The fight continues against censorship of the Militant by prison authorities in Florida and at the federal facility in Greenville, Illinois. The issues posed are important for defending political rights won in centuries of hard-fought battles and the right of workers behind bars to be able to read, study and think about class-struggle developments worldwide and advance a working-class political perspective.
After authorities at a number of prisons in Florida have banned at least 18 issues of the paper over the past 16 months, the Florida Department of Corrections Literature Review Committee has overturned most of these rulings. But prison officials keep at it. Issues no. 25 and 29 remain impounded. On Aug. 21 Militant attorney David Goldstein of the prominent civil liberties law firm Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky and Lieberman filed an appeal, but as we go to press a response from the Literature Review Committee is still pending.
Authorities at Florida State Prison impounded issue no. 25 without informing the Militant, a violation of Florida state law. The reason given by prison officials for banning the issue, and then the next one, was the paper’s coverage of its fight against Florida prison censorship. But the impoundment of issue 26 was reversed while no. 25 was upheld, even though state officials declined to tell Goldstein what the difference was.
Similarly, issue no. 29 was impounded by Tomoka Correctional Institution officials. The reason given was “Page 1-3,” which the warden claims “depicts, describes or encourages activities which may lead to the use of physical violence or group disruption.”
But the articles on these pages simply presented a working-class perspective on issues in U.S. and world politics. Headlines included: “New Openings for Working Class as Imperialist ‘World Order’ Unravels,” “Woman’s Right to Abortion Is Debated in Northern Ireland” and “Protesters Demand ‘Release Video!’ in Cop Shooting of Chicago Barber.”
“The impoundment violates the First Amendment and is unconstitutionally arbitrary,” Goldstein wrote.
At the federal prison in Greenville, Illinois, the warden banned all issues of the Militant on the grounds that it’s “associated with the Socialist Workers Party.” While the subscriber there scored a victory by getting released in mid-August, the fight against this censorship continues and is having an impact.
Sara Revell, Federal Bureau of Prisons’ director of its North Central Regional Office, responded to those who wrote urging the ban be lifted, saying she has asked the Greenville warden to reconsider.
She quoted from federal regulations on publications, which say a warden can’t reject something because of its political or social views and “may not establish an excluded list of publications.” Specific reasons for barring each and every issue are required, she said.
“Keep the pressure on,” said Militant editor John Studer. “We’re asking our readers and defenders of political rights to keep sending letters urging this pattern of censorship in Florida and ban in the Illinois federal prison be reversed.”
The Militant’s ongoing fight against censorship has won support from Amnesty International USA, PEN America, Florida Civil Liberties Union, National Lawyers Guild, and others.
Letters protesting Florida prison censorship should be emailed to Allen.Peterson@fdc.myflorida.com.
Letters protesting censorship at Greenville should be sent to Sara Revell, North Central Regional Director, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Gateway Complex Tower II, 8th Floor, 400 State Ave., Kansas City, KS 66101-2492.
Send copies to the Militant at 306 W. 37th St., New York, NY 10018 or to firstname.lastname@example.org.