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Under Lock & Key

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[Abuse] [Campaigns] [Censorship] [Civil Liberties] [Download and Print] [Georgia]
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Downloadable Grievance Petition, Georgia

Georgia Grievance Petition
Click to Download PDF of Georgia Petition

Mail the petition to your loved ones and comrades inside who are experiencing issues with their 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 listed on the petition, and below. Supporters should send letters on behalf of prisoners.

Commissioner, Georgia Department of Corrections
300 Patrol Road
Forsyth, GA 31029

Southern Center for Human Rights Law Offices
83 Poplar St. NW
Atlanta, GA 30303-2122

GDC Office of Internal Affairs, Investigation and Compliance
PO Box 1529
Forsyth, GA 31029

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

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

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

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

*this petition was first put up in November 2014, updated October 2017*

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[Censorship] [River North Correctional Center] [Virginia] [ULK Issue 47]
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Virginia Censorship Battle Seeking Way Forward

Censored
Enclosed is a Facility Notification of Disapproval of Under Lock & Key No. 45. The effort your group puts forth, and your commitment to your ideology are examples of dedication. But the continual rejection of your materials by the prison is costly to your limited resources. And my returning them to you without getting to read them is costly to me. You should receive a package from me containing materials the prison withheld from me.

I propose you cease mailing your materials to me. I am still going to contribute articles for you to publish. I have an issue of ULK that I've saved in order to show others who you are, what you represent, and so forth. I will use this to encourage them to work with you.

I have considered filing a lawsuit. But upon reviewing decisions in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, it is plain that the court sides with the prison system except in cases involving religious books. (The one non-religious victory: the court did rule in favor of a prisoner denied Ulysses by James Joyce because the prison permitted Playboy and the prison's claim that Ulysses was disapproved for sexual content is ludicrous and hypocritical.)

When it comes to political materials – especially radical views – the court is extremely conservative. The Fourth Circuit (which hears appeals from the nine federal district courts in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina) also has the dubious distinction of being the harshest toward prisoner complaints.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We are working with this comrade and a few others in Virginia to determine how best to proceed with the censorship against MIM(Prisons) in that state. We agree that the legal track record in the Fourth Circuit suggests that it's not worth the effort for a prisoner to file a lawsuit fighting the censorship. There is some precedent for organizations and individuals outside of prison having better luck and we do have some strong comrades like this one who can help with legal work. But we need an outside lawyer, knowledgable individual, or organization who can help spearhead the fight in Virginia. If anyone reading this has people on the outside who would be willing to work with us on this important battle, please let us know. And if you are in Virginia, be sure to tell us whether or not you are receiving your copies of ULK, and if you'd like to help with this battle.

In the end this comrade is right that it is only in the long battle that we can really win, when we take power for the oppressed out of the hands of the oppressors. But in the short term, making it possible for comrades to get study and organizing materials behind bars is of critical importance because this is how we can build the movement. Education is our principal task, and this education is hard to accomplish without the ability to communicate and study.

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[Censorship] [State Correctional Institution Huntingdon] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 46]
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Pennsylvania Censors Textbooks

Oppose Censorship
Prison administrators here in State Correctional Institution (SCI) Huntingdon have recently begun to deny all of the programming textbooks that have come in the mail for me, stating that the books contain writings which advocate, assist or are evidence of criminal activity, or facility misconduct. I am unable to properly appeal the publication denials to the facility's superintendent, who told me in person "You're not getting your fucking books." He told me that the decision by the Inmate Publication Review Committee (IPRC) is final, and his responses to my attempts to appeal publication denials reflect this statement. I am unable to use the facility grievance system to file complaints about my mail and incoming publications, which are meant to be handled some other way. I am unable to ask exactly what misconducts or crimes the books advocate, assist in, or are evidence of, and facility staff have been unable to specify.

I am writing to your organization to respectfully request any assistance, or information you may be able to provide which could help to right this wrong. These books are purely educational, and as such are entirely neutral. Disallowing them could not serve any legitimate penological interest.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This letter shows that education can never be "entirely neutral" under imperialism. Educational textbooks, while generally devoid of any progressive political content, still present a threat to prisons because of the opportunity they provide for educational advancement. Through this education prisoners may become more aware of the basis of the criminal injustice system and their own oppression, and it could lead them to seek out more revolutionary education. Keeping prisoners uneducated is a good way for the oppressor nation to maintain its privileged position.

