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[Civil Liberties] [Political Repression] [Censorship] [Federal] [ULK Issue 61]
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Feds Ban MIM(Prisons) on CorrLinks, Disregard 1st Amendment

fists

On 15 March 2018, MIM(Prisons) received dozens of emails from corrlinks.com, a website used by some U.$. prison systems to provide email access to prisoners. All were from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and read in part:

"This message informs you that you have been blocked from communicating with the above-named federal prisoner because the Bureau has determined that such communication is detrimental to the security, good order, or discipline of the facility, or might facilitate criminal activity."

It has long been established that it is legal for staff to open and read mail sent into prisons, and to not allow such mail that might pose a threat to safety like communicating information on plans to hurt someone or commit a crime. Quite frequently, publications and even letters from MIM(Prisons) are censored by prison staff for being a threat to security. Legally, this must be based on the content of that mail or publication containing information that poses a direct threat. In practice it often is not, and sometimes we can fight those battles and win.

What the Federal Bureau of Prisons is trying to say here is that members of MIM(Prisons) are not allowed to communicate or associate with prisoners they hold captive, regardless of the content of those communications. This is of course a violation of U.$. law and founding principles. (for more background on related laws and court rulings see our censorship guide)

Such blanket bans have been attempted in the past. Sometimes openly like this one, or like the ban in California, which ended after an out-of-court settlement with Prison Legal News because, well, the CDCR knew what they were doing was illegal. MIM(Prisons) is submitting appeals to this and will update our readers. In the meantime our comrades in federal prisons should continue to contact us via postal mail and keep us updated on censorship on their end.

Electronic Communications

There have been some recent discussions around the use of electronic communications and devices within U.$. prisons and how comrades should approach them. While CorrLinks has been around for some time, more recently prisoners in many prisons can purchase tablet computers for persynal use. Just as we warn people in general about how they use these technologies, those warnings apply even more to prisoners. While the internet provides opportunities for anonymity and free flow of information, this is not really true for the services provided by the state to prisoners. So there is little benefit, and much risk in terms of surveillance and control over a persyn's communications from within prison when using these tools. Thanks to profiteering, we are not even aware of any email services for prisoners that don't charge ridiculous rates.

In general, technology does offer solutions, that are at times better than what we can achieve in real life interactions in terms of both security and thinking more scientifically. To look at some principles of communication that we can apply both online and off, we will look at Briar (briarproject.org). Briar is still in Alpha, and only currently available for Android OS, but has received promising security reviews so far. Briar is an interesting example, because it addresses decentralization, cryptography and anonymity.

One of the biggest problems with the internet today is the centralization that a handful of multinational corporations have made of the traffic on the internet by locking people into certain services. When it comes to email, prisoners have little choice but to use the CorrLinks, centralized service, and face potential bans like this one. On the internet, centralization of activity on certain platforms allows the corporations on those platforms to decide what a majority of the population is seeing, who they are communicating with and when they are no longer allowed to communicate. With Briar, in contrast, one does not even need an internet connection to set up a network of communication with your associates. And even with the internet, each client serves as a node on a decentralized network, so that there is no one powerful persyn who can decide to shut it down. This same principle is applied in real world organizing, where an organization is decentralized to avoid being paralyzed if an individual is removed or repressed.

On the internet, we also have a problem of information being available everywhere to almost anyone. It is only recently, with many hacks and data breeches, that people are beginning to realize that encryption is necessary to protect even peoples' basic information. Such information has been used to falsely imprison people, to steal identities, and to just target and harass people. In the real world, people know to talk quietly about certain things, or talk about plans for building peace when that C.O. who is always instigating fights isn't around, etc. On the internet there is the potential for all information to be available for an indefinite period of time, to potentially anyone. So suddenly everything needs to be said in a whisper, or in encrypted form as Briar and other software does.

Related to encryption is anonymity. Whenever one goes online, one must have an IP Address that tells the other machines on the network where you are so they can send you responses. This IP address (typically) is linked to a real world location and often to a specific machine. Previously we have talked about The Onion Router(Tor), which works to hide your IP Address. When on the internet, Briar operates through Tor, when connecting to others on the network. This provides for anonymity. Anonymity does not have as strong parallels in the real world, but might be like putting up fliers in the middle of the night or marching in a protest with a mask on. This is an advantage of the internet. If done properly, we can spread information anonymously, and without fear of reprisal. In addition, anonymity on the internet allows us to share information without the biases that we come across in real world interactions. The internet can be a tool for people to think more scientifically and judge ideas for their merit and not for who is saying them.

As the above example shows, we cannot trust the U.$. government to just obey its own laws and not repress people for their political beliefs. We must continue to stand up to such political repression, while building independent institutions of the oppressed that allow us to continue to organize for a better tomorrow.

