“We intend to fight these moves and defend the right of workers behind bars to get the Militant and other political literature,” said Naomi Craine, the paper’s managing editor, in an appeal for support.
The Militant’s attorney David Goldstein from the law firm of Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky & Lieberman — well-known for its involvement in civil rights and liberties cases — is filing a formal request asking that the impoundments be reversed.
A worker behind bars at the Santa Rosa Correctional Institution in Florida alerted the Militant at the end of June that “there is a censorship situation going on with your publication.” Authorities there have impounded issues 21 and 23. He filed appeals both times.
One rejection notice from the prison falsely alleges that two pages in issue 23 with an article and photo on a sizable peaceful public protest in Puerto Rico demanding U.S. authorities Free Oscar López contained “Hang/gang signs.” López has served 35 years in U.S. prisons for his support of independence for Puerto Rico. There are widespread calls for his release, including from Puerto Rico’s governor and unions, churches and other organizations on the island and in the U.S.
This attack on the right of inmates to get the Militant and of the paper’s right to reach its subscribers appears to have originated at another prison, the Northwest Florida Reception Center, where authorities impounded issue 21. The reason given was an article titled, “Prisoners Strike to Protest Abuse and Little or No Pay in Alabama.” Reception Center officials claimed the article “depicts, describes or encourages activities which may lead to the use of physical violence or group disruption.”
The Alabama protest was entirely without violence. The article described conditions in several prisons in Alabama that denied inmates their dignity, pay for their forced labor and their rights.
The prisoner in Santa Rosa wrote that he believes the papers were impounded “because the system doesn’t agree with the views.”
“Literature is not what causes disruption,” he wrote. “Nowhere do I recall literature causing physical violence.”
In past impoundment fights, Florida prison authorities had to admit there were no grounds to impound Militant issues that contained coverage of the hunger strike launched by thousands of inmates in California in 2013. To date Florida’s wardens have lost every impoundment battle.
Many papers that cover prisoners’ rights and other questions of interest to workers behind bars have to fight to defend the rights of prisoners to receive them, including Prison Legal News, San Francisco Bay Guardian and the Militant. Florida authorities have especially targeted the Militant.
When the Reception Center impounded issue 21, other state prison authorities were authorized to do the same pending a decision by the statewide prison Literature Review Committee. That’s the reason given to the subscriber in Santa Rosa. And that was the reason they said they took issue 23, though Florida officials have not yet informed the Militant where and why it was originally impounded, contrary to their own regulations.