Denial of books can also be used as punishment for a prisoner who is seen as a trouble maker. The fact that this comrade knows how to file grievances and is working to gain education may be the cause of these denials. Part of the system of social control in prisons is the use of arbitrary rules to contain prisoners who might be a threat because of their understanding of legal rights and their ability to fight for these rights.

For both of these reasons, instead of arguing about what constitutes "legitimate penological interests" we point out that the penological interest really being served by the Amerikan criminal injustice system is social control. Censorship is a key tool the prisons use for this end. And for this reason we focus some of our limited time and resources fighting against censorship. For this comrade we have provided a copy of our guide to fighting censorship. But what we really need, in many states across the country, are lawyers who can help us bring censorship cases to court to establish legal precedent. Of particular priority to us are those cases where the censorship is of explicit political material. Textbook denials like the one described above do happen, but they are far less common than the denial of Under Lock & Key and other revolutionary literature.

This article referenced in:
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[Censorship] [Stiles Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 44]
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Texas Denies Prisoners All Access to Paper and Envelopes

I'm writing because here in Texas the legislature or some "committee" got the bright idea to forbid prisoners the ability to purchase stationary materials (writing paper, typing paper, envelopes of all kinds, and carbon paper) from outside vendors. This really is felt by those who do legal work and those who refuse to support this state. We are now obligated to further support it by purchasing stationary from commissary.

Before this rule was adopted and enforced, one could purchase stationary items from the outside. This was especially good while on a unit lockdown when one needed paper (especially in litigation), because one could do an outside purchase and still get the paper. On a unit lockdown all movement comes to a halt! No commissary, nothing. So no commissary, no paper.

Now, of course, this system has a rule where after seven days on a lockdown one can use the state's "indigent" process, even having funds in one's account. But what the rule states, and what the indigent supply supervisor (usually the law library supervisor) does, are two different things. Let's say it's a four week lockdown. So the first week is "free" or s/he doesn't have to worry about filling out stationary requests. Then week two comes along and all those requests come in. Now the supervisor claims that there's "too many" requests and can't get around to sending the requester their "assigned" indigent supply envelope (ISE). There goes week two, with no paper. Now, each building has their "assigned" request day so this wise ass stupid-visor knows which day is the building's request day. S/he then sends the ISE on the day that the requests are to be made — there goes week three. Week four, you finally make your request, but you come off lockdown, with no supplies sent, and you haven't written in a whole month. Then you have to wait to go to the store.

By the time any grievance is heard the stupid-visor now has his goons kicking down your door searching all your "legal work" under the guise of "probable cause" of written contraband, but really it's retaliation. After all your shit has been ransacked and possibly stolen, in the end you've been fucked good with no claim upon which relief can be granted.

eCommDirect usually allows people on the outside to purchase commissary items for prisoners, but they are not allowed during a lockdown. And if you're in a custody level of what's known in Texas as a G-4 or closed custody there are no eComms allowed any time anyway.

So what does the system do to stop you if you're a writ writer? Make you a G-4 or closed custody. And you can be disciplined for anything! The way the rule reads, an open bag of chips is "contraband" cause it's not as you bought it! Everyone with a little sense will know that the prison system disciplinary process is only a means of control.


MIM(Prisons adds: Beyond just the disciplinary process inside prisons, the entire prison system, from denial of writing materials, to long-term isolation, is set up for social control. There's nothing rehabilitative or corrective about the Amerikan criminal injustice system. Denial of paper and envelopes is a clever way for Texas to try to stop people from using the grievance and legal system to address injustices. It is no surprise that many prisoners turn to physical violence when all other avenues are cut off. But in the face of this increased repression we call on all prisoners to come together, build unity and peace and join a broader movement to fight both these specific injustices and the broader imperialist system. United we can have an impact and build for revolutionary change!

