Tag Archive: censorship

Books kept me alive in prison

books!
The end of the ban on sending books to prisoners in the UK reminds me just how vital they were to my survival inside, and to the life I have lived since

From The Guardian/ By Erwin James

The official lifting on the ban on sending books to prisoners, which comes into effect on Tuesday, finally brings to an end one of the most irrational and baffling Ministry of Justice policy decisions in recent times. When I consider my life before prison and my life after prison, the difference is so immense it’s almost immeasurable. In my heart, I know that I could not have made the changes I needed to make, to live a contributing life, without education and books.

In 2008 I wrote a piece about The Grass Arena, the life story of former vagrant John Healy who found redemption through chess. “A good book can change the way you think about life,” was how I started the piece. Healy’s book had been sent to me by a probation officer in 1990 when I was around six years into my life sentence and struggling. “Read what this man has achieved and be inspired,” she wrote in the inside cover. I did and I was. Never could I have imagined then that 18 years later I would be instrumental in getting The Grass Arena republished
as a Penguin Modern Classic
. This book is still a source of inspiration and hope today.

How any of us become who we are is a complicated process. I was already trying to figure it out long before I read about John Healy. It was the first year of my life sentence and I was locked in my cell in Wandsworth prison for 23 hours a day. I was without skills or abilities, but I could read. I’m sure the six books a week I was allowed from the prison library helped to keep me alive during that uncertain year, unlike the man in the cell above mine who hanged himself during my first Christmas inside.

At first I read so I wouldn’t have to think – then a friend sent me a book called Prisoners of Honour, a gripping account of the Dreyfus Affair by David Levering Lewis. This was the book that would really make me think and change the way I
thought about life. (more…)

Stop the regulations that would ban the Bay View from California prisons

“Censorship” – Art: Michael D. Russell, C-90473, PBSP D7-217, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

“Censorship” – Art: Michael D. Russell, C-90473, PBSP D7-217, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

From San Francisco Bay View

The public comment period is open now; it closes Nov. 10, 2014, at 5 p.m. See here for the text of the changes as revised (on Oct. 20) and here for the regs as originally proposed

Under the guise of “obscenity” regulations, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has proposed sweeping new political censorship rules for mail going both into and out of the prisons. We called for your help in June, and we’re calling for it again.

The CDCR promised to go back to the drawing board, saying the public had misunderstood its intent. Yet, the revisions recently made by the department are superficial and fail to address the serious concerns so many of us raised in our public comments.On Oct. 20, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) issued revisions to its proposed “obscene materials” or censorship regulations published earlier this year. This was in response to hundreds of public comments submitted to the department.

If the proposed regulations are approved, CDCR will be able to permanently ban any publications it considers contraband, including political publications and correspondence that should be protected by First Amendment constitutional rights. (Banning the Bay View, which CDCR blames for instigating the hunger strikes, seems to be a major objective. – ed.)

The proposed regulations are designed to (1) censor writings that educate the public about what is actually occurring inside the prisons, (2) stifle the intellectual, personal and political education and development of those incarcerated, (3) stifle efforts by prisoners to nonviolently organize, and (4) expand the CDCR’s ability to arbitrarily cut off its wards from direly needed contact and support coming from outside, thus further isolating them. (more…)

A Year After Mass Hunger Strike in California Prisons, What’s Changed?

hungerstrikeFrom Truth Out/ By Victoria Law

On July 8, 2013, 30,000 California prisoners launched what became a 60-day mass hunger strike. One year later, however, Luis Esquivel is still sitting in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) in solitary confinement in California’s Pelican Bay State Prison. “Right now, my uncle is in his cell with no windows,” said his niece, Maribel Herrera. “It’s like sitting in a bathroom – your sink is there, your toilet is there, your bed is there. And you’re just sitting there. I can only think about that for so long because it hurts.”

Herrera’s uncle has been in solitary confinement for 15 years. “I hadn’t seen my uncle since I was a child,” said Herrera. “I can’t even remember hugging him.” When she visited him in 2012, her first-ever visit to Pelican Bay, more than 850 miles away from her family’s home in San Diego, hers was the first visit Esquivel had received in seven years. (more…)

Censored and ‘Obscene’ in Solitary

After a huge hunger strike to protest the state prison system’s inhuman conditions, California is threatening to ban any written material deemed “oppositional to authority and society.”
Last week, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation proposed sweeping new regulations for mail going both into and out of the state’s prisons and jails. Coined “obscenity regulations,” on face value they appear to ban material that “depicts or describes sexual misconduct.” Yet, if you scroll further down the long, technical parameters laid out on CDCR’s website you’ll find they’re casting a much broader net—such as censorship of any material deemed “oppositional to authority and society.”“There’s a lot of non-sexual speech that will be banned if these regulations are put into effect,” says Paul Wright, Director of Prison Legal News. “This isn’t a new tactic, for hundreds of years the guise of ‘obscenity’ has been used to crush political speech, not just among prisoners, originally it was used to punish criticism of the church.”

