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Under Lock & Key

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[Censorship] [California] [ULK Issue 2]
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Legal research on censorship

I've been in and out of this prison law library and I've found some information that should be placed in the Under Lock and Key section of MIM Notes. According to the California Prisoners Rights Handbook, page 49:

Prison officials are permitted to open and read most incoming and outgoing mail, except legal or confidential mail that may not be read by prison staff. Such "regular" mail may be withheld or censored only when necessary for the reasonable protection of the public. Mail cannot be censored because prison officials believe it improperly magnifies complaints or contains inflammatory remarks. A prisoner should receive notice of any mail that is withheld or is returned.

I've studied other law books and prison officials taking our mail or sending it back is dead wrong. I've heard that the prisons and their officials are supposed to be letting us prisoners get our political books back, but it's just a rumor as I've heard. I will keep studying the law books.


Campaign info:
MIM Banned in CA!
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[Censorship] [Civil Liberties] [Virginia]
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Censorship in Virginia=Political Repression

At this point the game here has been to label any group or media critical of government policies/practices as a 'security threat' or Security Threat Group(ie. gang) affiliated. Also this is the trend of 'interpreting' all media and groups of oppressed nationalities. Essentially it boils down to political, cultural and racial censorship, dressed up as 'security' concerns. This is a remote prison staffed by 98% rural socially (race) segregated Appalachian white people, who project and harbor deep-set racist stereotypes and repressive instincts. They've even taken prisoners' Black history reference books labeling them STG material. Hell, I just had Harry Haywood's book "Black Bolshevik" rejected and referred to the Publication Review Committee as STG related. They label any material on the Black Panther Party (BPP) as STG material and the BPP as an STG, although the BPP has not existed since 1982.

You should be aware that during February 2006, FBI director Robert Mueller went before a Senate subcommittee called a "threat assessment program." The professed object of which was to identify, disrupt and develop profiles on prisoners and prisoner groups who aspire to "radicalize" other prisoners and thus result in violence upon the return of such radicalized prisoners to society. The same 'violent' pretext and stereotype always used by the government to repress political activism and consciousness raising. This program was said to be coordinated between the FBI and various prisons and DOCs, both federal and state.


MIM adds: Not only is the Black Panther Party labeled a Security Threat Group, but recent study questions on idealism vs. materialism, discussing Mao's On Contradiction were also considered to promote STGs, terrorism and a list of other charges.

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[Censorship] [Abuse] [Texas] [ULK Issue 2]
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Texas women's prison blocking mail, gassing prisoners

On March 27, 2006 the MV staff gassed me (pepper spray) to take from me my sealed, outgoing legal mail. That gassing nearly killed me. And it was obviously a violation of the law - as well as TDCJ's use of force plan. That's when MV started blocking all of my outgoing mail and most of my incoming mail. And the TDCJ mucky-mucks I could reach through the very flawed grievance process did nothing to stop it.

MV is way out of control - with many folks having their mail blocked; and many folks (like myself) having our visits blocked because staff like Warden Black herself were lying to our visitors that they couldn't come see us. Even lawyers were leaving their visits blocked - but, you can't count on lawyers to do a damn thing! And you can't count on cops anywhere to do a damn thing right - just to be misogynist, racist thugs.

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[Education] [Campaigns] [Censorship] [California] [ULK Issue 1]
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California Bans MIM Distributors

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has instituted a ban on educational material within prisons, categorically censoring all literature sent by MIM's prisoner education program. This ban was mandated by Scott Kernan, Director of the Division of Adult Institutions for California, in a memorandum issued December 13, 2006 "directing an immediate ban on the receipt, possession, or distribution of literature/publications from MIM to or by inmates in the custody of the CDCR." This ban has been interpreted by prisons to include dictionaries and history books as well as MIM's own magazine and newspapers. In some prisons the ban has been interpreted to also include all letters written by MIM.

This censorship is in direct violation of legal precedent which requires review of mail for content that violates prison policy. Systematic rejection of all mail from an organization based on disagreement with the sender's politics is not legal, even within the prison system's own rules and regulations.