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[Censorship] [National Oppression] [Perry Correctional Institution] [Lee Correctional Institution] [South Carolina] [ULK Issue 45]
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Reading is Fundamental

Throughout the history of our uncivilized world, those who invade, conquer, colonize, and oppress the people without fail make their first order of business to uproot and destroy the educational facilities and libraries. The oppressor nations and their oppressive apparatus know the importance of books and a proper education.

As we know from history, the Africans who were brought to Amerika and turned into slaves were forbidden to read and write. In fact, to be caught with a book or even attempting to learn how to read and write was a crime for them. These are facts that trouble me immensely, because the more things seem to change, the more they actually remain the same.

In September of 2012 while being housed in the Special Management Unit (SMU) at Lee Correctional Institution, in Bishopville, South Carolina, I filed a grievance, because on 25 April 2012, the then-acting Warden (Michael McCall) had the Rapid Response Team (Red-Team) confiscate all books, newspapers, magazines, etc. from SMU prisoners. I was left without one single piece of paper in the cell; they even took the toilet paper.

And though this was against their own policy (SCDC Policy OP-22.12), it has still been upheld on appeal. It is criminal to hold a human being inside of a cell for twenty-four hours a day with absolutely nothing to read and occupy the mind. While on SMU for almost four years, I developed high blood pressure and mental health issues. Since being off SMU I no longer have signs of high blood pressure and I have resolved my mental health issues on my own. I was taking medication for high blood pressure and the mental health issues and currently I am medication-free.

Some prisoners get their families to order books for them, but some bookstores such as Barnes & Noble have refused to let my family order books that must be sent directly to me, because they've had so many problems with the institutions sending books back. Companies have simply gotten fed up with having to send refund checks, because so many books, magazines, newspapers, etc. (primarily literature pertaining to Black history and culture) are unauthorized and thus, we can't receive them.

Currently I am being held captive at Perry Correctional Institution (PCI), which is in Pelzer, South Carolina. Here at PCI they not only deny prisoners on SMU books, but they've shut down the regular library services as well. The general prisoner population's library services have been shut down for about five months now. We have been told that the books that are currently part of the regular library will be divided up and placed on shelves and/or carts that will be built in the respective dorm units. I have written requests to the staff here concerning the library services (or lack thereof) and they give me the same run-around. I have even pointed out to them that they are not abiding by their own policy (PS-08.04 Library Services) when it comes to how they've shut the library down.

The truly sad part about this whole injustice is that the warden here (Larry Cartledge) is Black (his skin anyway), the Major here (Curtis Early) is Black (his skin anyway), and even the person in charge of the educational building (Linda Bratton) is Black. All of these people should realize the significance and importance of books to a people who have been beaten, lynched, and murdered for attempting to educate themselves in a nation that has done everything possible to stop them from educating themselves. We cannot give Black officials a pass simply because their skin is black. We must hold these "Black people" accountable not only for their actions, but for their inactions as well. This entire system is corrupt and bent on further maintaining and supporting corruption, oppression, and an imperialistic agenda.

The South Carolina Department of Corruption's policy GA-01.12 (Inmate Grievance System May 12, 2014), p. 5 states: "Responses: in most instances, grievances will be processed from initial to final disposition within 171 days." It is no accident that the South Carolina Department of Correction (SCDC) has taken well over two years to process my grievance in question and many many more.

Once the grievance process has been exhausted, the prisoner can file civil suits for various violations committed by the SCDC, but most civil suits have to be filed within a two-year time frame of said violations. The SCDC has developed, maintained, and even nurtured a system of crime and corruption against the very people who they have the audacity to call criminals. They prolong and hinder the grievance process in their attempts to stop prisoners from having their day in court.

When "our people" represent the interest of the oppressive imperialist state, they are not "our people" and we must replace them with those who actually hold our best interest at heart. It is clear that these people are complicit with this corrupt, unjust system of racism, oppression, and imperialism. And though they do not want us to read books, they throw the book at us each and every opportunity they get.


MIM(Prisons) responds: One of the main similarities between present-day U.$. prisons, and the days of U.$. slavery, is the use of people from oppressed groups to act as agents of oppression on behalf of the oppressor Amerikkkan nation. The Uncle Tom phenomena is most clearly exemplified by Barack Obama, the Black President of the United $tates, the world's leading imperialist power. Since the destruction of the 1960s national liberation movements, the New Afrikan nation, and other internal semi-colonies, have been increasingly bought off by the spoils of imperialism. New Afrikan guards in prisons are an ironic example of this integration.

