The assistant warden at Santa Rosa Correctional Institution ordered the impoundment of three issues in April and May, falsely claiming an article in each “encourages activities which may lead to the use of physical violence or group disruption;” “encourages riot, insurrection, disruption of the institution;” and “it encourages or instructs in the commission of criminal activity.”
The impoundment notices don’t even indicate which article the assistant warden claims are offensive. Instead, each notice gives the page numbers the articles are on. The articles in the three issues that match those pages reported on May Day actions calling for amnesty for immigrants and opposing deportations.
Florida regulations say local prison officials’ decisions to impound newspapers and books are to be reviewed by the Department of Corrections’ Literature Review Committee. Pending review, copies of the materials are to be impounded in all Florida prisons.
May Day protests across the country were widely covered in the media, both before and after they took place. Two of the Militant articles reprinted statements by Socialist Workers Party candidates urging workers to join the public, legal marches and rallies. The third was a news article headlined, “Join May Day Protests! Demand Amnesty for Immigrant Workers!”
“This is simply political speech and the prison censorship is a flagrant violation of the constitutional rights of free speech and freedom of the press,” said Militant editor John Studer. “Prisoners have the right to read political and other news, to think for themselves and to consider different points of view. And the Militant has the right to have its point of view read and considered.”
Prison officials in Florida were forced to reverse previous attempts to censor the Militant in 2013, 2015 and 2016, after the Militant launched a public campaign and legal appeal in defense of the right of prisoners to read material of their choosing.
The Militant has also successfully fought attempts to censor the paper at Attica state prison in New York and is currently fighting the impoundment of the paper at the Illinois River Correctional Institute in Canton, Illinois.
“Literature is not what causes disruption,” a prisoner at Santa Rosa wrote to the Militant during the 2016 fight. “Nowhere do I recall literature causing physical violence.”
Previous battles against prison censorship of the Militant have won support from the National Lawyers Guild; the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida; the New York Civil Liberties Union; Stop Prison Abuse Now, a prison reform organization in Miami; Paul Wright, editor of Prison Legal News; the San Francisco Bay View newspaper; the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; PEN America; the Riverside Church Prison Ministry; and others.
David Goldstein, of the well-known civil liberties law firm Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky & Lieberman, will represent the Militant’s appeal of the Florida censorship. The Militant has eight subscribers at Santa Rosa.
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