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Vol. 81/No. 9      March 6, 2017

(front page)

Illinois prison censors ‘Militant’ articles on
free-speech fight in NY

Authorities at the Illinois River Correction Center in Canton, Illinois, have impounded for review and denied a long-term subscriber there three issues of the Militant. The reason? Each contains articles reporting on the Militant’s fight against censorship at the Attica Correctional Facility in New York.

The “censorship and disapproval by Illinois River would violate the First Amendment rights of The Militant and its subscribers, The Militant’s Due Process rights, and the applicable regulations by which literature to inmates is reviewed,” attorney David Goldstein wrote in an objection sent to the prison’s publication review officer Feb. 16. Goldstein represents the Militant for the prominent civil liberties firm Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky & Lieberman.

Illinois River prison authorities claim Militant issues no. 41, 45 and 46, dated Oct. 31, Nov. 28, and Dec. 12, 2016, are “detrimental to security, good order, rehabilitation, or discipline or it might facilitate criminal activity or be detrimental to mental health.” For issue no. 41, the review notice adds, “work stoppage and prison rebellion,” with no further explanation.

The notices impounding the paper were dated Dec. 10, 2016, but not sent to the Militant until Jan. 27 — 48 days later, in violation of Illinois state law.

The Oct. 31 issue (no. 41) reported the paper’s intent to challenge Attica’s impoundment of the Oct. 3 Militant, which had featured coverage on the 45th anniversary of the 1971 Attica prison rebellion. It also ran an article reporting on several protest actions that took place in prisons in the U.S. demanding higher wages and better conditions.

“Illinois River (correctly) found no reason to reject or censor” the Oct. 3 issue, noted Goldstein, “and provided no explanation why No. 41 reporting on censorship is objectionable.”

Illinois River officials withheld two further issues of the paper reporting on Attica’s censorship. These articles included statements of support from the New York Civil Liberties Union, PEN America, National Lawyers Guild and other groups.

Given that these articles “are merely reporting on a legal challenge to the censorship of another correctional facility, it is difficult to conclude that the censoring of these three issues is anything other than a blanket ban on any mention of prisoners’ constitutional rights,” Goldstein said. “However, prison authorities have no license either to single out The Militant for censorship because of disagreement with its viewpoint, or to ban any mention of prisoner’s constitutional rights.”

The Militant is mailed to 140 subscribers in some 72 prisons in the U.S., and is read by many others.

“The constitutional rights to free speech and freedom of the press do not stop at the prison gates,” said Militant editor John Studer. “Workers behind bars have the right to read different political views and form their own opinions.

“And like we’ve done with the Attica fight, we’ll be seeking statements of support from individuals and groups demanding an end to censorship at Illinois River,” he said.

To send a statement of support or make a financial contribution to the Militant’s fight against censorship, contact or write the paper at 306 W. 37th Street, 13th floor, New York, N.Y. 10018.  
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