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[Censorship] [Charlotte Correctional Institution] [Clallam Bay Correctional Facility] [Washington] [Florida] [ULK Issue 60]
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Censors in Their Own Words - January 2018

U.$. imperialist leaders and their labor aristocracy supporters like to criticize other countries for their tight control of the media and other avenues of speech. For instance, many have heard the myths about communist China forcing everyone to think and speak alike. In reality, these stories are a form of censorship of the truth in the United $tates. In China under Mao the government encouraged people to put up posters debating every aspect of political life, to criticize their leaders, and to engage in debate at work and at home. This was an important part of the Cultural Revolution in China. There are a number of books available that give a truthful account, but far more money is put into anti-communist propaganda. Here, free speech is reserved for those with money and power.

In prisons in particular we see so much censorship, especially targeting those who are politically conscious and fighting for their rights. Fighting for our First Amendment right to free speech is a battle that MIM(Prisons) and many of our subscribers waste a lot of time and money on. For us this is perhaps the most fundamental of requirements for our organizing work. There are prisoners, and some entire facilities (and sometimes entire states) that are denied all mail from MIM(Prisons). This means we can't send in our newsletter, or study materials, or even a guide to fighting censorship. Many prisons regularly censor ULK claiming that the news and information printed within is a "threat to security." For them, printing the truth about what goes on behind bars is dangerous. But if we had the resources to take these cases to court we believe we could win in many cases.

Denying prisoners mail is condemning some people to no contact with the outside world. To highlight this, and the ridiculous and illegal reasons that prisons use to justify this censorship, we will periodically print a summary of some recent censorship incidents in ULK.

We hope that lawyers, paralegals, and those with some legal knowledge will be inspired to get involved and help with these censorship battles, both behind bars and on the streets. For the full list of censorship incidents, along with copies of appeals and letters from the prison, check out our censorship reporting webpage.

Florida

Following up on our protest letters over the censorship of ULK 58, Dean Peterson, Library Services Administrator for the Florida DOC responded:

"The issue in question was impounded and the impoundment was subsequently reviewed by the Literature Review Committee on 11/15/2017, at which time the issue was rejected. This means it will not be allowed into any of our institutions. The stated reason was Florida Administrative Code (FAC) Ch. 33-501.401(3)(m), which states: 'It otherwise presents a threat to the security, order or rehabilitative objectives of the correctional system or the safety of any person.'"

Peterson went on to quote the mail rules on how publishers can obtain an independent review. But did not bother to respond to any of our arguments in our previous request for a review of this decision.

Florida - Charlotte Correctional Institution

In response to a grievance filed by a prisoner regarding lack of notification of censorship of eir Under Lock & Key, P. Vartiainen of the mail room wrote:
"If a publication is impounded or rejected, a notice will be given to you. Every issue of Lock & Key has been rejected by the State since January 2014. Notices have been given to all subscribers. There is no record of you subscribing to this publication. Your informal grievance is DENIED."

Washington - Clallam Bay Correctional Facility

CBCC also rejected ULK 59 "pending review" because it

"Contains articles and information on drugs in prisons and the cost comparison of inside and outside of prison as well as movement of drugs."
Not sure how that at all relates to the penological interests of the institution.

Washington - Stafford Creek Correction Center

A subscriber was given an official rejection notice, stating "Incoming newsletter containing indepth information on the drug problems and values of drugs within the correctional setting which is a security issue."(Vol. 59 pg1,4-7, 16 — File No. 18346) What is the security issue...?

Michigan - Marquette Branch Prison

"Under Lock & Key #59 will be rejected because the articles contain information about criminal activity that could promote uprisings, unrest and disruption within this facility. The entire publication has a 'revolutionary, protest, uprising' theme. There is also red ink on the back page that will be rejected because it cannot be searched thoroughly."

ULK readers know we do not print anything in colored ink, so red ink (if it really was there) is either from the post office or the mail room. Additionally, political or revolutionary content is illegal as grounds for censorship going all the way back to Thornburgh v. Abbott, 490 U.S. 401.

Mississippi - South Mississippi Correctional Institution

A prisoner reports:

"The South Mississippi Correctional Institution has implemented practices by which ANY book sent to a prisoner for 'free' is censored, rejected, and returned to the sender. The rejection notices say only that 'free books are not allowed' and/or that 'inmates must pay for books.' There are 33 facilities housing MDOC prisoners and SMCI is the only prison doing this! This means that prisoners cannot benefit from any free books to prisoners programs. Some prisoners, including this writer, are challenging this practice via legal venues (i.e. grievances, potential lawsuit). Anyone wishing to protest this practice may do so by writing Superintendent Jacqueline Banks, PO Box 1419, Leakesville, MS 39451 or [email protected] If possible cc all letters to MDOC Commissioner Pelicia Hall, 633 N. State Street, Jackson, MS 39202 ([email protected])."


