Censorship Report: July 2009
As we announced about 6 months ago, MIM(Prisons) decided to release censorship reports annually. It often takes months before we find out if a piece of mail was censored or received, therefore more frequent reports were not worth the effort. Censorship battles are an example of the long legal battles that imperialist country revolutionaries should be engaging in at this stage of the struggle.
Since its inception, the number of subscriptions to Under Lock & Key has steadily increased, as has the number of people reporting receiving it. In the year since our last censorship report we have sent a 5-digit number of pieces of mail. Our online readership has also begun to rival our readership in prisons with a recent jump in traffic. However, online readers seem more interested in the data and information we provide than reading articles.
In our table to the right, we separated out Federal prisons for the first time. We also separated out legitimate return to sender mail from actually censored mail. This is a small percentage of our returned mail, but may have resulted in incorrect assessments of smaller states in previous reports.
Too Many Unknowns
Our reporting rates over all decreased, so that we went from 78% to 86% of our mail being of unknown status. This is a lot and makes it very hard to draw any statistical conclusions from our numbers. We may increase the requirements to stay on our mailing list in order to improve these numbers and save money in the future. However, those who received books and other non-MIM literature did step it up, with 42% of that mail being confirmed received(34%) or censored(8%). But we should get even better numbers from those who are receiving extra literature through our Free Political Books to Prisoners Program.
We only had 8 states that reported more than 20% of their mail, compared to 16 states in our last report. Many of these are smaller states where a handful of respondents can make the difference. So we need comrades to step it up. Each time you write in let us know exactly what you received since you last wrote.
Now that we have done this a few times, we see that there are only a few states where there does not appear to be any censorship of MIM(Prisons) mail. And these states combined only account for maybe 2% of our mail anyway. In other words, censorship is an issue pretty much everywhere.
Prisons Promoting Violence
We must admit, we were surprised at the decrease in censorship reported for ULK 7, the Peace Issue. As in every issue of ULK, we promoted non-violent, legal means of struggling against injustice. In particular, we stressed the struggle to end violence within prisons, whether perpetrated by staff or prisoners, with the secondary goal of exposing the real interests of the prisons in censoring our literature. Only 20 facilities in 9 states and the Federal system were willing to state on the record that they oppose a reduction in violence within their facilities. Two of the prisons that originally censored ULK 7 approved it on appeal, and some prisons who regularly censor our mail let it through.
The list of pro-violence prisons(shown below) includes some of the usual suspects: Clinton Correctional Facility in NY, Pelican Bay State Prison in CA, Menard Correctional Center in IL, Red Onion State Prison in VA and the United States Prisons of Marion and ADX, all of which are supermax prisons or contain major SHU units. Of those prisons, only Menard is still upholding a complete ban on MIM mail. Red Onion is close. It is no secret that these units contain many of the most politically active prisoners so that they cannot organize the very peace efforts written about in ULK7.
As always, there are prisons like Attica in New York that have refused all mail, without notifying the sender (against New York State Code), for many years. They are not only censoring, but they are denying any avenue of redress; exactly the kind of illegal behavior that prevents non-violent struggles for humyn rights from being effective.
Keep Up the Legal Work
While the illegal behavior of the state can make it seem pointless to attempt any sort of non-violent battles against repression, our work still shows much room for progress on the legal front.
The court victory in Wisconsin that we reported on in our last report is helping us win on appeals as the mailrooms there still try to censor MIM(Prisons). Meanwhile, the biggest news in victories is that not only has the official ban of MIM literature been overturned in California, but most Wardens have come to recognize this (some 8 months later). We will be running a full article on that battle soon, but let us say here: Good work to those who fought the ban administratively and in the courts! Things are moving forward slowly but surely in the biggest prison state in the biggest prison nation.
Another project coming on the heels of this report will be a new institution for jailhouse lawyers to work within the anti-imperialist movement. We have received calls from a few who have seen the need for such a project. This group will allow our efforts to complement each other so that we can be more effective in challenging repression legally.
In other ban news, we still have an unofficial ban in Virginia at Red Onion State Prison and Hampton Roads Regional Jail. The latter taking it to the extreme of returning to sender any mail from MIM(Prisons) without even inspecting the contents. Unfortunately, some of our most active comrades in Virginia seem to have been cut off from helping with this battle as a result. Similar behavior continues in Illinois where we have yet to get any response from the Department of Corrections substantiating the alleged ban that mailroom staff use to censor our mail. We are looking for comrades on the inside and on the street in Illinois who want to work together to take this battle in another direction, since the administration is not being accountable to the public it is supposed to serve.
MIM has been at the forefront in reporting connections between the u$ prison system at home and abroad.(1) The closeness of u$ "security" professionals is further demonstrated in the use of censorship in Iraq and within u$ borders.
The Shi'ite resistance led by Muqtada al-Sadr had the same standards applied to its news outlet in occupied Iraq during the rule of amerikan Paul Bremer, as MIM literature has faced in the u$ for decades. Bremer claimed that articles in their newspaper Al Hawza criticizing abuses by u$ occupiers against the native population had the "intent to disrupt general security and incite violence." This is the typical justification for censoring MIM(Prisons) when we report on abuses in u$ prisons. However, in the case of Al Hawza, u$ troops raided their office, threw out the staff and padlocked the building.(2)
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.
|censorship w/ some victories||-||V|
|no censorship reported||-||N|
*Federal Prisons not reported separately in 2008
|District of Columbia||N||N||N/A|
|California Correctional Inst.||MIM banned|
|California Institution for Men||Against Regulation|
|California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility||Ban of MIM Publications|
|Heman Stark YCF||Against Regulation|
|Pelican Bay State Prison||Banned Publication per memo 12/13/2006|
|U.S. Penitentiary - MAX||contains information on individuals incarcerated in ADX|
|U.S. Penitentiary Marion||detrimental to security -contains inmate-to-inmate information|
|Menard Correctional Center||Item not permitted|
|Southeast Correctional Center||none|
|Montana State Prison||rejected, violates policy|
|Polk Youth Institution||contains information that could be detrimental to the safety and security of the information [sic] if publication was to spread throughout institution.|
|Cayuga Correctional Facility||not on approved correspondence list|
|Clinton Correctional Facility||not on approved correspondence list|
|Wende Correctional Facility||unknown|
|Stiles Unit||Illustrated how to go on a hunger strike.|
|Central Utah Correctional Facility||unknown|
|Hampton Roads Regional Jail||Refused, Unauthorized Contents|
|Keen Mountain Correctional Center||refused|
|Red Onion State Prison||none|
(2) Scahill, Jeremy. Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. Nation Books, 2007. p. 184).