Replacing one guard with another won't change the fact that they are prison guards, and hence determined to fall into the role of oppressor. After all, that's why they get a paycheck! Instead we aim to get rid of the oppressive prison system altogether, by creating a society where this relationship is no longer necessary or legal.

On a country-wide scale, the contradiction between Amerika and the internal semi-colonies is principal. In looking at historical examples, we see that struggles for national liberation have done the most to propel societies out of the oppression of capitalism and imperialism.

Within PCI it sounds like the guards side more with Amerika than they do with their own nation, probably because of all the great "opportunity" that Amerika has provided them. We call this "opportunity" spoils of imperialism: wealth that was stolen from the Third World by the imperialists and divvied up amongst First World citizens on varying levels just enough to prevent revolutionary overthrow of the United $tates government.

And this anecdote from South Carolina paints a picture of why we focus on lumpen New Afrikans, who are easy to locate in Amerika's prisons and have the most subjective interest in overthrowing capitalism, as opposed to trying to organize the New Afrikan petty-bourgeoisie (such as prison guards). The division is a difference of degrees of integration, while on the whole the New Afrikan nation is oppressed by Amerika. In response to the Liberals' demands for less and less discrimination, all we get is increased integration; the underlying national oppression and imperialism is unchanged.

The issue of restricting reading materials to prisoners is a topic with a long history in U.$. prisons and in South Carolina. As much as people like to pretend that policies and legislation have an impact on the ground, they must not get as many letters from prisoners as we do that show just the opposite. As this comrade shows, the laws and policies may be in place, but there is always some way to get around it, usually by citing "security" concerns.

Attempting to hold prison administrators accountable when they do violate their own rules leaves one's grievances to sit unanswered for two years as this comrade's are. And the response from administration is often just a brush off with no practical resolution obtained. Taking them to court over the issue is immensely difficult, even for the most litigious prisoner.

While we can definitely make some significant advances through the court system, we need to always be conscious of the overall picture. The same problems have been going on for decades and even centuries. If bourgeois democracy worked, wouldn't the issues of literacy and free education be resolved by now? Instead we have increased integration (i.e. more parasites leeching from the international proletariat) and individual people battling it out with petty paperwork struggles. Still.

For the lack of response to grievances, a comrade in South Carolina created a petition for the proper handling of grievances. Unfortunately it seems South Carolina does not have a time limit on responding to grievances, which might be a worthwhile issue for a prisoner to take to court if it means there would then at least be a policy in place to limit the time administrators can sit on answering a grievance and thus taking one step closer to satisfying Prison Litigation Reform Act requirements. The campaign to have our grievances addressed is an attempt to show the collective problem of neglect of the grievance procedure, rather than keeping it on the individual scale that is so convenient for prison administrators to disregard. Different states are having different levels of success in their grievance petition campaigns, but overall at least we are further proving how useless the offered forms of relief are in actually resolving problems.

In choosing which campaigns to fight, we assess how they will impact our overall struggle against imperialism. Our role at this point in the struggle in the United $tates is to build public opinion in favor of national liberation struggles of the oppressed, and against the capitalist economic system. Having access to reading materials is hugely important in developing an understanding of revolutionary politics, and by keeping prisoners in the dark with literally no material to read, the state of South Carolina is further delaying our struggle for liberation from all forms of oppression.

Comrades in South Carolina should organize around this lack of access to books and educational materials. If they can manage to get a library back, and to lift restrictions on what books can be mailed in to SCDC facilities, it would have a big impact on prisoner-led study groups and individual study. It would also have a big impact on the breadth and depth of political consciousness in South Carolina prisons, and would be very beneficial for our overall struggle against imperialism. Comrades in South Carolina should write to MIM(Prisons) with their ideas on what United Struggle from Within can do to help fight the censorship in South Carolina prisons!