Read More Censorship Reports
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[Censorship] [State Correctional Institution Camp Hill] [Bill Clements Unit] [Santa Rosa Correctional Institution] [Florida State Prison] [Jefferson Correctional Institution] [Coyote Ridge Corrections Center] [Richard A Handlon Correctional Facility] [Stateville Correctional Center] [Virginia] [Pennsylvania] [Texas] [Florida] [Washington] [Missouri] [Michigan] [Illinois] [ULK Issue 59]
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Censors in Their Own Words - November 2017

U.$. imperialist leaders and their labor aristocracy supporters like to criticize other countries for their tight control of the media and other avenues of speech. For instance, many have heard the myths about communist China forcing everyone to think and speak alike. In reality, these stories are a form of censorship of the truth in the United $tates. In China under Mao the government encouraged people to put up posters debating every aspect of political life, to criticize their leaders, and to engage in debate at work and at home. This was an important part of the Cultural Revolution in China. There are a number of books available in this country that give a truthful account, but far more money is put into anti-communist propaganda books. Here in the United $tates free speech is reserved for those with money and power.

In prisons in particular we see so much censorship, especially targeting those who are politically conscious and fighting for their rights. Fighting for our First Amendment right to free speech is a battle that MIM(Prisons) and many prisoners waste a lot of time and money on. For us this is perhaps the most fundamental of requirements for our organizing work. There are prisoners, and some entire prisons (and sometimes entire states) that are denied all mail from MIM(Prisons). This means we can't send in educational material, or study courses, or even supply a guide to fighting censorship. Many prisons regularly censor ULK claiming that the news and information printed within is a "threat to security." For them, printing the truth about what goes on behind bars is dangerous. But if we had the resources to take these cases to court we believe we could win in many cases.

Denying prisoners mail is condemning some people to no contact with the outside world. To highlight this, and the ridiculous and illegal reasons that prisons use to justify this censorship, we will periodically print a summary of some recent censorship incidents in ULK.

We hope that lawyers, paralegals, and those with some legal knowledge will be inspired to get involved and help us with these censorship battles, both behind bars and on the streets. For the full list of censorship incidents, along with copies of appeals and letters from the prison, check out our censorship reporting webpage.

Virginia DOC

The Chair of the publications review committee for the VA DOC, Melissa Welch, sent MIM(Prisons) a letter denying ULK 56, and then the next month the same letter denying ULK 57. Both letters cite the same reasons:

"D. Material, documents, or photographs that emphasize depictions or promotions of violence, disorder, insurrection, terrorist, or criminal activity in violation of state or federal laws or the violation of the Offender Disciplinary Procedure.

"F. Material that depicts, describes, or promotes gang bylaws, initiations, organizational structure, codes, or other gang-related activity or association."

Pennsylvania DOC

Last issue of ULK we reported on the censorship of ULK57 in Pennsylvania. After sending a protest letter to appeal the decision we had a rare victory! From the Policy Office, PA Department of Corrections:
"This is to notify you that the publication in issue does not violate Department Policy. As such, the decision of the correctional institution is reversed and the inmates in the PA Department of Corrections will be permitted to receive the publication. The correctional institutions will be notified by the Policy Office of the decision."

If anyone in PA hasn't received ULK 57 yet, let us know and we will send another copy to you.

Pennsylvania SCI-Camp Hill

From a prisoner we were forwarded a notice of incoming publication denial for ULK 57: "create a danger within the context of the correctional facility" p.21, 24

The description quotes sentences that can't be found within ULK including: "PREA system strip searches for harassment in PA", "Black prisoners deserve to retaliate against predominantly white ran system", and "This is a excellent reminder of PA importance of fighting." They are making up text as reasons for censorship in Pennsylvania.

Texas - Bill Clemens Unit

A prisoner forwarded us a denial for ULK 57 "Page 11 contains information that could cause a prison disruption."

In March 2017, our study pack Defend the Legacy of the Black Panther Party was censored for

"Reason C. Page 9 contains information that could cause a strike or prison disruption."
This adds to the growing list of our most important literature that is banned in the state forever, including Settlers: Mythology of the White Proletariat and [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlan. We need someone with legal expertise to challenge Texas's policies that allow for publications to be banned forever in the state.

Florida - Santa Rosa Correctional Institution

A prisoner forwarded us a notice of impoundment of ULK 57. The reason cited: "Pages 1, 11, 14, 15, & 17 advocates insurgency and disruption of institutional operations."

We appealed this denial and got a response from Dean Peterson, Library Services Administrator for the Florida DOC, reiterating the reasons for impoundment and upholding the denial: "In their regularly scheduled meeting of August 30, 2017 the Literature Review Committee of the Florida Department of Corrections upheld the institution's impoundment and rejected the publication for the grounds stated. This means that issue will not be allowed into our correctional institutions."

Florida DOC

Following up on a case printed in ULK 57 regarding Florida's denial of the MIM(Prisons) censorship pack, for no specific reasons. We received a response to our appeal of this case from the same Dean Peterson, Library Services Administrator, named above.

"From the number of the FDC form you reference and your description of what happened it is apparent the institutional mailroom did not handle the Censorship Guide as a publication, but instead handled it in accordance with the Florida Administrative Code rule for routine mail. As such, the item was not impounded, was not posted to the list of impounded publications for any other institution to see, was not referred to the Literature Review Committee for review, and thus does not appear on the list of rejected publications. That means that if the exact same Guide came to any other inmate mailroom staff would look at it afresh. In theory, it could even be allowed into the institution. ... "The Florida Administrative Code makes no provision for further review."