Neither Kernan nor the prison administrators applying the ban have ever supplied any evidence that MIM literature (much less, letters, dictionaries and other books MIM sends to prisoners) present any threat to the institutions. Kernan's letter contains a review of the MIM political line as supposed evidence that MIM represents some danger to California prisons. The California Code Of Regulations (CCR) Title 15, sec: 3135(b) states: "Disagreement with the senders or receivers apparent moral values, attitudes veracity, or choice of words will not be used by correctional staff as a reason for disallowing or delaying mail. Correctional staff shall not challenge or confront the sender or receiver with such value judgments, nor shall such value judgments be considered in any action affecting the correspondents." Further, in Procunier v. Martinez, the Supreme Court upholds the right of prisoners to receive mail, regardless of the prison official’s opinion of the mail content, as long as there are no legitimate restrictions from the prison related to correctional purposes.

There is a strong correlation between education and imprisonment. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (the U.$. Department of Justice's own organization) latest study on 1997 population data, 41% of State and Federal prisoners had not completed high school. This compares with 18% of the general population age 18 and older.(1) Things look even worse among prisoners age 20 to 39 showing that the trend is towards more prisoners without a high school education as younger prisoners are even less educated than older prisoners. Other more recent studies have shown this trend continues. The likelihood of ending up in prison is tremendously higher for young Black men who drop out of school before getting a high school diploma. And a college degree is further protection against imprisonment.

On the other side of education, in-prison education programs have repeatedly been shown to reduce recidivism by helping prisoners to find jobs and opportunities once they are released. Individual and meta studies repeatedly conclude the same thing:

"Since 1990, the literature has shown that prisoners who attend educational programs while they are incarcerated are less likely to return to prison following their release. Studies in several states have indicated that recidivism rates have declined where inmates have received an appropriate education. Furthermore, the right kind of educational program leads to less violence by inmates involved in the programs and a more positive prison environment."(2)

California already has one of the highest recidivism rates in the country, with an astronomical 70% of released prisoners ending up back inside within three years. And in recent years we have seen education programs, visitation, and even mail cut back so that prisoners are left with very little to do behind bars and a virtually impossible task of going straight from prison to the streets with no education or transitional services.

Implementing a state-wide ban of educational material from MIM is one more way to keep prisoners locked up. Prisoners who read our literature frequently tell us they learn to channel their time into productive activities rather than participating in violence behind bars. And the education helps them have a better chance at staying on the street once they are released. We get letters pleading for reading materials like this one all the time: "I'm an inmate at Salinas Valley State Prison and am on a yard that's been on lockdown off and on for approximately 4 years. Therefore I'm unable to get to the library here. I've read every 'floater' here. I would be very grateful for any soft back books you could send. Anything you send will be read and reread by many inmates." Surely the CDC"R" knows there is a demand for reading materials in the prisons, but they don't even bother to fill this void with fluff novels. They prefer to spend their large budget on higher salaries for brutal guards and legal defense for their illegal activities like setting up prisoner fights for sport.

Of course, the CDC"R" does have reasons to ban MIM from the prisons. Educating prisoners is counter to their goal. With education comes consciousness, and while prisoners working with MIM report avoiding violent confrontations (both with their peers and with guards), they are also more likely to take up legal and administrative appeals, and to educate and organize their fellow prisoners to stand up for their legal rights. As one California prisoner wrote to us in October of last year:

"In extending my respects to all, I would also like to convey my heartfelt appreciation to everyone working at, working with and/or affiliated with Maoist Internationalist Movement for all that you do and the services you provide. Especially, in regards to prisoners. Speaking from personal experience I can say that in receiving and reading your newsletters, it's both a major source of motivation and encouragement. To say that your MIM Notes have served me well does not cover any specifics, but I can say that your notes have been a potent ingredient towards my transformation: and your free books to prisoners program has nurtured and fed me like a baby at his mother's bosom. The books you have been so generous to send have taught me to respect and value the importance of an education…an education that has taught me that with knowledge comes enormous responsibility. The responsibility that arises from not just knowing the difference between what is said to be right, or wrong, testing an deciphering, truth and lies, but knowing and acting in accordance with what is consistent and progressive in the exercise of self determination and self defense."

We will continue to pursue the fight against this ban in California, working closely with our comrades behind bars to challenge this action in court if necessary. We encourage the CDCR leadership and California state politicians to step forward and overturn this illegal ban before they are forced to waste money needlessly in a legal battle that will only further expose their disregard for Rehabilitation, the welfare of prisoners, and the very laws they claim to uphold.

