Prison officials in Pennsylvania revoke ban on the ‘Militant’

By Terry Evans
August 17, 2020

In an important victory for the rights of workers behind bars and of the press, Pennsylvania state prison officials overturned Camp Hill State Correctional Institution’s ban on issue no. 28 of the Militant on Aug. 3.  The paper’s attorney, David Goldstein, had informed prison officials that the Militant was prepared to appeal the impoundment.

The reversal of the ban was made possible because an inmate who subscribes to the paper mailed the Militant to report his issue had been impounded and he was challenging the ban. “Please help me fight out there,” he wrote.

When Goldstein contacted Diana Woodside, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections official responsible for reviewing literature bans in state prisons, she said Camp Hill hadn’t sent her a notice of impoundment. She told Goldstein to send the issue and her office would review it.

“The Policy Office is reversing the SCI denial,” Woodside wrote Aug. 3. “The publication will be delivered to the inmate.”

The Militant intends to check with him to make sure he got it.

“We fight every time prison officials anywhere try to ban the paper, and in most cases we win,” said editor John Studer. “Prisoners have the right to read the political views they’re interested in, to hear about and speak out on political questions and social struggles.”

The inmate had sent the Militant the form he was given, which justified the confiscation on the basis of pages 3 and 4 in the issue. But they didn’t offer any reason why the news stories on those pages would “create a danger within the context of the correctional facility.”

In fact what those articles describe are protests demanding the prosecution of police officers who killed Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, and Elijah McClain in Aurora, Colorado, as well as reports on the Socialist Workers Party presidential campaign. The “dangerous” pages include a picture of Alyson Kennedy, the party’s candidate for president, and Malcolm Jarrett for vice president joining striking shipyard workers in Bath, Maine, on their picket line to offer solidarity. Page 4 also reprints the party’s 2020 campaign platform.

Pennsylvania prisons are home to the second largest number of inmate subscribers after Florida. Had authorities at Camp Hill followed their own rules and informed state prison officials of their ban, all other prisons across the state would have been told to impound that issue.

“Fighting every ban on the Militant is part of the broader working-class struggle against attacks on political rights and free speech,” Studer said.

According to their records, the Militant has never been banned in the Pennsylvania prison system.