Florida - Florida State Prison

ULK 58 was rejected for what appears to just be a list of titles of articles, some not even complete:

PGS 6 Liberation schools to organize through the wall (talk about the hunger strikes)
PGS 8 DPRK; White Supremacy's Global Agenda
PGS 11 Case law to help those facing
PGS 19 White and gaining consciousness

Florida - Jefferson Correctional Institution

Meditations on Frantz Fanon's Wretched of the Earth: New Afrikan Revolutionary Writings by James Yaki Sayles was denied to a prisoner at Jefferson Correctional Institution because "inmate has received a second copy of the same edition of this publication violating chapter 33-501.401 (16)(b) and procedure 501.401(7)(d)."

Washington state - Coyote Ridge CC

The invitation to and first assignment for our correspondence introductory study group was rejected by Mailroom Employee April Long for the following reasons:

"Advocates violence against others and/or the overthrow of authority.
Advocates that a protected class or group of individuals is inferior and/or makes such class/group the object of ridicule and/or scorn, and may reasonably be thought to precipitate a violent confrontation between the recipient and a member(s) of the target group. Rejected incoming mailing from MIM. Mailing contains working that appears to be referring to law enforcement as 'pigs' it appears to be ridiculing and scornful. There is also a section in mailing labeled solutions that calls prisoners to take actions against prison industries and gives specific ideas/suggestions. Nothing to forward onto offender."

A recent study assignment for the University of Maoist Thought was also censored at Coyote Ridge. MIM(Prisons) has not yet been informed of this censorship incident by the facility. The study group participant wrote and told us it was censored for being a "copy of copyrighted material." The material in question was published in 1972 in the People's Republic of China. Not only did that government actively work against capitalist concepts such as copyright, we believe that even by the United $tates' own standards this book should not be subject to censorship.

Washington state

Clallam Bay CF rejected ULK 58 because: "Newsletter is being rejected as it talks about September 9 events including offenders commencing a hunger strike until equal treatment, retaliation and legal rights issues are resolved."

Coyote Ridge CC rejected ULK 58 for a different set of reasons: "Contains plans for activity that violates state/federal law, the Washington Administrative Code, Department policy and/or local facet/rules. Contains correspondence, information, or other items relating to another offender(s) without prior approval from the Superintendent/designee: or attempts or conveys unauthorized offender to offender correspondence."

Canada

We received the following report from a Canadian prisoner who had sent us some stamps to pay for a few issues of ULK to be mailed to Canada.

"A few months ago, on July 18, I received notice from the V&C department informing that five issues of ULK had arrived here for me. The notice also explained that the issues had been seized because of a Commissioner's Directive (764.6) which states that '[t]he institutional head may prohibit entry into the institution of material that portrays excessive violence and aggression, or prison violence; or if he or she believes on reasonable grounds that the material would incite inmates to commit similar acts.' I grieved the seizure, among other things, citing the sections on page 2 of ULK, which 'explicitly discourage[s prisoners] from engaging in any violence or illegal acts,' and citing too the UFPP statement of peace on page 3, which speaks of the organizational aim to end needless conflicts and violence within prisons.

"Well, I can now report that my grievance was upheld and that all copies of ULK were released to me, but not without the censorship of drawings deemed to portray or promote the kind of violence described in the above-cited Commissioner's Directive. It's a decision I can live with for now."

Missouri

We got reports from two people that the blanket ban on ULK in Missouri was removed and ULK 58 was received. If you're in Missouri and still not getting your ULK, be sure to let us know.

Michigan - Richard A Handlon CF

ULK 58 was rejected because "Articles in Under Lock & Key contains information about criminal activity that might entice criminal activity within the prison facility - threat to security."

Illinois - Stateville CC

ULK 58 was rejected because: "The publication appears to: Advocate or encourage violence, hatred, or group disruption or it poses an intolerable risk of violence or disruption. Be otherwise detrimental to security, good order, rehabilitation, or discipline or it might facilitate criminal activity or be detrimental to mental health. Detrimental to safety and security of the facility. Disrupts order. Promotes organization and leadership."


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[Censorship] [Civil Liberties] [ULK Issue 58]
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Censors in Their Own Words - September 2017

U.$. imperialist leaders and their labor aristocracy supporters like to criticize other countries for their tight control of the media and other avenues of speech. For instance, many have heard the myths about communist China forcing everyone to think and speak alike. In reality, these stories are a form of censorship of the truth in the United $tates. In China under Mao the government encouraged people to put up posters debating every aspect of political life, to criticize their leaders, and to engage in debate at work and at home. This was an important part of the Cultural Revoluion in China. There are a number of books available in this country that give a truthful account, but far more money is put into anti-communist propaganda books. Here in Amerika free speech is reserved for those with money and power.

In prisons in particular we see so much censorship, especially targetting those who are politically conscious and fighting for their rights. Fighting for our First Amendment right to free speech is a battle that MIM(Prisons) and many prisoners waste a lot of time and money on. For us this is perhaps the most fundamental of requirements for our organizing work. There are prisoners, and some entire prisons (and sometimes entire states) that are denied all mail from MIM(Prisons). This means we can't send in educational material, or study courses, or even supply a guide to fighting censorship. Many prisons regularly censor ULK claiming that the news and information printed within is a "threat to security." For them, printing the truth about what goes on behind bars is dangerous. But if we had the resources to take these cases to court we believe we could win in many cases.

