As word has gotten out about the Militant’s appeal filed against prison authorities at Indiana’s Pendleton Correctional Facility banning subscriber Kevin “Rashid” Johnson from getting several issues of the paper, letters of protest have been sent to the Indiana Department of Correction urging this attack on the rights of both Johnson and the paper be reversed.
“Those behind bars are protected by the Bill of Rights,” wrote Dorothy Webster, a Walmart worker in Louisville, Kentucky. “They have the same right to read newspapers and books and exchange ideas that we outside the prisons enjoy. Please overturn the Pendleton Correctional Facility’s denial of Kevin Johnson’s rights.”
The Militant learned about these impoundments from Johnson, who sent a letter reporting prison authorities withheld four issues from him at the end of last year, claiming they were “Prohibited Property” and a “Security Risk.” He said he had followed the Militant’s successful fight against prison suppression in Florida and asked that the paper join him in fighting for his right to get the Militant and other literature denied him.
Pendleton officials never informed the Militant of the ban, nor, in violation of their own rules, have they given any explanation of what they find objectionable.
Johnson became a political activist and a leader of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party in prison. Incarcerated in Virginia, he has faced repeated transfers as authorities seek to isolate him — to Oregon, Texas, Florida, back to Virginia, now to Indiana. He had been receiving the Militant in Pendleton since November 2018, until prison officials banned it.
Militant attorney David Goldstein filed the paper’s appeal Jan. 15 requesting the Indiana Department of Correction reverse the ban or, if they decline to do so, to provide “specific reasons” why these issues are banned and allow the Militant to appeal.
Censoring reading materials “strikes at the heart of fundamental rights of U.S. citizens and at rights that should be enjoyed by all human beings, whether at large or incarcerated,” Bruce Levine, professor emeritus of history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, wrote to Indiana prison authorities Jan. 18. “I urge you in the strongest possible terms to reverse your decision to impound these materials.”
From Sellersburg, Indiana, James Horn called for lifting the ban, writing, “The Militant is a highly respected worldwide weekly socialist newspaper. While you may not like its political goals you will not find another publication more accurate in its analysis of local, national and international events.”
Send letters urging prison authorities to overturn the suppression of the Militant to Chief Counsel Jon Ferguson, Indiana Department of Correction, 302 W. Washington St., Room E-334, Indianapolis, IN 46204, earmarked “Appeal of literature impoundment.” Send a copy to the Militant at firstname.lastname@example.org.