The Militant is fighting for the right of workers behind bars to read the Militant and other books and publications they choose in two of the 21 states where we have prison subscribers — Florida and Kansas. We’re asking our readers to help us push back the censors!
Write and get others to write — co-workers, your union, church or community group, and others — to authorities there urging them to reverse their censorship of the Militant.
And it’s not just the Militant that faces the unconstitutional and arbitrary bans by prison officials. Kansas censors have barred some 7,000 books and periodicals. Prison authorities from coast to coast keep looking for ways to shut down access to news, information and culture.
Sometimes what they choose can seem so absurd you have to laugh. They tend to censor material that they fear will increase the class consciousness, understanding, discipline and sense of self-worth of inmates. Censorship, arbitrary or not, is one of the tools they use to try to break the spirit of those behind bars, to dehumanize and demoralize them, to keep them from discussing what workers face today and can do about it.
But the prison officials have a problem — whenever the censorship becomes public, they meet opposition and often are forced to pull back. That’s what happened in New York state, Washington state, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and federal prisons when officials tried recently to restrict access to books and newspapers. In each case, when word got out, the restrictions were rolled back.
Virtually all prisoners are fellow workers who happen to be behind bars. More than 90 percent never went to trial, never had a chance to make a case to a jury of their peers. They were pressured into signing plea bargains, under threat of more draconian sentences if they refused. The purpose of the capitalist rulers’ so-called criminal justice system is to dehumanize and intimidate working people.
Workers on both sides of the bars, whatever our nationality or skin color, face many similar challenges, problems and common interests. Those behind bars have the same need to have access to reading material of their choosing, to think for themselves, to be part of the world.
Every time we win against the censors it is a blow to the capitalist rulers’ efforts to control what we read, what we think and what we do. It helps hold them off, opens up room for prisoners to be part of struggling humanity. When we fight to defend the rights of our brothers and sisters behind bars, it is in the interests of the whole working class.
But to win, we need your help to organize support. Every letter can help make a difference. Join with the National Coalition Against Censorship, Amnesty International USA, the American Library Association, the Florida ACLU, the National Lawyers Guild and many others in our fight to overturn the bans on the Militant in Florida and Kansas!