Denying prisoners mail is condemning some people to no contact with the outside world. To highlight this, and the ridiculous and illegal reasons that prisons use to justify this censorship, we will periodically print a summary of some recent censorship incidents in ULK.

We hope that lawyers, paralegals, and those with some legal knowledge will be inspired to get involved and help us with these censorship battles, both behind bars and on the streets. For the full list of censorship incidents, along with copies of appeals and letters from the prison, check out our censorship reporting webpage.

North Carolina fears ULK promotes insurrection

Doug Pardue, Chair of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety's (NCDPS) Publication Review Committee (PRC) censored ULK 55, for the article "Regarding Daily Body Searches", stating that it "promotes insurrection." After appealing this censorship, Director of Rehabilitative Programs and Services upheld the decision citing these lines:

"Persynally I believe that we should shut down all movement but still go to Yard, programs and accept our food. Just make the pigs do all the work... the only way we know how to deal with an opposition is thru the motion of our resistance."

Ms. Sullivan writes, "These statements could possibly lead to insurrection which is a violation of our policy on publications." Apparently insurrection is a passive activity, and peaceful protest is a threat to institutional safety. Kind of ironic from a state that has a memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. inscribed with the following words:

..."AFRICAN-AMERICANS AND FAIR MINDED PEOPLE OF ALL RACES, ENGAGED IN MASSIVE CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE SERVED NOTICE ON THE NATION AND THE WORLD THAT THEY WOULD NO LONGER TOLERATE THE ABUSES OF AMERICAN RACISM. THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT HERALDED A NEW ERA IN OUR COLLECTIVE RESOLVE TO ADHERE TO THE PRINCIPLES OF 'LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL'...

Still can't stay true to MLK's message in 2017.

Last year, NCPDS censored ULK 53 for the control unit survey. This was even more surprising. Upon our appeal, Nicole E. Sullivan, Director of Rehabilitative Programs and Services upheld the decision, writing:

"[T]he issue lies in the first sentence of the article which describes Control Units in inflammatory language equating them with political repression and torture. Control Units are not used in that manner in our facilities. Such language can encourage insurrection and disorder. Therefore the original decision is to withhold delivery is affirmed."

Ms. Sullivan ruled no free speech for MIM(Prisons) because any critique of eir agency's practices might cause an insurrection.

Just recently, one comrade who had ULK 55 censored and received our appeal letter responded:

"The NCPDS is quick to make any kind of negative judgment against prisoners. A man can say 'boo' and they feel threatened. I would like to know how they can even mention this material being against the prisoners' rehabilitation, where there is no such thing as rehabilitation in the department of NCPDS anymore. If a prisoner gets any rehabilitation, he gets it on his own.

"All the classes that might have been helpful with getting prisoners any rehabilitation have been closed down. More than that, most of the time after completing the class, proof of graduation completion certificates aren't worth the paper they are written on.

"I totally agree with the analysis of the appeal letter."

Missouri bans ULK

A subscriber at Jefferson City Correctional Center forwarded a copy of eir censorship notification for ULK 56. This comrade believes the state has banned all ULK although no formal notification has been given to either recipients or MIM(Prisons). The case manager for the prison refused to give this prisoner a grievance to file so ey could not even fight the ruling.

"The Censorship Committee has reviewed materials sent to you. Pursuant to our review of this material, we conclude that the security of this institution will be at risk if the material is delivered to you within this institution because the material:
1. constitutes a threat to the security, good order or discipline of the institution;
2. may facilitate or encourage criminal activity; or
3. may interfere with the rehabilitation of an offender

"Additional comments: contains articles that could constitute a safety and security risk."

Virginia DOC denies ULK 55 for lots of reasons but nothing specific

The Virginia DOC at least followed their rules in informing MIM(Prisons) that our publication was denied. Although the letter was sent months after this issue of ULK was mailed to subscribers. And still they claim we get only 15 days to appeal!

"You are hereby advised that the following issue(s) of publication(s) sent to an offender of the Virginia Department of Corrections have been disapproved for delivery to offenders of the Department:
Under Lock & Key March/April 2017 No. 55 page 5, front cover
for the following reasons:
D. Material, documents, or photographs that emphasize depictions or promotions of violence, disorder, insurrection, terrorist, or criminal activity in violation of state or federal laws or the violation of the Offender Disciplinary Procedure.
F. Material that depicts, describes, or promotes gang bylaws, initiations, organizational structure, codes, or other gang-related activity or association."

Hamilton CI in Florida censors guide to fighting censorship

In clear proof that Florida isn't reading the mail they censor, on July 20 we got a censorship notification from the Florida DOC along with the letter back that they had denied. This letter is our guide to fighting censorship in prisons. It contains information about regulations and laws, and how to appeal censorship. It's quite a stretch to consider any of the below reasons applicable to this document. More likely the mailroom is now just censoring all of our mail for these reasons.

