Censorship Report: July 2008
This is MIM(Prisons) second biannual censorship report, which we expected to be more complete than our first. This has proved true, though there is still much room for improvement. Over 78% of our mail to prisoners over the last 6 months is still of unconfirmed status. This is an almost 10% improvement from last time. We are happy to report that almost 20% of letters we send prisoners and books we sent that we do not publish have been confirmed as received. The number is close to 10% for MIM(Prisons) literature. This lower rate is to be expected for 2 reasons. First, many prisoners remain on our mailing list by only writing in a couple times per year, therefore they do not confirm each issue of Under Lock & Key they receive from us, which is the majority of the MIM-literature we mail.
In addition, MIM literature is targetted for censorship more than letters or books by other authors. The reporting rates we have this time show 6.53% censorship of MIM literature, compared to 4.14% for other literature and 4.82% for letters. This difference might not be significant since we do not have information on most of our mail still, but it agrees with the general trend that we see and expect. The actual percentage of mail that is being censored is obviously much greater than those numbers.
We will keep reporting these percentages to encourage us to improve our tracking. To do this, prisoners should let us know everything they received since they last wrote each time they contact us. Meanwhile, those receiving the mail should be sure to record this information when it comes in. Last report we only had 3 states that had reported more than 20% of their mail. Partly due to a smaller sampling of mail, we have 16 states that have surpassed the 20% reporting rate.
Below is a summary of the status of each state related to mail censorship:
|censorship w/ some victories||-||V|
|no censorship reported||-||N|
|District of Columbia||N||N|
This table shows that we have lost contact with prisoners in a number of states since updating our mailing list. Anyone with contacts in those states should spread the word about Under Lock & Key and get those states back in the blue.
There are a number of states that we have confirmed censorship in that we did not have last time. There are even more states where we have not yet had any censorship reported where we had before. There isn't enough information to make much of a conclusion except that between the two reports we have now confirmed censorship in more than half of the states in the united $tates in the last year.
Continued victories in New York and Oregon indicate the importance of the work of those who follow up on the administrative appeals and legal battles. In both of those states there has been regular censorship for years, with particular facilities being bad. They are cases where the state is obliged to follow the law but the local pigs continue to try to censor us. Snake River in Oregon repeatedly censored MIM over the last year, and it was repeatedly overturned by the state. So, getting the state to force its employees to follow the rules is an effective strategy in fighting censorship.
The newest victory occurred in Wisconsin and was led by someone outside of our circles. In early June, 2008 a federal judge ruled that "Prison inmates have a First Amendment right to read commentary critical of their captors."(1) This is a big victory, because the "threat to security" excuse is most often used in relation to articles where we are criticizing specific incidents that have occured in the prison system censoring us. The censors stupidly think that by preventing prisoners from having access to legal means of protest that they will somehow create a safer environment for their staff. Clearly, the opposite is true, if the censors have read the countless letters prisoners send to us thanking us for providing them with hope and support. Prisoners should take note of the victories in New York, Oregon and Wisconsin and hit those law books, file those grievances and write the media instead of shanking that guard who's throwing away all your mail.
We have not confirmed any new bans on MIM(Prisons). Last time we reported bans in California, Virginia and Illinois. We update the campaigns in California and Virginia below. We have no new information on Illinois and our contacts there are currently limited, so Illinois comrades should get in touch.
As always, prisoners who are facing censorship problems should let us know and send us any documentation that you have so we can post it on our website. Outside individuals, groups and businesses can report the censorship they're facing right here on our website. If you want to share information about campaigns and lawsuits, contact us.Active Campaigns
The struggle against the complete ban on MIM literature in California continues. In terms of progress, we have a number of prisoners who are fighting this administratively along with us and doing the necessary legal research. We have heard promising things from the outcome of the Prison Legal News(PLN) lawsuit against the CDCR, but are waiting for more updates from PLN on the agreements they've made. In the meantime, we have gained access to some of our comrades in California again, but censorship is still widespread.
The most recent censorship notices coming from Pelican Bay regarding Under Lock & Key cite a new memo dated 6/13/2008, which MIM(Prisons) has not yet seen. The previous memo merely cited our political line as the justification for censorship, which, of course, is illegal. The latest notices also accuse us of promoting "gang activities."
The campaign in Virginia is also moving along. Many comrades are coming forward with documentation and filing grievances. Meanwhile, one comrade has agreed to take it to court as part of a case against the COINTELPRO tactics being used against New Afrikans in the state. We have offered to help raise the necessary $350 filing fee for this lawsuit. Checks, or preferably anonymous money orders, can be made out to "MIM Distributors" and sent to our San Francisco address.
As we reported, any literature deemed "Black" is being censored in Virginia. We have begun documenting censorship of magazines like XXL and King on our website and are encouraging these distributors to join us in this struggle. It's not just the voice of the proletariat that is being targetted by this racism, the Black bourgeois press is also suffering. Many comrades have already written XXL for support, and we encourage others to do the same.
The developing class action suit in New York continues as well. In response to the Shakur and Mitchell lawsuits the state did replace rule 105.12 with rules 105.13 and 105.14 regarding unauthorized organizations. The new rules offer potential benefits and potential problems. An analysis of this is forthcoming.
notes: (1) Associated Press. 5 June 2008.