Weeks after lifting ban, Florida prisons censor ‘Militant’ again

By Seth Galinsky
January 22, 2018
Dec. 18 Militant impounded by Florida prison officials
Dec. 18 Militant impounded by Florida prison officials

Despite repeated rulings by the Florida prison system’s own Literature Review Committee overturning the impoundment of the Militant, prison officials at Charlotte Correctional Institution in Punta Gorda and at Santa Rosa Correctional Institution in Milton, Florida, have impounded another issue of the socialist weekly.

Several prisoners wrote in to inform the Militant that the Dec. 18 issue of the paper was censored. The notice they received says the article headlined “Join Fight to Overturn Ban Against ‘Militant’!” presents “a threat to the security, good order, or discipline of the correctional system or the safety of any person.” One of the notices complains the Militant article “promotes fight against censorship in Florida prisons.” In violation of Florida Department of Corrections rules, prison officials have not informed the Militant of the impoundments.

At least one prisoner so far has filed an appeal to overturn the ban.

A new subscriber at Santa Rosa Correctional Institution wrote Dec. 25 to tell us the impounded Militant would have been his first issue. Prison officials “are committing police abuses against prisoners even to the point of death,” he said, pointing to news reports that a prisoner there was beaten to death.

“Florida’s prisons have long been considered among the most brutal in the nation,” the Miami Herald reported last year. “The elimination of parole dramatically increased the inmate population, especially swelling the ranks of older prisoners. The abuse of inmates, particularly those who suffer from mental illnesses, has been a part of the prison system’s culture for decades.”

Some workers behind bars have told the Militant they are routinely denied the paper, without notice or reason. “I have not had any issues from November or December,” a subscriber at Charlotte Correctional Institution wrote Dec. 28.

Some prison subscribers write us when they do receive their papers. “Greetings to you and all the working men and women out there making this paper possible,” wrote a subscriber from Hamilton Correctional Institution in Jasper, Florida. “I just received four papers dating back to October.”

He says he’s filing a grievance to get the mailroom to turn over other issues of the paper not received.

In recent fights against prison censorship the Militant has won broad support from civil liberties groups, churches and others, including Amnesty International USA, PEN America, New York’s Riverside Church Prison Ministry, the Alianza Martiana in Florida and others.

Florida prison officials impounded nine issues last year; six of those were overturned, including several banned for covering the censorship fight.

The Militant’s lawyer, David Goldstein, is contacting the Florida Literature Review Committee to find out why local prison officials are not carrying out the committee’s decisions.

“Florida prison officials are not above the law,” said Militant editor John Studer. “Prisoners have the constitutional right to read literature of their choosing. And the Militant has the right to have its views reach subscribers behind bars.

“Workers behind bars are part of the world,” Studer said. “They are just like their fellow workers seeking a way to take on attacks from the bosses, their government and their criminal ‘justice’ system. We look forward to deepening our collaboration as we build a working-class party.”

Send messages of support for the fight against censorship to the Militant at 306 W. 37th St., 13th Floor, New York, NY 10018.