BY FRANK FORRESTAL
CHICAGO - On March 8 a column for the Militant by imprisoned political activist Mark Curtis arrived in Des Moines, Iowa. Supporters of the paper retyped and formatted the article into a computer file and electronically mailed it to the paper (see article on opposing page).
Since December, three articles by Curtis mailed to the Militant had not made it out of the prison mail system at the Iowa State Penitentiary, where the framed-up unionist is held. Curtis requested an explanation for this censorship by prison authorities and never received a reply.
Recently, attorneys for Curtis called numerous times in an effort to reach prison officials to urge an end to this denial of Curtis's right to free speech. Steve Clark, editor of the Militant, wrote to the Gerardo Acevedo, warden of the penitentiary, requesting the immediate release of the articles and an end to such actions.
The Mark Curtis Defense Committee, which organizes to fight for Curtis's release and to defend his rights in prison, asked supporters around the world to write the warden and urge the censorship be lifted. Dozens wrote in from New Zealand to Sweden and numerous cities in the United States.
Finally, deputy prison warden Paul Hedgepath responded to William Kutmus, Curtis's attorney in Des Moines. Hedgepath told Kutmus that there was no censorship policy against Curtis and that there must have been some problem with the mail. He suggested that Curtis submit future articles by certified mail. The next article Curtis sent made it through the penitentiary's mail system. He is now working on another article describing the numerous letters of solidarity he has received recently.
Curtis was framed-up on charges of attempted rape and burglary while he was part of a fight at the Swift meatpacking company to defend 17 immigrant co-workers arrested in a raid by federal agents in 1988. The defense committee is asking activists to continue to write Curtis and express their support. "A steady stream of letters going in to Mark helps serve notice on prison authorities that his supporters are following his activities closely and are ready to protest any further attacks on him or his rights," John Studer, coordinator of the Mark Curtis Defense Committee said in an interview.
Letters can be sent to Mark Curtis, #805338, Iowa State Penitentiary, Box 316, Fort Madison, Iowa 52627. The defense committee asks that copies of the letters be sent to the MCDC, Box 477419, Chicago, Illinois, 60647. Last November, Curtis was granted parole by the Iowa State Board of Parole after serving over seven and one-half years on frame-up charges of rape and burglary. He remains in the Iowa State Penitentiary because he applied for out-of-state parole to Illinois. Parole officials told Curtis that he should be released within three months.
Instead, Curtis has faced continual obstacles to winning his freedom from Illinois authorities. His application to be released in Illinois is based on the fact he plans to live and work there with Kate Kaku, his companion for over a decade. Authorities with the Illinois Department of Corrections have rejected his parole, arguing that he does not have sufficient "family ties" to the state.
On March 11 Curtis and Kaku formalized their marriage at the state penitentiary. Copies of the marriage certificate were sent to corrections authorities in Illinois by Iowa penitentiary authorities and by Jed Stone, an attorney for Curtis in Chicago. This reopens Curtis's application for parole to Illinois. "It is clear that only continuous public attention and pressure will win Curtis's freedom," Studer said.
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