"Your correspondence is being returned for the following reason(s):
"Otherwise presents a threat to the security, order, or rehabilitative objectives of the Correctional System, or to the safety of any person.
"Depicts, describes or encourages activities which may lead to the use of physical violence or group disruption.
"Encourages or instructs in the commission of criminal activity."

ULK 57 banned from Pennsylvania prisons for "advocating solidarity"

Apparently Pennsylvania considers any unity among prisoners to be dangerous. And so they banned all Pennsylvania prisoners from receiving ULK 57 because it "advocates solidarity." The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines solidarity as "unity (as of a group or class) that produces or is based on community of interests, objectives, and standards." Perhaps Pennsylvania hopes to keep prisoners distracted fighting one another rather than united against the abuse of the injustice system.

"Please be advised that the following publication has been denied to all inmates housed in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections:
"Under Lock & Key, #57, July/August 2017.
"The publication was denied for the following reasons:
"Information on page 11 advocates solidarity."

Pennsylvania denies ULK for article about PA prisons

"The following publication addressed to you has been reviewed and found unacceptable for the reason(s), indicated below, based on the criteria set forth in the DC-ADM 803 'Inmate Mail and Incoming Publications' policy Section 3.E.3.
Name of publication: Under Lock & Key – July/August 2017
Volume/number: 57. b. security issues
"(4) Racially inflammatory material or material that could cause a threat to the inmate, staff, or facility security; page number(s) 21, 24.
Brief description: States that 'the strip searches in the PA DOC are only for harassment purposes and we the people need to learn to fight and take a stand against the "pigs" in the prisons' referring to the correctional officers."

Illinois claims ULK is on Disapproved Publication List

Denying ULK 56 , the Illinois DOC offered only this justification to the prisoner's appeal: "Based upon this review, the following action is recommended: Denial – The publication is listed on the Disapproved Publication List."

Georgia censors ULK for being "reading material"

ULK 56 was sent back to us with a rejection form. The reason for rejection: "Other: reading Material (denied by legal in Atlanta)".

Washington rejects ULK 57 for article by prisoners

Washington DOC sent us individual rejection slips for at least ten prisoners, all claiming that ULK 57 violates law, policy, code or rules. Rather than give specifics, they offered several rather vague reasons as justification including info on STGs, overthrowing the government, and articles by other prisoners in other facilities. It's pretty hard to fight such general claims. And in fact most of ULK is written by prisoners, but that's not a legal justification for censorship.

"Reason 8. Contains plans for activity that violates state/federal law, the Washington Administrative Code, Department policy, and/or local facility rules. "Comments/other reasons: 8. contains security threat group information and threat to penological object on overthrowing the government page 3, 11, and 13. A lot of articles that other offenders from other facilities."

Illinois returns study group lesson unopened

A letter sent to an Illinois prisoner was returned to us, unopened with the reason "unapproved correspondence." The envelope contained a 4 page intro to MIM(Prisons) and an invitation to our mail-based study group with the first reading and questions attached. How could Illinois know this was not approved if they didn't bother to open the letter to look at the contents?


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[Organizing] [Censorship] [ULK Issue 58]
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Importance of Effective Communication

When it comes to organizing people in society from within a prison, we find ourselves confronted with many obstacles. Seeing as no major struggle is won without wide mass support, it becomes imperative that we (prisoners) overcome the obstacles placed in our path to cripple our efforts to reach the masses about the prison struggle. In order to gain the masses' support from behind bars we must first reach them and grab their attention. The first obstacle we face as prisoners is censorship.

Unfortunately, censorship is a reality for prisoners more than it is for anybody in society. Authorities can frustrate our efforts in so many ways that you have to admire their ingenuity. Mail can be "lost", thrown away, never delivered or delivered to the wrong person, held under investigation for weeks and so much more. With so many ploys at their disposal it seems a daunting task for us to confront. Luckily for us appearances aren't everything. True, once the letter leaves your hands there is almost nothing you can do to ensure it makes it to its destination. What you can do, though, is maintain detailed records. It's simple, and takes minimal effort, and is an effective way of holding the authorities accountable. Once you have a record established of who, what, where, why and when you mailed something, you can make a case for mail tampering.

What should your mail log have at minimum? First, who you wrote. Second, what you sent them. Third, where you sent your mail (office, school, home address, etc.). Fourth, your general (no need to go into details here) reason for contacting them. Finally, when you placed it in your facility's mail here, you want full date and time if at all possible. On my mail logs I have an additional space or two for which shift and which officer I turned my mail in to. Of course, you may decide to add more details, the above is only a basic formula. Censorship may still happen but you'll be better positioned to confront it. Don't forget, make duplicates of your records, at least two.

Following censorship, the next greatest obstacle is communication. Not just communicating our struggle, but effectively communicating it. Anybody can write a letter full of expletives, angry words and denunciations of cruelties and deprivations. Angry letters will normally push someone away from your cause, where a sensible, well-composed and measure-toned letter will at the very least garner a polite decline. Angry letters rarely garner any response. Sometime before you start reaching out to organizing the streets, you'll need to organize behind bars. My advice is to form a committee or council.

