The story of the 30,000 California prisoners who started a hunger strike on July 8, 2013 to protest against long-term solitary confinement and other abuses was censored, and the worst facts were hidden. Although the prisoners suspended their strike on 5 September, the prisons have continued mistreating them because they went on strike. The prisons have taken away prisoners’ newspapers, including The Militant and other publications that supported the prisoners’ strike. Prison censorship of these publications has occurred in California state prisons and in the state prisons in Florida and Washington.
The Militant received a notice on 9 September from an inmate in Florida’s Santa Rosa Correctional Institution. The notice said that on July 22nd his issue of The Militant, which covered the launch of the hunger strike, had been impounded. Washington state prisons also impounded inmates’ subscriptions.
One publication, Prison Legal News, has been facing this problem since it was founded in 1990. Paul Wright started Prison Legal News as a newsletter when he was incarcerated in a Washington state prison in 1987. He told The Militant, “When I first went into prison in Washington, the list of reasons for denying material to the prisoners was eight pages and today it’s 35 pages long.” Wright said, “We’ve been very successful challenging censorship, but we don’t have the resources to meet every move.” The newsletter currently has 7,000 subscribers and more inmates are interested. Yet, since Florida banned Prison Legal News, the paper has lost 300 subscribers. “What The Militant faced in Florida, is part of the effort of the authorities to constrict political space for everyone.” said Wright.
The American Civil Liberties Union has teamed up with The Militant to help fight censorship within prisons. So far, they have won victories in two Florida prisons, where inmates are once again getting their papers delivered to them. The American Civil Liberties Union and The Militant continue to fight for the inmates in Washington prisons.
John Struder, “Prison Hunger Strikers Face Reprisals as Papers that Back them are Censored,” San Francisco Bay View, November 17, 2013, http://sfbayview.com/2013/prison-hunger-strikers-face-reprisals-as-papers-that-back-them-are-censored/.
John Struder, “‘Militant,’ other publications fight prison censorship,” The Militant, November 11, 2013, http://www.themilitant.com/2013/7740/774005.html.
John Struder, “Prison hunger strikers face reprisals as papers that back them are censored,” The Militant, November 25, 2013, http://www.themilitant.com/2013/7742/774204.html
Student Researcher: Austin Parriott (Indian River State College)
Faculty Evaluator: Elliot Cohen (Indian River State College)