‘Militant’ beats back prison censorship in Florida – again

By Seth Galinsky
July 30, 2018

The Militant has won another round against the seemingly unrelenting efforts of Florida prison officials to censor the paper and prevent it from reaching workers behind bars there. After the Militant appealed, the statewide Literature Review Committee of the Department of Corrections reversed the impoundment of the May 28 and June 18 issues.

The May 28 paper was impounded by the assistant warden at Madison Correctional Institution, who falsely claimed that an article on the reversal of a ban on books in federal prisons gives “details on contraband entering a prison.”

The June 18 issue was a special edition of the Militant featuring an eyewitness report from Puerto Rico reporting on how workers were organizing to respond to the capitalist social and economic crisis they faced in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Maria. Tomoka Correctional Institution officials claimed that the entire paper “showed organized protests around the state and seeks to organize inmates to strike” and “presents a threat to the security, good order, or discipline” of the prison.

The Literature Review Committee gave no reason for overturning the impoundments.

Over the last several years Florida prisons have impounded nearly two dozen issues of the paper. All but a few were reversed on appeal by the Militant and its lawyer, David Goldstein of the prominent civil liberties law firm Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky & Lieberman.

“Every time the Militant has been forced to wage a public fight against the impoundments, we win new support for our right to send our paper to workers behind bars. And for their right to read the political news they want and need. It helps them be part of the world and working-class struggles today,” Militant editor John Studer said.

Among the organizations and individuals that have spoken out against censorship of the Militant and in defense of freedom of the press and free speech are Amnesty International USA, PEN America, National Lawyers Guild, New York Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Prison Legal News, New York’s Riverside Church Prison Ministry, American Friends Service Committee, Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee, San Francisco Bay View and many more.

Nonetheless, officials in Florida prisons seem determined to keep looking for pretexts to hold up the paper. And in some cases they violate their own rules by deciding not to send either the Militant or the inmate-subscriber the notice that they’ve impounded the paper. That makes it harder for the paper to fight it.

The Literature Review Committee told Goldstein that when a prisoner stops getting the paper, they should “make use of the grievance process.”

“Any prisoner that isn’t getting their paper, should let us know,” Studer said. “We’ll back them up, like we always do.”