In the first attempt since 2018 by federal prison authorities to suppress the Militant, the warden at the Federal Correctional Institution in Phoenix rejected an issue of the paper June 29 that had been sent to an inmate subscriber there.
The warden gave no reason for banning the socialist newsweekly, issue no. 23, other than the false claim that it contains “political extremism and is detrimental to the security, good order, or discipline of the institution.” Along with the notice, prison authorities returned the banned issue as well as issue no. 25, although no rejection notice for that issue was included.
Attorney David Goldstein — from the prominent constitutional rights law firm of Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky & Lieberman — has informed prison officials he is preparing the Militant’s appeal of the Phoenix ban.
The notice is in violation of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons’ own regulations, which state that a rejection notice, “must contain reference to the specific article(s) or materials(s) considered objectionable.” Not a single article or sentence from the banned issue is cited.
Nothing in the prison regulations authorize a ban for “political extremism,” whatever that means. The bureau’s rules explicitly say that a warden “may not reject a publication solely” because its political content is “unpopular or repugnant” in the eyes of prison officials.
The front page of issue no. 23 includes a feature article opposing Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and another titled “Gun violence, crime are result of today’s crisis of capitalism.” Inside is a feature explaining the importance of working people opposing antisemitism. There is also coverage of a strike by members of the United Mine Workers in Alabama, who have been on strike at Warrior Met Coal for 16 months, and other labor battles. Are these what the warden considers “political extremism” or “detrimental to the security” of the institution?
The Militant currently has nearly 200 inmate subscribers across the country, a dozen or so in federal facilities. Many of those subscribers have been receiving the paper for years, for the most part without problems. The Militant has also stood up, with overwhelming success, to numerous attempts over the last decade by state prison authorities in Florida and other states to suppress the paper.
Meanwhile, the Nation, a “progressive” magazine, has had at least five issues banned in Arizona state prisons over the last 18 months. With the aid of the American Civil Liberties Union Prison Project, the magazine is demanding prison officials release the suppressed issues.
“Prisoners have the constitutional right to read news and books of their choice, to consider different viewpoints, to form their own opinions,” Militant editor John Studer said in an Aug. 1 interview. “The ban in Phoenix is a blatant attempt to violate that right and the right of the Militant to reach our subscribers precisely when growing numbers of working people on both sides of the prison walls are looking for a way forward out of today’s crisis of capitalist rule.
“Our readers can aid the effort to overturn this unconstitutional ban,” Studer said. “Get your union, church groups, community organizations and prominent individuals you know to write to the Federal Bureau of Prisons calling on them to reverse the ban. Circulate petitions among your co-workers that can be sent in.”
PDF files of the two rejected issues can be viewed and downloaded at themilitant.com.
Send letters and petitions to Melissa Rios, Western Regional Director, Federal Bureau of Prisons, 7338 Shoreline Dr., Stockton, CA 95219, or via email to WXRO-ExecAssistant@bop.gov. Send copies to firstname.lastname@example.org.