The Militant was informed Sept. 1, after the latest issue had already gone to press, that prison authorities at the Federal Correctional Institution in Phoenix reversed the ban on issues no. 23 and 25. “Please be advised that the publication rejection at issue was revisited locally, which resulted in the publication being permitted to the intended recipient.” More on this important victory for the constitutional rights to free speech and freedom of the press in our next issue.
The June 29 banning of two issues of the Militant by the warden at the Federal Correctional Institution in Phoenix is a blatant violation of constitutional rights. It tramples on the Militant ’s right to reach its readers behind prison walls, and on the right of workers behind bars who’ve subscribed to the paper to read material of their choosing.
“Constitutional rights only have meaning if they are defended,” Militant editor John Studer said Aug. 29. “That’s why the letters from organizations and individuals demanding the ban be overturned are so important. And it’s why we’re getting a good response from groups like the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, civil rights groups, union members and more.”
“Pushing back this ban will be a victory not just for the Militant and our subscribers,” Studer said. “It will be a victory for all those who believe in free speech and freedom of the press, and the fights of people behind bars to follow and debate the big political questions of the day, to be part of the world.”
In banning Militant issue no. 23, the warden violated the U.S. Bureau of Prison’s own rules, which state that a publication may not be rejected “solely because its content is religious, philosophical, political, social or sexual, or because its content is unpopular or repugnant.”
The rules also state that the rejection “notice must contain reference to the specific articles(s) or material(s) considered objectionable.”
But the warden didn’t cite a single word, phrase or article in the issue. Instead the notice states, “this publication contains political extremism and is detrimental to the security, good order, or discipline of the institution.” And issue no. 25 was returned to the Militant without any notice or explanation at all.
The front page of no. 23 features an 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 in 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”?
The Militant ’s lawyer David Goldstein, of the prominent constitutional rights law firm of Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky & Lieberman, appealed the ban, but as of Aug. 31, hasn’t received a response from the Bureau of Prisons.
Goldstein noted in the appeal that the Militant has had inmate subscribers in numerous federal prisons for over 60 years without incident. An attempt to ban the Militant in a federal facility in Colorado in 2014 was reversed.
Justin Mazzola, deputy director of research for Amnesty International, wrote the Bureau of Prisons Aug. 31 that the ban on two issues of the paper “infringes upon prisoners’ rights to freedom of expression” and violates United Nations standards on treatment of prisoners.
PEN America, the U.S. branch of the international literary and human rights organization; the National Coalition Against Censorship, an alliance of national nonprofit groups; and the Arizona Newspapers Association, representing more than 80 newspapers across the state, are among the organizations that have sent letters calling for the ban of the socialist newsweekly to be reversed.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press posted its letter prominently on its website.
Help get letters protesting the ban on the Militant ! Raise this fight with your union or union officials, and other groups and individuals. Send the letters 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 email@example.com.