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Miracles still happen: A huge law firm is representing the Bay View on censorship at Pelican Bay

September 13, 2013

by Dr. Willie Ratcliff

On Aug. 14 we signed an engagement letter with Bryan Cave, one of the largest law firms in the world, to represent the Bay View in our fight against censorship at Pelican Bay.

'Pelican Bay Censorship' drawing by Michael Russell, web
“Pelican Bay Censorship” by Michael Russell, C-90473, PBSP SHU D7-217, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532
This miracle was set in motion by an amazing little law office, Bayview Hunters Point Community Legal, that some young, idealistic lawyers – recent graduates of the law school at USF – opened in a storefront in our hood to help the many of us here who can’t afford legal help. I’m proud to say I am now serving on the board.

We just learned when he stopped by the other day that an intern there is a recently released prisoner who subscribed to the Bay View for the entire 20 years he was encaged. Having worked as a jailhouse lawyer in prison, he is loving the work at Bayview Legal.

Bayview Legal doesn’t litigate, but they investigate a case and, if need be, prepare for a possible lawsuit. In our case, they wrote those strong letters to Pelican Bay and the Adult Facilities Division protesting the withholding of Bay View papers from subscribers. Then they put out a call for a pro bono attorney.

All the firms they invited to take our case said no – except Bryan Cave – where attorney Leila Knox, who interned a decade ago as a law student with the Prison Law Office and worked as a journalist prior to that, saw this case, involving media and prisons, as right up her alley.

Now let’s hope this is the harbinger of more miracles to come – first and foremost, Gov. