‘Militant’ files appeal against paper’s ban in Indiana prison

By Brian Williams
January 27, 2020

The Militant is challenging the impoundment of several issues of the paper from subscriber Kevin “Rashid” Johnson at Indiana’s Pendleton Correctional Facility. A letter Johnson sent was received by the Militant Jan. 2, along with copies of prison officials’ “Notice and Report of Action Taken” stating that issues nos. 43-46 from the end of last year were not delivered to him. The officials failed to tell Johnson what articles they objected to and why, as their own rules require. Instead, they just claimed they were “Prohibited Property” and a “Security Risk.”

“The notification and basis have not been made in accordance with IDOC [Indiana Department of Correction] policy,” wrote Johnson, “not to mention that in violation of constitutional due process, they do not notify publishers when they deny their media.”

Militant attorney David Goldstein filed the paper’s appeal Jan. 15 in a letter sent to Chief Indiana Department of Correction counsel Jon Ferguson. He said that prison authorities’ rejection notices “do not identify anything in these withheld issues of the Militant as grounds for the withholding.”

“It appears,” writes Goldstein, “that Pendleton has determined that the Militant is to be generally banned” without finding “any objectionable material in any issue.”

Goldstein urged prison authorities to review these withheld issues and deliver them to Johnson or provide “specific reasons” why these issues are a “security risk” and “provide me with an opportunity to respond to those stated reasons for withholding these issues.”

As a political activist and a leader of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party, Johnson has been transferred repeatedly — from Virginia, where he was imprisoned, to Oregon, Texas, Florida, back to Virginia and now Indiana — and has faced repeated harassment from prison authorities. In his letter to the Militant Johnson noted, “I’ve recently begun writing articles critical of the IDOC, so in turn they’ve been denying all my mail and media, which includes your paper. This is why they didn’t and couldn’t give any valid specific reasons for suddenly denying all your papers.”

Johnson had been receiving the paper while confined at Pendleton since November 2018. He said he plans to challenge impoundments of the Militant and other publications he gets like San Francisco Bay View and Socialist Viewpoint.

“We are aware,” Goldstein wrote, that Indiana Department of Correction Policy “does not specifically include a provision for a publisher to challenge administratively a DOC decision to withhold, censor or ban its publication.

“However, the U.S. Supreme Court has explicitly held that the rights of prisoners to receive publications extends to the rights of publishers to reach willing subscribers,” Goldstein wrote. “Publishers such as the Militant have a First Amendment right to send publications to inmates, particularly to disseminate political views.”

“Prisoners have the right to read the political materials they choose,” said Militant editor John Studer, “to think for themselves and be part of the world. As we’ve successfully done in Florida and other states, we vow to wage a public fight in defense of Kevin Johnson’s First Amendment rights.”

Letters urging prison authorities to overturn the suppression of the Militant should write to Chief Counsel Jon Ferguson, Indiana Department of Correction, 302 W. Washington St., Room E-334, Indianapolis, IN 46204, earmarked “Appeal of literature impoundment.” Please send a copy to the Militant.