Prison officials at Florida’s privately run Blackwater River Correctional Facility banned an issue of the Militant on Feb. 1.
Their reason? According to the rejection notice sent to the paper, they allege that two front-page articles in issue no. 4 — one on a victorious strike by the New York State Nurses Association and the other on the “Women, life, freedom” protests in Iran — present “a threat to the security, order, or rehabilitative objectives” of the prison.
Yes, you read it right. Florida prison officials are preventing the Militant ’s subscribers behind bars from reading the paper because we reported on a strike by nurses and featured coverage of protests against the death penalty in Iran.
“This blatant violation of the constitutional protections of freedom of the press and the right of inmates to read the news they want cannot be allowed to stand,” said Militant editor John Studer. “We call on labor unions, news and press-freedom organizations, and others outraged by the ban to send protest letters to the Florida prison system’s Literature Review Committee demanding the suppression of the paper be reversed.”
Florida prison authorities have attempted to ban the Militant on numerous occasions over the last decade, but the socialist newsweekly challenged each attempt and in the overwhelming majority of cases the bans were overturned. This is the first time Florida officials have tried to impose a ban in nearly two years.
Blackwater River is part of the Florida prison system but is managed by a private company, Geo Group Inc., the second-largest private prison company in the U.S. Formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, the Florida-based company owns or manages 106 prisons worldwide.
Geo Group touts its commitment to “Corporate Social Responsibility” and “enhanced rehabilitation.” Apparently its definition of those terms does not include respect for the Constitution.
In 2013 Blackwater River authorities tried to ban five issues of the Militant, arguing, “The entire publication is viewed as a threat to security.” But after the American Civil Liberties Union joined with the paper to challenge the ban, Geo Group reversed itself, claiming it was just a clerical error.
While most of the Militant ’s subscribers in some 23 Florida prisons have not indicated any problem with getting their paper, inmates at two of the state’s facilities — Wakulla and Charlotte prisons — say their papers have been impounded without officials informing either them or the Militant. This would be a serious violation of the Florida Department of Corrections’ own rules.
As David Goldstein, the Militant ’s attorney, files the challenge to Blackwater’s attempt to suppress it, he will also ask for an end to any improper ban elsewhere.
Militant readers can join the fight to reverse the ban, sending letters and talking to co-workers, fellow unionists and others about sending letters to Florida prison authorities requesting the ban be reversed.
Letters can be emailed to Saritza.Legault@fdc.myflorida.com and Melvin.Herring@fdc.myflorida.com or via post office mail to Florida DC Literature Review Committee, 501 South Calhoun Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399-2500.
Please send a copy to the Militant.