We need support from prisoners to join this struggle, and support from people on the outside to demand an end to this ban. Write protest letters to: James Tilton, Secretary, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 1515 S. Street, Sacramento, CA 95184

1. Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report: Education and Correctional Populations, January 2003 2. Journal of Correctional Education, v55 n4, p297-305, December 2004. See also The Nation, March 4, 2005: "Studies have clearly shown that participants in prison education, vocation and work programs have recidivism rates 20-60 percent lower than those of nonparticipants. Another recent major study of prisoners found that participants in education programs were 29 percent less likely to end up back in prison, and that participants earned higher wages upon release."

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[Organizing] [Censorship] [Southeast Correctional Center] [Missouri] [ULK Issue 3]
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Struggling and Studying in Missouri

I am writing to inform you that I received the back issues of MIM Notes that you sent me. The papers were informative concerning the issues affecting some of the Souljahs within these slave plantations. Some of the stories motivated me to attempt to put together a study group. We shall see how long this lasts. I say that because I'm the only individual with literature and these guys in the Missouri Slave System are only concerned with what type of material things they have. Don't get me wrong, there are a few revolutionary souljahs who still hold the spirit within, but the numbers are dwindling.

I've managed to organize a few uprisings here in the ASU of the Southeast Correctional Center that caused these hyenas to change a few things. As a result, I've been beat by the goon squad, labeled as an agitator, and my mail has been "disappearing" somehow. Yet I remain strong and rage on!

These hyenas have taken away our phone calls here in the ASU and they've taken away the razors, preventing us from contact with family and grooming ourselves. We don't know what's to come next, they might take away the 3 hours a week recreation in the "dog cages" outside. Soon, I pray that the souljahs and sistah souljahs here in Missouri catch on and rise up.

I'm about to file a lawsuit with the District Court in protest of the "blanket ban" preventing Missouri inmates from receiving free books. Any info on this issue will be appreciated. They feed us romance novels and rob us of substance with this blanket ban in an attempt to keep us deaf, dumb and blind.

Listen brothas, sistahs, souljahs and sistah souljahs, keep the fight going, our time is now. If we don't fight for us, who will. Like I've said, I will continue to form this study group and create as many uprisings as I can.

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[Organizing] [Censorship] [California State Prison, Corcoran] [California]
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Legal battle part of fight against imperialism

You probably know already that the pigs have put MIM on their blacklist to be censored again. Despite the court verdicts saying that any censorship be based on the item in question, not the political beliefs of the publishers. Yeah, these pigs are actually happy and proud of their ability to block out the facts MIM provides us. The crono they gave out just said MIM, not MIM Notes or MIM Theory, just the group they hate. Nothing new though because they've always hated being exposed as fascists, like their pillow case masks are a matter of government safety and it is another way to defend bourgeois hegemony.

I was thinking that after MIM wins the legal battle against Corcoran's personal attack on their ideas, the other publications they hate will also win freedom from being blocked, based on publisher.

I just want you comrades to know that we are still fighting the tyranny and we know you are also. The struggle continues. I feel that U.S. imperialism is on its last legs and that all the hate and enemies they have made are catching up to them. 50 million African Americans, 40 million Latinos in America, 20 million Asians, the yankee Ku Klux is gonna have it very hard, conquering all this! And 400 million Arabs, 1 billion Chinese, 1 billion Indians. These pigs that thought they won a new state, when George Bush used the U.S. military to fight his family feud with Saddam, are in for a rude awakening and will perish in their disgrace and sickness of chauvinism.

I remember all the boasts and brags, about how they were gonna crusade and burn crosses on Iraq's lawn and conquer and settle, but now, 3 trillion dollars later all they have is depleted uranium poison, 4000 dead, I don't know 30,000 wounded? And a ticket back to their nest.

Just like you taught us. The revolution will become reality as their military becomes over-extended in its campaign to colonize and dictate. MIM, you have to write an article about the facts of global oil reserves and touch on the time limit that this imperial collapse will happen, so that people will be prepared to take their own destiny, their own responsibility in their own hands. Just like the communist manifesto says, where the free development of each is the conditions for the free development of all.

