held in an institution that breeds injustice. We're all aware of this fact. OK, let's start fighting this beast with the resources we have. Educate yourself with the law. Know how to attack the grievance system that's a part of this corrupt system. We have to have comrades on the outside that are willing to harass these slave-holders and let them know that you have family/friends that care and are wiling to fight until justice is done. Without that we're on our own and must unite and fight until justice is done. We must want for our brothers/sisters what we want for ourselves.

Texas is one of the worst states to do time in. We have no phones, don't get paid a red cent to work, and we damn near make everything that's sold in the commissary. However that can't break the spirit of a warrior who is dedicated to uplifting my people.

The time is now to unite.

MIM Responds: This comrade is right to assert that the publishers of Vibe, XXL, and King probably only care about their dollar. We've tried communicating with Harris Publications a number of times about the racist censorship of their magazines in amerikan prisons but have still received no response. MIM(Prisons) is against all censorship in prison and would align with the publishers of magazines like XXL, if they were interested. So far they haven't been, but we will still uphold these as examples of the racist censorship policies in u$ prisons.

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[Censorship] [Legal] [New Mexico]
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Legal Mail caselaw needed

I have been getting blocked from accessing the courts by mail due to my indigency and DACDC refusing to send out my legal mail to the courts. I have been writing 2-3 times per week to submit motions and add exhibits as evidence including 40 more mail rejection notices and 10 envelopes from the Supreme Court of New Mexico Law Library that were not processed properly as legal mail. Can you advise me on this or at least give me appropriate case law to cite in this regard?

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[Legal] [Censorship] [Missouri]
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The First Amendment is Disregarded by Prisonkrats

Under the United States Constitution, in particular the First Amendment, is Our fundamental right of freedom of speech, expression, association and religion. This means that people have the right to freely express themselves socially, politically or religiously no matter how radical or backwards the ideas may seem. Everyone has the right to believe what they choose and to freely express those views. At lease that is what the law says.

However, prison administrators across the country have continuously and deliberately violated prisoner's rights based upon the false assumptions that the social, historical and political material that they are receiving is somehow a threat to the prison safety and security.

What this amounts to in reality is the prisonkrats suppressing Our right to associate with, receive mail from, correspond with, possess the literature of, or be part of any group or organization that is political in nature, and especially those groups or organizations which are critical of the prison industrial complex. The last thing the prisonkrats want to see is a bunch of prisoners who are socially and politically conscious and active. They want Us to stay ignorant and in the dark, as We are their job security.

Everyone who is currently incarcerated must learn not only mailroom policy and procedure, but what federal case law supports and protects Our rights. If you aren't doing anything to challenge the repressive/oppressive conditions, then you really have no right to complain. I am encouraging all of you whose rights have been violated to appeal those decisions through the grievance process and to exhaust all of your administrative remedies. Once this is done, you should prepare and file suit under 42 USCA 1983, which is the federal civil rights lawsuit and the proper legal avenue to challenge the system's censorship of your mail.

For those of you in Missouri, I am currently preparing a federal complaint and once filed, you may be able to become a part of this suit if it is "certified" as a class action, meaning that the censorship policy is violating our rights as a class.

I am asking all of you on the outside who support Our right to receive literature and information to write letters to the Director of the Department of Corrections. and the warden here and let them know that you are aware of their illegal activity of violating Our rights and that you support Our right to receive information, correspond with and be members of outside social and political organizations.

For those who are not too abreast of the law, here are some cases that the courts rely on regarding censorship. These are your weapons, use them well.

Turner v. Safely 482 U.S.78. 107 S.Ct 2254
Proconier v. Martinez 416 U.S.396. 94 S.Ct 1800
Thornburgh v. Abbott 490 U.S. 4o1
Johnson v. Raemisch 557 F.Supp 2d 964
Jacklovich v. Simmons 392 F.3d 42o

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Thank you for your support. You can also contact me through MIM for more information. Send letters of support/protest to:

Larry Crawford, Director
Missouri Dept. of Corrections
PO Box 236
Jefferson City, MO 65102
(573) 526-6607

Troy Steele, Warden
Southeast Correctional Center
300 E. Pedro Simmons Dr.
Charleston, MO 63834
(573) 683-4409

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[Censorship] [Florida] [ULK Issue 6]
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More Vibe, King, XXL Subscriptions cancelled

Last night at dinnertime they served what you call "baked chicken" and it had blood running out of it. It had a stink to it. You can catch salmonella this way and it can kill you. The canned greens had sand all in them, the carrots had mud stains on them and the rice was raw. None of these foods were washed or cooked properly. This is done regularly. I've written grievances and complaints to no avail. This is just inhuman, we are human beings not pigs out in a barn.

I canceled my XXL Magazine subscription. My Vibe and King subs should be about up too. They rejected Vibe November 2008 for so-called "gang signs" as well as my first issue of King. I'm sending you the copies of both of the censorship notices so you can contact them for me. I sent grievances (formal and informal) out about my Vibe magazine and never saw a response- it's December now, this is ridiculous.

MIM responds: We have also attempted to contact Harris Publications a number of times regarding racist censorship of their publications, but we have not received a response either. This is just one of an increasing number of reports we are receiving regarding the censorship of these three publications in prisons across the country. So far, they seem unconcerned with the subscription cancellations. We encourage prisoners to change to an Under Lock & Key subscription and support a publication that will stand up for your basic constitutional rights. Even though we offer free subscriptions to prisoners, anyone who can afford to should be contributing to our printing and postage costs. We are a 100% self-funded by comrades in the movement.

