After nearly seven months without any reported attempts by Florida state corrections authorities to block delivery of the Militant to subscribers behind bars, officials there just seized two issues of the paper.
Officers at Florida State Prison in Raiford took aim at the Militant article titled “Woodfox Shines Light on Prison Abuse, Solitary Confinement” in the April 15 issue. The story reports on a book tour by Albert Woodfox, who served over 40 years in solitary as one of the “Angola 3” in Louisiana’s notorious state penitentiary.
Prison authorities claimed it “depicts, describes or encourages activities which may lead to the use of physical violence or group disruption” and that it “otherwise presents a threat to the security, good order, or discipline of the correctional system.” Woodfox describes assaults by authorities there against inmates and their efforts to fight for their rights and dignity.
“It’s crazy,” wrote one of the prisoners who alerted the Militant to the ban. “They think it’s OK to beat and mistreat us, but it’s not OK for us to read about it.”
“The Department of Corrections always makes the inmate look like the bad guy,” he added. “But if they take a second to look in the mirror 98% of the staff that works in the Florida Department of Corrections should be in prison because they are the ones beating and killing inmates and nothing is being done about it.”
The article reported on two meetings Woodfox spoke at in New York — one at the Brooklyn Public Library and one at the Fortune Society, a government-funded group that helps former prisoners readjust to society outside prison walls. Woodfox’s decades in solitary, most of it after he was framed up for the murder of a guard that prison authorities knew he did not commit, were a result of his efforts to defend prisoners’ rights.
Nothing in the article encourages violence or threatens prison “security.” In the article Woodfox stated an obvious fact — prison guards beat and sometimes kill prisoners because they keep getting way with it.
“Until that changes, the abuse will continue,” Woodfox says. “There needs to be oversight and accountability.”
The Militant is not the only paper that has covered Woodfox’s nationwide speaking tour, the story of the inability of prison authorities to break his spirit. There have been reviews of his book Solitary and other reports on Woodfox by the New York Times, Washington Post and National Public Radio, to name just a few.
Then another impoundment
Officials at Union Correctional Institution, also in Raiford, impounded the March 25 issue of the Militant, citing an article titled “Protests Continue in Fight Against Police Killing of Stephon Clark,” which reported the decision by the Sacramento District Attorney to not bring charges against the cops who shot him eight times, all but one from behind.
In 2017 and 2018 Florida prison authorities attempted to ban the paper some 20 times, but, after protests by the Militant and a number of organizations concerned about the rights of workers behind bars, they backed off in all but a handful of cases. The last time an issue of the Militant was impounded was in September. After protest from the National Coalition Against Censorship, the Florida Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and many others, the prison’s Literature Review Committee reversed that impoundment as well.
The Militant’s lawyer, David Goldstein, has informed the prison system’s Literature Review Committee the paper will be filing appeals to overturn the censorship.