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[Censorship] [Eastern NY Correctional Facility] [New York] [ULK Issue 45]
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Censorship in NY Targets Oppressed Nation Lit

Last month I received my first issue of Under Lock & Key (No. 42), and I'm honestly surprised that the correspondence unit even let this newsletter into the facility. In the 13 years that I've been imprisoned, I've witnessed and experienced having all kinds of books, magazines, and other publications be either censored in part or disapproved altogether.

The conventional reasons behind this censorship are either that the works contain content that is considered a threat to the safety and security of the institution, or that the literature contains "gang" signs or other unauthorized organizational content. Of course these reasons are totally arbitrary and capricious. For example, the prison media review committee regularly blots out the peace gesture in The Five Percenter Newspaper and claims that the hand gesture is a "gang" sign. However, I've seen pictures of President Obama making this very same gesture, but these pictures are never censored.

Similarly, I'm enrolled in a college program and last semester the administration here disapproved two pieces of Black literature: Richard Wright's Big Black Good Man and James Baldwin's Going to Meet the Man. They claimed that the stories were offensive in content. The real insult to me was that during the very same semester they approved literature in other Eurocentric classes that regularly referenced Black people as niggers. I guess offensive content is okay as long as it doesn't offend those in control.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This new ULK subscriber is reporting a problem we see in prisons across the country: systematic censorship of literature that presents even mild cultural news targetting a New Afrikan audience. White supremacist books and magazines get past the censors with no problem, but books by famous authors like Richard Wright and James Baldwin are denied. And ULK is even more likely to be censored because it speaks to the situation prisoners face today and builds unity and peace to create real change as part of a broader anti-imperialist struggle.

Everyone who successfully gets a copy of ULK should do their part and share it with others. You never know when it's going to slip past the censors, so each issue should be passed around so that we can maximize its use. And if you get a copy from someone else, be sure to write to us for your own subscription.

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[Censorship] [ULK Issue 44]
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PrisonTalk.com Censors MIM(Prisons)

Prison Talk Online censors political posts
For a few years MIM(Prisons) has been participating in the on-line forum Prison Talk (www.prisontalk.com). This website advertises itself as a "prison information and family support community." The forums on Prison Talk are primarily used by family members of prisoners, looking for information and support. From their home page description, Prison Talk (also known as PTO) explains:

"There is no worse feeling than that of being alone and helpless. This applies to the families of those who are incarcerated just as much as it does to those behind the walls. PTO's goal is to bridge the communication barrier that exists in and around the criminal 'justice' system today and bring everyone in the prisoner support community closer together to effect change in policy, prisoner rights, sentencing and so much more."

Occasionally MIM(Prisons) attempts to post information in PTO forums for the benefit of the PTO audience, who may not regularly visit our website for news from Amerikan prisons. For instance, during the statewide hunger strike in California's prisons, we provided several articles and updates on the situation that were appreciated by the California forum users (users can indicate appreciation of a post within the forums by “thanking” the author).

We try to be careful to follow the rules of the forums. For instance, a few years ago Prison Talk staff made some policy changes to bring the forums into compliance with copyright laws. Because the content on our website is not copyrighted, these laws don't apply to posts of content from prisoncensorship.info. But we understand that the Prison Talk staff have decided to apply their policies to all news articles posted on the site rather than research each individual source, and so we modified our participation to include only a small summary of an article and then a link to the full article for those who want to read it, as their policy requires.(1)

In spite of this practice, our posts over the past year were often deleted for "copyright violation" without any indication of how we were violating the policy. Perhaps in recognition that we are not violating the copyright policy, Prison Talk staff recently started making up new reasons to delete our posts. One reason given was "We cannot allow you to link to that site. It asks for donations, and as such is not allowed on PTO." This one is interesting since it took only about 5 minutes of looking through recent posts on PTO to find examples of uncensored posts linking to sites that request donations, such as this one which links to truth-out.org, a site that has a prominently-featured button requesting donations (far more aggressive than prisoncensorship.info). In fact the only sites that are unlikely to request donations are commercial sites, so if this is actually a PTO policy, they are effectively banning links to most non-profit and independent websites.

Another post was deleted with the reason given as "You have been told multiple times you CANNOT post as someone else." This is an odd reason since we have never concealed the identity of the persyn posting on PTO for MIM(Prisons). In fact a few years ago we were asked to take down the link to the MIM(Prisons) website in that persyn's PTO user profile. So on the one hand they want us to disguise who we work with, and on the other hand they accuse us of posting as someone else. And for the record, this was the first time PTO made this accusation, it was not "multiple times."

