Not many people hear about censorship battles. Not many people even understand what censorship is. They may have a vague concept based on the albums sold at Wal-Mart that block out cuss words, but they have no clue as to how deep censorship really goes.
And that's mostly because of the censorship in and of itself. You can't hear about what is suppressed. And this has been happening ever since words were created.
I am currently dealing with illegal censorship of at least three publications. Each of them has a few different things in common. One: They are all free to prisoners. Two: They are all political news oriented. Three: They are all against the prison industrial complex in any of its forms. Four: And this might be the kicker, or maybe I'm just paranoid, they are all being sent to a prisoner who has filed a Civil Suit against the Minnesota Department of Corrections: Myself.
This all started after I filed under the 42§1983 for guards messing me up in my last facility. All of my legal mail was opened outside of my presence before being given to me. Then they started refusing to send out mail to national organizations seeking counsel if it was in a sealed envelope. I had a stack of over 30 envelopes that clearly indicated that they were legal correspondence. So I went through the Chain of Command, and anyone who's ever dealt with that already knows the outcome of the subsequent Grievance & Grievance Appeal: Staff denied all wrongdoing.
See, I'm not stupid. I have all the DOC Policy in my cell. I keep a full legal bin of State and Federal Law along with citations of case decisions. And even when I showed these fools every piece of where they violated not only their own policy, but Minnesota and United $tates Law, they only had this to say: "Well, if I have to go to Court, I guess I will." That was the discipline Sgt. Glen Lissowy as I showed him all of the evidence.
So after proving that the internal grievance system was completely useless, I filed a Civil Action in the District Court, only for the Judge Gregory G. Galler to deem it frivolous, and that I did not state a legal claim. Two months go by, and then I receive a notice that I am receiving a discipline for lying/misrepresentation. I was literally getting punished for filing a lawsuit against the DOC. Under Minnesota Law, this is only permissible if you lied, or filed a malicious lawsuit. I did neither; you figure that one out.
After that bit of nonsense, I received another astonishing piece of mail. A Non-Delivery Notice stating that the newspaper The Abolitionist was being censored due to it allegedly constituting a risk to the safety and security of the facility, with no further explanation. Again, I know the policy, and so I filed an appeal, which was to be forwarded to the Correspondence Review Authority(CRA). But, instead of following Policy, the Mailroom Lead Worker, Natalie Leseman responded to the appeal.
So I had to go up to her supervisor, Lt. Jason R. Hills, and cite the Policy and the Law only for him to also not follow policy and to reply to the appeal rather than forward it to the CRA. So finally, I had to mail it to the damn CRA myself. Anyone want to hazard a guess as to their response?
The Correspondence Review Authority, comprised of Chris Pawelk-AWO, Sherlinda Wheeler-AWA, and Byron Matthews-Captain, stated that they had read the material and determined the content should be denied for violating MN DOC Division Directive 301.030 Contraband because one of the articles allegedly advocates for organized disturbances within prison walls and activities in violation of facility rules.
Obviously, we all know this is not adequate to legally censor material, plus, it's complete bullshit. So I used the Second appeal and sent it to the Assistant Commissioner of Corrections, Nate Knutson. Confusingly, his reply was that the newspaper had a graphic depiction of violence and that that was why it had been denied.
While this was taking place, I received another Notice of Non-Delivery for a publication from MIM Distributors in San Francisco, CA alleging it was a "Risk to Safety & Security of Facility." And again no further explanation was given. So I began the whole process anew. And again, Lt. Jason R. Hills failed to forward the appeal. And then the CRA failed to respond within the time permitted by Policy, and I am still awaiting word back from Nate Knutson.
The CRA did finally reply 15 days late, saying literally nothing of substance. And now I am awaiting to be approved to proceed In Forma Pauperis for a Civil Action against these poohbahs again.
But all this goes to show the lengths to which those who seek to oppress those with differing views, or who are in opposition, are willing to go. These people are willing to stake their livelihoods on performing illegal acts to people in prison, just to shut us up. And 90% of the time, they succeed.
When there are no witnesses, and no one to speak out, this type of thing goes unnoticed, and unpunished. You know they say absolute authority corrupts absolutely. If I can suppress your voice, your mail, your movements, your very life, no one will notice until you're gone for good. Censorship is men playing god, and you're only hearing about it because it was allowed to be said. Let that sink in.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Much respect to this comrade for all eir work fighting the censorship in eir prison. The other reason you are hearing about this censorship case is because of the independent newspaper and website run by MIM(Prisons). You won't read about this stuff in the mainstream press. And so this underscores the importance of these independent institutions.