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Under Lock & Key

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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[Legal] [California]
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Staff behind MIM ban has history of lawbreaking

I have come across two cases that fit the criteria of our problems with censorship in California.

Powell v. Ellis, 2006 US Dist. Lexis 83758 (D. Aliz. Nov 15, 2006) is concerning authorized vendor status for books among other things.

The other case, Ross v. Alameida 2006 US Dist. Lexis 6079 ED Cal. Feb 15, 2006, really interests me because Scott Kernan is named as a defendant in this 2nd Amendment complaint. He was acting warden at the time of the incident. The incident was related to freedom of religious exercise and due process violations in the past authorized by Scott Kernan as acting warden at Mule Creek State Prison. Sound familiar?

The violation had to do with requiring the inmates to receive some kind of prior approval in order to receive religious reading materials thru the mail. Also, the same as now, inmates were not being notified of their disapproved mail.

I hope that you are able to check this out and refer it to anyone also pushing forward with a §1983 on the ban.

Mr. Kernan, it seems from his experience in Ross v. Alameida, knew full well that by issuing a statewide ban in our current care he was willfully and deliberately breaking the law, and for that there is no excuse!


Campaign info:
MIM Banned in CA!
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[Legal] [New York]
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New Law Promises Sentence Reductions in New York

For many years now the New York $tate Department of Correctional Services has been exceeding their authority by calculating sentences consecutively with the undischarged term or terms of imprisonment. Recently, the Appellate Court holds (DOC$) may not run predicate sentences consecutive to parole time where sentencing court is silent on that issue.

The decision decided on February 28, 2008, People ex rel. Gill v. Greene, 852 N.Y.S. 2d (3rd Dept), reverses 25 years of caselaw to the contrary and, if implemented, would have sweeping consequences. It would require the recalculations of the sentences of some eight thousand comrades currently serving predicate offender sentences here in the gulags of the N.Y.$. DOCS. Some of those comrades would almost certainly be eligible for immediate release from these gulags if their sentences were calculated under Gill.

The issues about Gill concern the proper interpretation of Penal Law 70.25(1-A) and 70.25(2-A). Penal Law 70.25(1-A) states that when a court sentences a defendant who owes time (parole) on a previously imposed sentence, the court may specify that the new sentence run either "consecutively" or "concurrently" to the parole time, and if the court is silent, the new sentence shall "run concurrently." Penal Law 70.25(2-A), however, states that when the court finds that the defendant is a predicate offender, it must impose the sentence to run consecutively to the parole time.

Now, where does it state that the N.Y.$. DOCS has the authority to act as a judicial function, and impose consecutive sentences? The only role that the N.Y.$. DOCS has as far as correcting the court's error is under Correction Law 601-A, which states that wherever it appears to the satisfaction of the warden of any $tate prison based on facts submitted on behalf of a person sentenced and confined in a $tate prison, that any such person who has been erroneously sentences as a second, third or fourth offender, it shall become his duty to communicate with the district attorney of the county in which such person was convicted, and allow the district attorney to take the necessary action for resentencing.

For those that are under lock in a N.Y.$. DOCS and that are being affected by the actions set forth here by the oppressors, I advise you comrades to obtain the keys to stop our oppressors from oppressing us. For many years we've been living in the dark due to our own ignorance. The struggle is calling us, believe it or not. Remember that without struggle we have no progress. "Until the lions have their historian, the tale of the hunt will be told by the hunter!" The key to life is knowledge, my comrades, once we obtain that key then we have the authority and power to unlock that door and proceed to walk through the light and shine. It is time for us to unlearn, relearn, and lean again! ARISE

Any questions pertaining to this matter you can reach out to the Prisoners' Legal Services of New York, 114 Prospect Street, in Ithaca, NY 14850-5616.

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[Legal] [California]
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No programs or legal appeal at KVSP

I am writing from Kern Valley State Prison in Delano, California. I am writing to seek outside assistance and support on a few issues of importance and necessity for the entire population's well being. I have personally addressed these issues to Wardens, Captains. Lieutenants, Sergeants and C/Os. The two most common excuses I get are, there is not enough money in the budget or this is a new prison that is not fully up and running. How could this be?

I arrived here in February 2006, and have seen little if any improvements. I opened the 4th building on this yard out of 8 buildings. Unit recently I have been an active participant on the I.A.C. (Inmate Advisory Counsel). Working on that committee afforded me numerous opportunities to address this administration to no avail. All the necessary steps were taken to exhaust appeal procedures, the 602 process here is flawed on all levels. They have the same excuses as everyone else or constantly screen out appeals requesting unnecessary paperwork and then when provided still deny the appeal.

I am currently starting from scratch to create my own paper trail in regards to disinfectant. They simply do not distribute it to the cells. They use every possible excuse when in all reality they do not support their claims. By law and Title 15 Article 5 personal cleanliness Section 3060 means state institutions will provide the means for all prisoners to keep themselves and their living quarters clean and to practice good health habits. The Departmental Operational Manual has numerous paragraphs which concur and support this. Yet it is still not issued.

We also have no self-help groups. IAC did submit paperwork to have one approved and we never heard back. We had our dayroom taken well over a year ago with the promise that it would be returned. We did not abuse that privilege to have it taken in the first place. There is a very limited number of jobs, no NA or AA groups, no hobby craft or in cell hobby which could be consistent with a maximum security prison. A lot of prisoner parole guidelines or lifers board guidelines require them to attend such groups. Well those guidelines cannot be met when this institution does not provide the means to do so.

