Florida prison officials are at it again. On Oct. 3 the Militant received notice from Florida State Prison in Raiford that they had impounded issue no. 38. The reason? Because of the article on pages 1 and 2 titled “Join the Fight to Overturn Florida’s Ban on the ‘Militant’ in State Prisons.” Officials don’t cite the same article that appears in the Spanish-language section of the same issue.
Authorities have impounded five of the last nine issues of the paper — nos. 30, 31, 33, 34 and now 38.
They claim they are “dangerously inflammatory,” pointing to any article in each they say “advocates or encourages riot, insurrection, rebellion, organized prison protest, disruption of the institution, or the violation of the federal law, state law, or Department rules.”
But they don’t give any explanation of what it is in these articles they find objectionable.
Issue no. 30 was banned for an article reporting on a rally in California by inmates’ family members and supporters urging the state government take steps to relieve dangerous overcrowding in prisons there amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Issue no. 31 was suppressed for an article that opposed violence at protests against police brutality in Portland, Oregon, by both antifa and federal cops.
Issues nos. 33 and 34, just like no. 38, were banned for articles reporting on the impoundment of the paper and on letters sent to the Florida Department of Corrections Literature Review Committee urging them to reverse the ban.
At issue in all these cases is the constitutional right of the Militant to get out its political point of view and for its subscribers behind bars to be able to read it.
Militant attorney David Goldstein has filed appeals with the committee on the previous four impoundments and is preparing to do the same for issue no. 38. The committee upheld the banning of issue no. 30, without explanation, and the Militant has not heard any rulings on the other ones.
Issue no. 38 included an attractive collage of letters sent by prominent supporters of political rights asking that the suppression of the Militant be reversed. They were from the Florida Press Association, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Amnesty International USA, American Civil Liberties Union — Florida and PEN America. Others have also added their names since, including the prestigious News Leaders Association, African Diaspora Association of Canada and a number of individuals.
“With this latest impoundment, it’s clear more publicity and pressure is needed to convince Florida prison officials to overturn these bans,” said Militant editor John Studer. “This attack on freedom of the press is a serious violation of our rights, and we’ve been running weekly articles about the growing support for stopping these confiscations. And we will continue doing so.”
“Our readers behind bars in Florida ask us to join them in this fight,” he said. “And we’ve received more subscriptions from prisoners there since it began.”
Send letters to Dean Peterson, Literature Review Committee, Florida Department of Corrections, 501 South Calhoun Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399 or via email at Allen.Peterson@fdc.myflorida.com, with a copy to the Militant.