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[Organizing] [Legal] [Censorship] [Utah] [ULK Issue 7]
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Combat their Violence with the Law

I'm in solitary and they have strict magazine/newspaper rules, meaning no magazines/newspapers and just this last week they said no books. I'm grieving them on the books and all the returns using this case law: Prison Legal News v. Lehman 397 5.30 692 (9th Cir. 2005) - prisons may not prohibit prisoners from receiving non-subscription mail and catalogs, Sonnels v. McKee, 290 F.30 965 (9th Cir 2002) - prisons may not ban gift publications for which prisoner has not paid, and Morrison v. Hall, 261 F.3d 896 (9th Cir. 2001) - prisons may not ban receipt of subscription publications sent by bulk, third or fourth class mail. I've tried writing to the mailroom and explaining the way they've been in the wrong, nicely. But it seems there's no other way but to grieve and most likely prosecute.

It's not just mail and books I've been grieving and this might be why they have been holding/denying my mail. I've grieved mental health all the way to level three and also medical for deliberate indifference. They have mentally ill prisoners over here in solitary who regularly get peppersprayed, stun gunned, thrown around, thrown on strip cell, and even end up killing themselves. The C/O's kick their doors every count, waking them up. Calling them names, egging them on. Sgt. Feikert commented just last week as they zipped up Mark in his body bag, "No big loss, this scumbag did us a favor, we need the bedspace."

I read a piece by Emile Capouya called, "Laying Down the Gun," that says this about C/Os, "The policeman's... training... [is] directed to a single object... making the system safe for the powerful. The deformation of character he suffers may be greater or less than that of the 'other' born losers he is paid to keep in line, but I imagine it must be substantial." And I can see it in their faces. They're in the belly of this beast called prison even though they go home to sleep. I've been locked up for six years, but against my will. They drive their sorry selves here each day.

But isn't the key in the general strike? If that was awakened again I believe it could work. It's not about violence, is it? I don't know but like I told these other organizations, if you could have talked to me one year ago I wouldn't have been able to tell you there's 2.3 million people caged in the U.$. of A's prison industrial complex. In my mind I knew something wasn't right and I literally saw no better way than to take a couple cops with me, hence my disarming an officer charge. But now I have something larger and more pressing to put my weight behind. I just hope others like myself see the truth before it's too late for them.

MIM(Prisons) says: We also spend a lot of time explaining to prison mailrooms and administrators when they are breaking their own rules and laws. But often they will not address the misdeeds and it is then necessary to prosecute in the courts, as this comrade explains. Unfortunately, this is usually the case, as years of reporting in Under Lock & Key have documented. Like the quote in this letter implies, this is only to be expected from those who are trained to serve the interests of the state. While oppression of certain groups serves the state, so does a semblance of bourgeois democratic rights. That is why we can usually count on the courts to give us a more fair shake than the pigs will. Such battles are necessary survival tactics for the oppressed and for the movement.

The author, like many who write us, is someone who used to think killing cops was the only way to defend himself from the attacks he faced. Prison staff abuse and disregard the lives of prisoners regularly as he describes. Lives are at stake in the amerikan prison environment, both prisoners and cops. Yet official policy institutionalizes violence by encouraging a culture of punishment while often denying any administrative recourse for those who are being abused. In many of these same facilities, even outside parties such as MIM(Prisons) have no recourse with these state employees, nominally servants of the people, when they violate our guaranteed rights by preventing us from communicating and associating with others.

MIM(Prisons) works with comrades like this to find a real solution to these problems because fist fights and stabbings are not the answer to abuse in prisons. We hope that the prison administration will recognize this and begin treating prisoners like humyn beings. Studies have shown that the u$ prison system inherently breeds abuse, while history demonstrates that only a socialist prison system that puts the interests of the world's people first can provide a viable alternative where those who have committed real crimes are restored and not victimized. So it is important that we use long legal battles to build outside pressure and oversight on what is going on inside u$ concentration camps today, in order to bring this contradiction of capitalist society to the forefront while building a broader anti-imperialist united front.

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[Censorship] [Red Onion State Prison] [Virginia]
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King Mag wants Subs but Silent on Censorship

Dear King,

I have received you all renewal notice stating that October will be my last issue. Well, I would really like to continue my subscription, but for some strange reason, when I attempt to reach out to the company on numerous occasions to inform you all that Red Onion State Prison is stopping the magazine at the first level of a three level panel because they consider it to be promoting violence, gang-related, among other reasons used to reject you all King Magazines to those of us at Red Onion State Prison who paid in advance to receive the King Magazine each month.

I am disappointed with the customer services department for not having their staff effectively communicating on this matter. No one responded to my letter and no one at Harris Publishing is showing any type of concern to battle Red Onion State Prison for slandering King Magazine and what you all represent, which is a Black popular culture magazine.

Now, like I mentioned above, I'd love to reorder. But the conditions are not stable and you all not showing support to fight the struggle with these people and I'm a customer. This document I'm enclosing is how they categorize King. Now, it didn't spread mainstream through the whole Virginia system yet, but it's coming very soon. So what is King going to do to maintain thousands of their worthy customers?

View rejection notice

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[Censorship] [Red Onion State Prison] [Virginia] [ULK Issue 5]
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Censorship Hypocrisy Continues at Red Onion

I included two pages of a book titled "Hip Hop Lil Wayne", by Janice Rockworth [see below], which the library is issuing out for prisoners incarcerated at Red Onion to read. Now, this particular book literally speaks in details about gangs. But yet, they (ROSP) constantly keep stopping ULK & Black magazines from coming into this facility for the reasons that they promote gangs or gang activity. It is not fair for these people to try and dictate what we can receive with the money we spend, especially when we have personal property approval slips to receive them. These pages are evidence to support any case brought against ROSP pertaining to discrimination and publication censorship.

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