This is just a short list of problems here at KVSP. I am putting this out there to shine some light on the injustices of prison life. We need outside pressure put on this institution.

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[Legal] [Education] [California] [ULK Issue 4]
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Fighting for a library

Thank you for sharing the struggle of others bearing much heavier crosses than mine. At this prison I'm trying to establish an Inmate Library Committee - which legally we should already have. The law library is our most powerful tool from within institution walls and the administrative authorities here at this prison have turned our law library into nothing more than a copy room to promote their agenda. The law library here at Mule Creek State Prison does not even have typewriters or provide legal envelopes for purchase or otherwise.

This is my struggle, this is our struggle! The Department of Corrections has coordinated an attack at our ability to be heard by the courts - and the tide is on their side.

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[Legal] [Political Repression] [New Mexico] [ULK Issue 4]
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Denial of mail and legal rights in New Mexico

This facility here is one of the most over controlled I've been in. You can receive no books, magazines, newspapers or periodicals from the outside. There is no educational material available. There is no mail allowed that has xeroxes, printed by ink jet, internet copies, pictures downloaded from the internet, laser-printer photographs, newspaper or magazine clippings, postcards, envelopes with XOXO, S.W.A.K. (sealed with a kiss) or write back soon, perfume smell or lipstick markings.

There is no access to a law library or legal materials here. I have had legal mail opened not in my presence and have even had legal mail taken because it contained information about how to fight the system a case law about the constitutional rights of prisoners from the Center for Constitutional Rights - a law firm out of New York. It also contained a book called "The Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook". When the contents were seen, the envelope was resealed and sent back.

I have saved and documented everything. I have written up a civil rights complaint against the jail, Aramark (a prison industry complex member) and 3 officers, but I am unable to file because they refuse to let me make the required copies or get a 6 month copy of my trust account which is required to file In Forma Papuperis.

Also I was helping and advising several other prisoners on how to file suit. I had them file grievances to exhaust the administrative remedies as required by the prison litigation reform act. The administration has caught on to what I'm doing and has refused to answer any of the grievances that match the three issues I am trying to take to court. They refuse to answer them because without proof of exhausting the administrative remedies process, they can not take issues to court.

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[Censorship] [Legal] [Nevada]
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Correction to ULK1 Legal advice on CA ban

I just got done reading your November 2007 newsletter Under Lock and Key. Impressive reading!

On page 3 “CA prisons ban MIM” you made a serious error. You cited bad case law concerning prisoners receiving mail under the Procunier v. Martinez standard. In 1989 the U.S. Supreme Court in Thornburgh v. Abbot, 490 U.S. 401, 413-14 partially overturned Martinez. In Abbot the court held that the Martinez standard should apply only to a prisoners outgoing correspondence. For incoming correspondence, a different standard applies. This new standard comes from a case called Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, in which the Supreme Court stated that restrictions on incoming mail are valid if they are reasonably related to a legitimate penological interest. Also see Abbot at 413.

If inmates go to court to fight the ban on MIM and its incoming publications and correspondence, they could wind up loosing hard if they use the wrong case law such as the Martinez standard. On your next publication of your newsletter, I would recommend posting a correction advising inmates to use the Turner standard.


Campaign info:
MIM Banned in CA!
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[Campaigns] [Legal] [Censorship] [New York] [ULK Issue 3]
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NY Anti-Censorship Battle Wages

In 2006, a NY prisoner filed a §1983 civil rights lawsuit in the NY Western District Federal Court challenging the constitutionality of Prison Rule 105.12 and its application. Mitchell v. Goord, et al., 06-CV-6197. Prison Rule 105.12 is the so-called “gang rule” of DOCS, which is used more as a tool to punish prisoners for possessing written materials than to prevent organizational activities within an institution. The plaintiff had been placed in SHU three times for possessing written materials related to New Afrikan organizations on the outside he openly affiiliates with and deals with. He consistently argued he has a First Amendment right to correspond and associate with, be a member of, write for and about, and possess the literature of any outside organization he so chooses, so long as he doesn't organize or attempt to organize a prison chapter of any such organization within a facility without approval.

Upon learning other NY prisoners were being punished for possessing written materials related to the New Afrikan organizations he's a member of, namely the New Afrikan Maoist Party and its affiliates, and upon learning NY prisons were withholding, rejecting or trashing letters and literature form NAMP and its affiliates to NY prisoners, the plaintiff moved to have his lawsuit certified into a class action to protect the rights of those other prisoners and help them seek redress. The district court judge appointed counsel to investigate whether class action certification is appropriate.

It has been reported that NY prisons, like Southport, Auburn, Clinton and Great Meadow are withholding, trashing and rejecting letters and literature from NAMP and its affiliates to stifle their growing influence and support among NY prisoners. So, NY Prisoners who may have stopped corresponding and receiving literature from NAMP and its affiliates because of being punished for doing so, or because of fear of being punished, or who suddenly stopped hearing from NAMP and its affiliates; it's asked that you complain about this directly to the attorneys appointed in the aforementioned case. Also send a copy to the Collective Legal Services and the district judge - all addresses are listed below. Make sure you state that you support the class action certification of Mitchell v. Goord, et al. And if you hope to recover a monetary reward for any punishment or mail tampering you need to file a grievance now.

Contact:
William G. Bauer, Esq. - Lead Attorney
Erin W. Smith, Esq. - Second
Woods Oviatt Gilman LLP
Two State Street
Rochester, NY 14614

Hon. Charles J. Siragusa - Presiding Judge
K.S. District Judge
100 State Street
Rochester, NY 14614

Collective Legal Services
PO Box 40799
San Francisco, CA 94140

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