Here in Colorado, we have a small committee (just 3 members) in which we discuss, formulate, criticize and launch our ideas and efforts. Most progress in the prison struggle began with organizing behind bars, reaching out to the streets, effective communication, creating solidarity and achieving a goal together. A formula for success: A.E.H. (Agreement to End Hostilities), movements to end long-term solitary confinement, more humane treatment and so much more.

For us organizing the streets, mobilizing the masses isn't a very difficult task. Censorship and effectively communicating our plight, vision and end goal is the most difficult. Censorship is the authorities' go-to obstruction tactic and besides maintaining records, lodging complaints or lawsuits, there is not much in your control to discourage them. On the other hand, effective communication is wholly in your control. What's the point in overcoming censors if you can't present your case when the opportunity arrives? You already know the answer, but I'll still confirm it – there's no point. Organize yourself first. Mail logs, duplicates of all letters, documents, essays and such. Communicate in an intelligible manner with personality, and don't get disheartened at rejection. Often times it's only a question of pitching the right pitch to the right person.

Note: Prisoners may request Constitutional Rights of Prisoners from their facility's law library as loan material. Related information as well as litigation guidance related to disciplinary matters may be purchased from Prison Legal News, PO Box 1151, Lake Worth, FL 83460: "The Disciplinary Self-Help Litigation Manual," by Dan Manville, 2nd Edition, for $49.95 + $6 s&h.

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[Censorship] [Arkansas] [ULK Issue 59]
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Censorship in Arkansas Under Guise of Fighting Drugs

Effective August 7, 2017, envelopes will no longer be provided to inmates. Please ensure that you write your return address on the correspondence itself; otherwise, the inmate receiving the mail will not have the return address.

This is a further attempt to reduce the introduction of drugs into our facilities. It is for the health and safety of the population as correspondence is being soaked/laced with illegal drugs. Correspondence will be copied and only the copies will be provided to the inmate (should this not be effective in eliminating the introduction of drugs into the facilities, further steps maybe taken including allowing only email or postcard correspondence with only one side of the postcard being copied.) I appreciate your assistance as we attempt to keep your loved one safe! - Director Wendy Kelly

This is the current tactic of repression in a so-called attempt to eliminate drug usage. It's really Arkansas Department of Corrections's ploy to increase the censorship of all incoming mail. I'm asking all supporters and prisoners' families to write Director Wendy Kelly to protest this insane act of censoring prisoners' mail. So effective 7 August 2017, we prisoners of ADC will only be given copies of our mail. This act seems to be the state's way of censoring Arkansas prisoners' mail and an effective method to slow the Arkansas grievance petition. Write to protest: Director Wendy Kelly, Arkansas Department of Correction, PO Box 8707, Pine Bluff, Arkansas 71611.

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[Censorship] [Education] [ULK Issue 56]
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Capitalist Copyright Laws Stifle Education

hueynewtonreader
MIM(Prisons) recently received notification from the publisher Seven Stories Press that we are in violation of copyright laws by making a PDF of The Huey P. Newton Reader available for free on our website. Copyright laws are a capitalist invention to enable the holders to make more profits. In the case of books, it's publishers (and sometimes the authors) that are making money on these copyrights.

For most of what gets printed these days, trashy novels, bourgeois interpretations of history and the like, we don't care that distribution is limited by copyright. But when it comes to revolutionary literature, especially that which is relevant to the people least able to afford it, we see clearly how copyright laws stifle education. Books about Huey Newton, founder and leader of the Black Panther Party, need to be more widely available.

MIM(Prisons) explicitly publishes everything under a creative commons license which invites everyone to build on, copy and share all that we write. We're not making money on our work, we're putting all of our money into spreading revolutionary education. And we want to encourage others to do the same.

Education should be free for everyone. This includes educational material like books. Intellectual property rights laws stifle creativity and education and also directly harm the welfare of the people. Patents keep drugs restrictively expensive by prohibiting anyone but the inventor from manufacturing the drugs. This system of legal restrictions and secrecy inhibits creativity and the advancement of society by preventing people from building on inventions made by other people. Meanwhile, people suffer.

It's only in a capitalist society, where profit is king, that we need these sorts of intellectual property restrictions. In a socialist society, where the goal is the welfare of the people, we will prioritize the most efficient and effective formula and distribution of life-saving drugs, educational material, and everything else that is good for humynity.

We are sympathetic that small publishers of political books like Seven Stories Press are in a difficult space to earn money. With new book releases it will often take a lot of book sales just to make back the cost of the printing. However, this doesn't make us sympathetic to copyright claims on a book that was first printed in 2002. Perhaps access to an electronic PDF is curtailing some sales of the physical book, but if free access is getting more people to read this important book, we think that's a victory.