It’s no coincidence that these enhanced restrictions are coming from California, where 29,000 prisoners went on hunger strike for 60 days last year in a historically unprecedented protest against inhumane prison conditions—namely prolonged solitary confinement. A large part of the hunger strike’s success in capturing international attention had to do with the ability of activists, lawyers and family members to get out the voices and opinions of the men inside who initiated the strike, at least in part through written correspondence. Under these new regulations, letters like those might not make it through next time. (more…)

Fight new prison censorship rules in California

“They want to be free to pursue the maintenance of the SHU torture units and the expansion of the prison industrial complex (and the ever-growing portion of the public’s tax dollars) without the prospect of legitimate criticism and the voice of opposition.” -Prisoner in Corcoran State Prison SHU

“They want to be free to pursue the maintenance of the SHU torture units and the expansion of the prison industrial complex (and the ever-growing portion of the public’s tax dollars) without the prospect of legitimate criticism and the voice of opposition.”
-Prisoner in Corcoran State Prison SHU

From Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity

We need your help. Under the guise of “obscenity” regulations, the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) has proposed sweeping new political censorship rules for mail going both into and out of the prisons.

If these changes are approved, CDCR will permanently ban any documents it defines as “contraband,” including political publications and correspondence that should be protected by First Amendment constitutional rights.

The proposed regulations are designed with two main purposes: to censor writings that educate the public about what is actually occurring inside the prisons, and to stifle the intellectual and political education and organizing of prisoners themselves.

1.) Please weigh in and speak out against these regulations. The public comment period is open until 5pm on June 17th. Resources to help craft a letter are provided at the action page.

2.) Spread the word on Facebook and ask your friends, family, neighbors, pastor, school class, place of worship, and organizations to write also.

Thank you for everything you do.

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

Previously-Secret Prison Docs Show Constitutional Violations in Experimental Prison Units

 

Daniel McGowan

Daniel McGowan

“This is the press release sent out by my attorneys at the Center for the Constitutional Rights regarding previously unseen documents about the Communication Management Units (CMUS) aka Lil Gitmo, run by the Bureau of Prisons. The documents reveal just what I have been saying since the day I got to the CMU in 2008-that myself and my former plaintiffs were sent there due to our political speech. A huge summary judgement motion brief was just filed and the protective order on these documents were lifted for the first time. We are asking the judge to rule on the case in our favor, with all that we have presented. The suit was first filed in April 2010 by CCR on behalf of myself and other CMU detainees. Despite my status as a released prisoner (and having been dismissed off the lawsuit by the judge for this reason), I maintain that political prisoner units are important to fight on multiple fronts. There are men in the CMU (and women at the FMC Carswell Admin Max unit) from our movements and many in need of support.” —Daniel McGowan

View all the documents in the CCR’s summary motion here.

For more information on Daniel’s case, see his article, “Court Documents Prove I Was Sent to CMU For My Political Speech.”

Docs Confirm Lack of Due Process in Communications Management Units, Attorneys Say

from Center for Constitutional Rights

April 23, 2014, Washington D.C.For the first time, hundreds of documents detailing the Bureau of Prisons’ process for designating prisoners to controversial Communications Management Units (CMUs) are public. The documents had been under a protective order in the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) lawsuit, Aref v. Holder, since CCR filed the case in 2010. (more…)

Kevin is Finally Receiving Books! Thanks to Everyone Who Applied Pressure

prison-bible1-95764_200x200From SupportKevinandTyler.com

After a tug-a-war between jail superintendent Michael Waterworth and the (much more reasonable) people above him, fairness prevailed and Kevin is now receiving books.

Thanks to everyone who spoke up on Kevin’s and Tyler’s behalf (and everyone imprisoned in Woodford County).

Kevin’s book wish list is here, so if you have the means, please send him a book (or just a letter).

Thanks again for everyone’s support.

Kevin Still Hasn’t Received Books as Jail Refuses to Comply with Orders to Lift Book Ban

book-banfrom SupportKevinandTyler.com

Jail continues to enforce a de facto book ban by holding all incoming books.

Last week, Kevin Olliff ended his hunger strike after orders came from above that Michael Waterworth must lift the book ban.

Now, the jail is seeking a loophole to continue to deny books to Kevin. As of today, Kevin has still not received any book sent to him since the ban was supposed to have been lifted. (more…)

VICTORY: The book ban has been lifted! Kevin ends hunger strike

books posterFrom Support Kevin & Tyler

The book ban has been lifted + Kevin ends hunger strike.

After 8 days on a hunger strike, jail head Michael Waterworth told Kevin Olliff he was lifting the book ban. This huge victory comes after Kevin lost close to 20 pounds over the 8 days. Kevin has now ended his hunger strike, effective immediately.

Thanks to everyone worldwide who made calls, wrote articles, and organized support during Kevin’s hunger strike. While it is always unfortunate when someone is pushed into starving themselves to receive a basic human right, we can say that from everyone’s hard work and Kevin’s sacrifice, this episode has a happy ending.

Kevin at his first meal in over a week at lunchtime on Thursday, and was given a book. He was told the books that have been sent during the book ban will be given to him by the end of the day. (more…)

Kevin Olliff is now on hunger strike

From Support Kevin & Tyler

Kevin Olliff is on hunger strike until the Woodford County Jail book ban is reversed.

It has been over 6 weeks since Michael Waterforth banned all books from entering the Woodford County Jail. The psychological toll of life in a cell without any way to pass the time has been nearly insufferable, as they are forced to waste away without even the most basic form of mental stimulation.

Today Kevin announced that he is prepared to go without food until the book ban is lifted. The hunger strike is effective as of midnight, Wednesday night.

What you can do (more…)