It seems that the PTO staff want to prevent MIM(Prisons) from participating in the forums, but they don't want to do so openly. They have pursued an ongoing practice of making it as difficult as possible for us to share information about the fight against the criminal injustice system being waged by United Struggle from Within and MIM(Prisons). We have asked the PTO administrators to be honest with us and just tell us to stop participating if they want to kick us off. But they ignore this request and continue to pretend that the problem is our lack of compliance with policies. We do consistently see our posts censored within a few hours of posting, and so given the volume of posts in a day (there were 1885 new posts over one random 12-hour period this month) we assume at least one administrator has set a flag notifying themselves to review every single post we attempt to make.

It is unfortunate that the organizers of this forum serving a population that desperately needs access to information about battles being waged in the prison system are censoring participants in such an underhanded way. This is eerily similar to the games played by prison administrators who throw out prisoners' mail and pretend it just never arrived, or who deny material as "a threat to the security of the institution" when they just don't like the material. Unlike prison staff, PTO is legally allowed to remove material they find politically disagreeable from their website, but they probably know that openly doing so would lose them support from many of their users.

MIM(Prisons) is honest about our selective publication of articles and information in both Under Lock & Key and on our website. We are clear about our political line and the goals of our work. Liberal organizations like PTO, who pretend to be open to all views but in fact secretly promote their own agenda, are harming the fight against injustice.


Notes:
1. The policy reads: "To stay within 'fair use' copyright you are allowed a brief summary and a link back to the site which the article is located...You are also not allowed to edit the summary or paragraph that you are using that came from the copyright holder." Further, the PTO Admin who authored the policy wrote: "The moderators have been instructed from this point forward to edit any copyrighted news article that do not fit the 'fair use' criteria and contact the members who post them." While none of the material posted from MIM(Prisons) violates any copyright laws, we have also complied fully with this policy as requested by Prison Talk staff. In spite of this, our posts are now consistently deleted and frequently the reason given is just that we need to read the copyright policy. There are plenty of other posts that quote news articles that are not censored. For instance, here's a post that quotes an Associated Press story. And we've never been given an explanation for how we are violating the copyright policy.

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[Censorship] [River North Correctional Center] [Virginia] [ULK Issue 44]
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Censorship of Literature without Review in Virginia

Enclosed is the grievance I submitted regarding ULK 39. As you may notice, the Chief of Corrections Operations A. David Robinson, upheld the decision of the Publication Review Committee to censor the publication. But if you read the third paragraph of Robinson's response you will notice he refers to the prison denying "the books." Obviously, Robinson failed to do his job.

His job is to review the publication to see if the censorship is justified. Since ULK 39 is a newsletter and not "books," he could not have reviewed them. Robinson is paid at least $50,000 annually (perhaps double that). Isn't that too much to pay a rubber stamp yes man?

People in combat zones get paid less than Robinson, yet he cannot be bothered to actually perform his duty. Instead he simply acts as a robot automatically approving the actions of his flunkies beneath him.

Also notice the date of the response is December 17, but I didn't receive it until January 20. I conjecture that the date is false - the man missed the 20-day deadline but back-dated it. He had only until 21 December to respond but he probably responded January 17.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This is an example of just a few of the responses we get when attempting to fight censorship of MIM(Prisons) literature. There is never any legitimate reason behind the censorship, but it's easy for prison administrators to run our comrades around in circles with false claims and delays. These are very difficult to appeal because the appearance of a response to a grievance is sufficient for higher level rejections. Nonetheless, everyone who faces censorship should be appealing it, and we can provide a guide to fighting censorship for those who need some help. Please also report on the outcome of your appeals and let us know what support we can send to help with the fight. This is a critical part of the educational work we do behind bars.