We hope that Seven Stories Press will re-evaluate their goals. On their website Seven Stories claims: "Our credo is that publishers have a special responsibility to defend free speech and human rights, and to celebrate the gifts of the human imagination wherever we can." They have published some important and controversial books including the Dark Alliance series about the CIA and crack cocaine, All Things Censored by Mumia Abu Jamal, and the annual Project Censored's Censored report. Yet by shutting down the distribution of an important book about the ideology of the Black Panther Party in order to preserve their profits, Seven Stories is working counter to their credo.

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[Censorship] [Campaigns] [Chuckawalla Valley State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 54]
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Censor Victory in Chuckawalla Brings Pride

I start this letter sending out all my respects to all involved in educating and enlightening those persons such as myself.

These past couple of weeks have been a little hectic. Here at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison, we have had difficulties with the administration censoring our mail.

I am most grateful for the letter of support your people wrote to Warden Seibel. It gave me support as to what direction to push my 22 form [Inmate/Parolee Request for Interview, Item, or Service].

With that I am proud to say that they called me back within 24 hours, saying I "will no longer have any problems receiving [my] mail" :)

Finally, yesterday my name was called to pick up Sept/Oct. 2016, No. 52 issue. Honestly I was shocked, empowered to know the feeling of winning these people is such a childish move on their behalf. I sat in the dayroom reading the publication with honor and pride.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This victory came through comrades coming together and filing appeals and paperwork on the inside and the outside. This comrade should be proud for standing up for eir First Amendment rights and following through on the bureaucratic process that is often there to wear you down.

However, this is not the first time Warden Siebel has assured us that the censorship issue has been addressed. So we must remain always vigilant. Our rights only exist to the extent that we struggle for them. And Amerikans will continue to oppress others as long as imperialism remains in place.

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[Download and Print] [Organizing] [Civil Liberties] [Religious Repression] [Abuse] [Censorship] [Political Repression] [Campaigns] [California]
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Downloadable Grievance Petition, California

California Grievance Petition
Click to Download PDF Of California Petition

Mail the petition to your loved ones and comrades inside who are experiencing issues with the grievance procedure. Send them extra copies to share! For more info on this campaign, click here.

Prisoners should send a copy of the signed petition to each of the addresses below. Supporters should send letters on behalf of prisoners.

Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC)
2590 Venture Oaks Way Suite 200
Sacramento, CA 95833

Prison Law Office
General Delivery
San Quentin, CA 94964

Internal Affairs CDCR
10111 Old Placerville Rd, Ste 200
Sacramento, CA 95872

CDCR Office of Ombudsman
1515 S Street, Room 311 S
Sacramento, CA 95811

U.S. Department of Justice - Civil Rights Division
Special Litigation Section
950 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, PHB
Washington DC 20530

Office of Inspector General
HOTLINE
PO Box 9778
Arlington, VA 22219

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

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

*Petition updated September 2011, July 2012, and October 2013, February 2016, November 2016*

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[Censorship] [Evans Correctional Institution] [South Carolina] [ULK Issue 54]
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Stop Wasting ULK on Censorship

This letter is to inform you to discontinue sending out the Under Lock & Key newsletter to me here. There is a very repressive regime established at this prison and indeed the entire state. The censorship of our materials goes without challenge. Why? Authorized violation of so-called rights! The grievance procedure is designed to be a stalling mechanism and as it stands now is actually depriving the prisoners here of redress of grievances and access to the courts!

I do not want relevant/useful information appropriated or destroyed by these foolish people so please do not continue to mail any of your publications for now. I am furious at these methods and practices this system is using to block our awareness and consciousness but I am unable to offer a real challenge because these South Carolinians are fast asleep! I grow weary of the incessant thought of the problem. Merely writing or filing actions to the courts who, with every degree of bias/prejudice, turn blind eyes. We need some direct action! Do not let our papers go to waste brothers and sisters! I do not have any reliable sources out there. Yet, but I guarantee I soon will.


MIM(Prisons) responds: It is always sad to hear from comrades hard at work behind bars who want their Under Lock & Key subscription terminated due to censorship problems. We appreciate this comrade's desire to save us the cost of sending in a publication that will only be censored, but we have also noticed that in prisons that are usually censoring our literature, occasionally things will slip through. So if you are in this situation, we are willing to continue to send ULK, in the hopes that it will get to you.

If we look at the last 10 issues of ULK, the rate of copies reported received in censor-heavy states like South Carolina and North Carolina are the same as the average across the country. The reports of censorship in those states are higher, but we still have more people reporting ULKs received. We have also had isolated victories after appealing censorship in both states in the last couple years. Of course, if more subscribers told us which issues they received and which they did not, we would have more information so we could make a more accurate assessment. So please let us know specifically what you have received every time you write us.

Ultimately it is a tactical question of when we want to exclude a facility or state from our mailing list because we think we are just throwing money away. Overall, we know that only a small fraction of the prison population is exposed to Under Lock & Key and we will always face state repression in our efforts to expose them. So we have chosen tactics that increase our chances of exposing the greatest number of people.

This writer is setting a good example by fighting this censorship on all the fronts possible. And trying to organize others as well. Conditions change over time, and organizing is a dialectical process that involves many failures. This letter underscores the need for outside support for our comrades' battles behind bars.

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