MIM responds: This is a good commentary tying censorship to the global situation of imperialist overextension. In response to the request for an article on global oil reserves, we need our comrades, both behind bars and on the streets, to take up the task of writing the articles that are needed. Just supplying us with ideas is not enough as we never have enough people to cover all the important global events. Even in prison, our comrades are resourceful about finding needed research materials.


Campaign info:
MIM Banned in CA!
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[Education] [Censorship] [California]
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Education is essential, must fight censorship

Revolutionary greetings to your staff. I just received your letter with the information on prison censorship. I'm fully schooled with the state's so-called laws. In the past I have not had any problems receiving MIM Notes or the study books. I fully understand that problems do come up behind the hands of the oppressor. This is why freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.

Let's test the water for now and please start sending me educational material. The struggle can not be stopped, I refuse to let them take control of my mind. I'm 50 years old, been in prison on and off for 30 years, and now three strikes have me. I refuse to lay down on myself or other oppressed people. The most dangerous weapon in this world is a fully focused mind.

MIM adds: MIM was banned in California prisons by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in December of 2006. We are working with our comrades behind bars to fight this ban. We need support from prisoners to join this struggle, and support from people on the outside to demand an end to this ban. Write protest letters to: James Tilton, Secretary, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 1515 S. Street, Sacramento, CA 95184


Campaign info:
MIM Banned in CA!
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[Censorship] [New York]
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Help Fight Censorship in NY

The lady in the mail room here has committed so many mail fraud violations she should be my neighbor.

I didn't know anything about the package sent back to you, but I did receive about five MIM Notes and one MIM Theory on the 24th of July minus several pages, courtesy of media review. They said that the material excited rebellion, as if any rebellion isn't a direct result of this systems abuse and oppression.

Around the same time I sent you my initial letter conveying my interest in your organization, I also wrote the SYDA Foundation, which is also based in Cali. It's basically a yoga study course. Anyway, after my first lesson they began taking pages out of each lesson, which destroyed the lessons. After that I lost interest in the course.

Media Review is just another way for them to control population, they label almost everything gang related if they don't understand it, and any group that is not on the commissioner's approved list is unauthorized organization material, etc.

These people have little regard for our rights, as long as they can hide they harrassment behind the goose of "security reasons" and get away with it they will.


MIM responds: This report is more evidence that NY State Dept of Corrections is violating its own rules regarding censorship, not to mention the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Despite the department's stated purpose of, "encourag[ing] inmates to read publications from varied sources if such material does not encourage them to engage in behavior that might be disruptive to orderly facility operations," it now appears that "varied sources" is often interpreted to mean a small selection of publications hand-picked by department officials.

There have been numerous reports of prisoners being charged with 105.12 violations for possessing materials from certain political groups, including MIM. We are currently working with comrades from the New Afrikan Maoist Party, who are leading the efforts to bring a class action suit against these violations of our First Amendment rights to communicate and affiliate with people thru prison walls.

Rule 105.12 doesn’t prevent NY prisoners from, writing about, writing for, possessing the literature of, corresponding and associating with, or being members of any outside organization, so long as the organization is not a gang and the prisoners don’t organize inmate chapters of it within the facility without approval. But due to incompetence, lack of training, and prejudice many staff members are applying Rule 105.12 to written materials related to outside organizations they’re not familiar with or don’t like or agree with. This tactic has been effective in scaring a number of potential comrades away from working with us, or even reading our literature.

Prisoners in NY can join and contribute to this case by writing affirmations attesting to the facts around this struggle. If you have faced a 105.12 charge or similar censorship it is even more important that you help out. Write us to request more information on the case and how to compose an affirmation. Readers on the outside will be able to get more information about this battle soon at www.prisoncensorship.info.

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[Legal] [Censorship] [Washington]
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Inmate Mail and Communications in WA

According to WAC 137-48-050 procedures for restrictions of incoming and/or outgoing mail, the Department of Corrections does not usually comply with paragraph (1) or (2) of this section on 137-48.

The Department of Corrections is not sending publishers or senders a copy of the mail restriction according to the mandatory language of shall.

For example, WAC 137-48-050(1) states in pertinent part:

...This notification shall be provided to the inmate and the sender of the specific publication, letter, or package which has been restricted and the reason for this action.