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[Censorship] [Goose Creek Correctional Center] [Alaska] [ULK Issue 44]
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Alaska Update on Literature Censorship

As of January 2015, my access to copies of MIM Theory magazine in Goose Creek Correctional Center has been curtailed. Several days ago I was given a notice from the prison's mailroom that a "booklet" had been sent (it was MIM Theory 2/3) from "a vendor who is not on the approved list." Though this vendor approval policy was instituted DOC-wide in Alaska about two or three years ago, at every other facility I've been in, including two pre-trial jails, magazines and periodicals such as MIM Theory were exempt and I received every issue previously sent. So, apparently, there is only a problem at Goose Creek. I sent a request to the mailroom to consider the copy of MIM Theory a zine, with a denial coming back. My next step was to send a request to the security sergeant. The response from this officer was different. Now, apparently, I'm being denied because the pages of the magazine are "discolored" and therefore the conclusion is that the copy is "second-hand" and "used." Even though any "discoloration" would likely be because the magazine is 20 years old and printed on newsprint, it is still denied because used books are not allowed.

As of about a week ago I wrote a cop-out back saying that the copy is not used nor second-hand, but rather a back-copy — an issue that was kept in stock and never put into circulation. I made the analogy that it is the same as if I had ordered from Time a back issue of their magazine. I also pointed out that the sender is the same entity as the original publisher/distributor and hence the copy is obviously not used. I'm still, as of the time of this letter, awaiting a reply back, but thus far it's not looking encouraging. I also did ask that MIM Distributors be placed on the Approved Vendors List.

I intend on pursuing the matter as far as is necessary. I have not exhausted all avenues yet. I'm curious to know if anyone else has had similar issues regarding the specific reason I'm thus far being given for the withholding of the issue, and what remedies were taken.


MIM(Prisons) adds: In our experience with this particular reason for censorship, it is a coin toss whether the administration will submit to logical reasoning on whether to allow the magazine in. We don't have a specific recommendation on how to handle a claim that a magazine is used when it simply isn't. Often times we need to send in another copy of the magazine that hopefully looks newer, or that arrives on a day when a more rational mailroom staff persyn is working.

Censorship battles are particularly important for the prison-based revolutionary struggle because of the educational focus of our work right now. Our only option presently is to work with prisoners through the mail, and the political literature that we send in is the main way we spread information about political theory, history and current events. When our mail is cut off we lose a critical tool in our anti-imperialist organizing work. This comrade's reporting of censorship battles, and h work fighting the censorship, is a good example for others. A lot of mail we send out is returned back to us, and frequently mail is rejected without any notification as to why. We need people to appeal all cases of censorship, and notify us each time censorship happens. We can support these appeals with our own letters of protest, but only when we know the censorship is happening. Many of you receive Unconfirmed Mail Form letters from us asking you to tell us what mail you received. We appreciate all the responses to these form letters, and it would be even better if everyone kept us up to date on all mail received so we don't have to send out these forms. Remember, every time you write you should tell us everything you've received since you last wrote.

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[Censorship] [High Desert State Prison] [California]
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First Class Censorship in California

Censorship is often associated with editors of major news media sources such as The National News or The New York Times, but there is a face of censorship functioning with total immunity and blessings from the Postmaster General in Amerika's public institutions. The antics of this menace are adversely affecting the lives of at least 2,000,000 citizens in California alone.

Recently it came to my attention that prisoncrats at High Desert State Prison (HDSP) regularly trash-can, delay, and deface legal documents, spiritual materials, submissions to media outlets, personal correspondence, and other mail sent to various publications, media sources, and individuals. Defacing includes stamping the body of these manuscripts with big red blocks of ink, rendering them illegible, and otherwise useless for their legal, spiritual, and personal intent.

Currently California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) warehouses over 160,000 captives representing an average of 11 other friends, family and contacts that they correspond with; therefore, nearly 2 million (1,760,000) are being subject to oppressive techniques of prisoncrats who are boldly executing a campaign of censorship with an arbitrary, malicious, and political agenda designed to undermine the captives efforts to maintain family/community unity and liberate themselves from the evils of ignorance. As a first termer captive surviving my 42nd year, I have observed several patterns in the pigz who squander long work-hours committing malicious acts of censorship/oppression.

The first observation is the geographical location which acts as a shield from public scrutiny. While the prison experience in the United $nakes of Amerikkka today is such that one in every eleven men will be imprisoned during his lifetime. (For Black men, the figure is disproportionately higher - more than one of every four.) Yet most new prisons (koncentration kamp$) are built not in Black communities, but in white ones, usually rural white ones. A century ago, when most prisoners were white and many had lived on farms, this might have made sense. But not anymore. Today, most prisoners are Black (49%) or Latino (18%). Typically, they come from the cities. Sticking them in the boondocks, where family members have a hard time visiting, where pigz have likely never encountered anyone like them, almost always leads to problems, often violent ones. Yet this is where Amerika builds prisons.(1) Due to location, captives are forced to rely primarily on written correspondence to maintain and build strong family relationships.

The next observation is the general profile of those who commit such malicious acts. On average the pigz working in these rural isolated kamps are typically ultra-conservative, middle-aged, marginally educated, white men who have little-to-no prospect for employment beyond being prisoncrats/oppressors. An interesting paradox to note is that in spite of their lack of higher academic learning, they earn an average annual wage which rivals that of most teachers and health care providers. While the state has an unemployment rate of over 7%, HDSP, like many kamps, purposely does not hire a full workforce; therefore, creating a scheme to reward certain fractions of pigz with overtime hours and rates; resulting in them working excessively long hours. These prisoncrats generally have a hostile attitude towards Blacks and Latinos - particularly those Blacks and Latinos who are cultured, politically conscious, and strive for strong family/community unit. These oppressors actively seek out night shifts where they are designated to search outgoing mail for contraband when given probable cause; however, to have probable cause is the exception. Without probable cause, these pigz openly express a passionate disdain for the relationships their captives have with family/community. With malice, they seek to destroy these relationships by defacing, delaying, and throwing away their personal, legal, and spiritual mail.

Consider an incident on 16 February 2015 when an elder captive in A-section became the victim of a brutal attack via several reactionaries acting as agents for certain pigz who were attempting to suppress the litigation of the elderly captive pursuing his rights to seek access to the courts for human rights violations. While packing the victim's property, a prisoncrat was observed throwing away large volumes of the victim's legal and spiritual documents. This man was sent to isolation while none of the oppressors' agents were subject to the same procedures. On 9 February 2015 this writer became the repeat victim of legal/business mail tampering when an envelope from friends beyond the walls was delivered without a letter inside. Previously this writer's minister sent a tax letter and form in response to my donation, which had been defaced with red blocks of ink lettering stamped on the body of the enclosures.

The aforementioned policies and practices may appear to be mere acts of personal mischief of pigz, but the series of reports on www.prisoncensorship.info demonstrate that this is a systematic pattern of abause. The latent effect has far broader implications than the receipt of one piece of mail. It's interesting to note that while it's the intent of these prisoncrats to disrupt and break down the family nucleus and community ties, the stated objectives of CDCR is exactly the opposite to the degree it reports to encourage reform via affording prisoners to develop strong family and community ties.

There are at least three ways the larger community should respond effectively to this form of oppression. 1) Write the Post Master General (cc to Warden) and serve notice how this practice is adversely affecting you as a free-citizen emotionally/personally, spiritually, and legally. 2) File (save) any legal, personal, spiritual, business, and artistic images you have received that have been defaced in this way that could possibly be used as evidence of unnecessary defacement. 3) Be willing to give your material, moral, and legal support to any who have dared to file a meritorious claim. Be advised the prisoncrats will attempt to justify their actions by citing safety and security, which is actually a euphemism for oppressive and malicious actions with the intent of suppressing communication between family and community.

Notes:
1. Jospeh T. Hallinan, Going Up the River: Travels in a Prison Nation, Random House, 2003, pp. 28-29.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We echo this comrade's call for people both behind bars and on the streets to fight the censorship going on in California prisons. For year's all mail from MIM Distributors was banned in California prisons, and that ban was overturned by coordinated legal efforts and appeals. But censorship has not ended, it is a constant power struggle to maintain basic First Amendment rights for the oppressed. Mail is particularly important not only for maintaining family and community ties but also for political education and organizing. This is why activist prisoners find their mail specifically targetted. It's not about security, it's about social control. Grieve every incident of censorship and join the California campaign to demand our grievances be addressed. Write to us for a copy of the grievance petition.

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