Another example, WAC 137-48-050(2) states in pertinent part:

The inmate and sender shall be advised in writing of his/her right to seek review of the decision to restrict his/her mail...

The Department of Corrections in Washington State is not abiding with this mandatory language in the code.

Publishers and senders are not receiving notice and this is a Due Process issue according to the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution and also violates 1st Amendment Rights for the publisher and senders of publications.

Inmates probably have no standing to challenge the issue, but the publishers do. My advice to all inmates in the Washington State Department of Corrections to do is send the publisher or sender a copy of the restriction. Inform them of the WAC 137-48-050 mandatory language. Also explain to them the fact that they have standing to challenge the Department of Corrections under 1st and 14th Amendment grounds for censorship and Due Process. The more inmates that do this, the more prison mailroom and administration will be working that prisoners will start seeing less mail restrictions coming to them.

Also challenge on your appeal how the rejection affects you by not allowing the publisher notice since prisoners cannot even see what is being restricted, how can a prisoner effectively appeal the mail restriction? This is another issue every prisoner should challenge in court too. The fact us prisoners cannot see what the Washington Department of Corrections is censoring or restricting there is no effective appeal process because it leaves the keepers with total control without giving prisoners a "meaningful" avenue to peaceably redress government violation of the 1st Amendment and 14th Amendment grounds.

The more people that unite together the more we can expose the hypocrisy of the so-called state administrative governments. Exercise your rights, because if you don't they will continue to take and take until you are totally defenseless. It is better to try and fail than not doing anything for yourself and fellow man. Past generation prisoners have died for what few rights we have such as clean conditions, medical care, food, mail, etc. Don't let the new prison administrators take without a fight.

MIM responds: This comrades points are in the spirit of Black August, which is now coming to a close, when we commemorate the history of the prison movement behind bars; the struggles, both successful and failed and those whose lives were taken. And as the comrade points out, it is still worth fighting even if you don't win immediately. Particularly when there is a movement that you are fighting as a part of. With enough appeals from prisoners and outside groups we can put enough pressure on the prison administration in Washington and elsewhere to at least follow their own rules, if not change their rules.

In 2001 we passed two resolutions in Congress calling on MIM's Prison Ministry to take leadership in fighting censorship. The first resolution took ownership for the censorship of our literature as a violation of all writers for MIM Notes, many of whom are tax-paying amerikkkan citizens. So, we fully agree with this comrade's call for distributors, particularly anti-imperialists who are being targeted with this censorship, to demand their so-called "rights" to free speech and association be respected. Our Prison Ministry regularly fights the censorship we face through legal and administrative challenges. Prisoners can help by letting us know when they do and don't receive the literature we send them and sending us copies of any rejection notices and facility regulations. And of course, those who are serious about winning this battle can contribute through articles like this one and by leading legal battles on their own behalf as the writer suggests.

The second resolution we passed in 2001 established a regular report of humyn-rights violations in u$ prisons, with a focus on censorship. Following this resolution we also began reaching out to other groups working with prisoners to compile information on censorship. Only recently have these efforts become visible to the public on the Prison Ministries new website www.prisoncensorship.info. This site will feature news from prisons, including everything printed in ULK, a searchable database of censorship incidents, and rules and regulations compiled by state and facility. (On the site you can view the most recent rejection notices that Washington DOC sent MIM for political cartoons that contained swastikas.) We will be using this site to begin issuing regular censorship reports again, which will be more detailed than we were able to do in the past. We will also be accepting submissions of censorship incidents from other organizations and individuals and incorporating them into our work. We hope these efforts will encourage more collaboration with other groups, lawyers and prisoners in fighting censorship within the u$ injustice system.

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[Censorship] [MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility] [Oregon]
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WA Youth share MIM Theory

Comrades,

It is with mixed blessings that I report that so far in Oregon at MacLaren Youth Corruptional Facility, no editing or censoring has yet taken place for MIM Notes or MIM Theory. It is just a matter of time before it does happen here though. Until that day, I will leave my copy of MIM Theory on the bookshelf for others to pick up and read. Lets hope that it opens their eyes to the Evils of Capitalism and amerikkkan imperialism. May the best be brought to its knees and slayed by the might of the people united under true equality. Long live the Maoist Internationalist Movement! Long live Communism!

A lone communist in Youth Corruptions

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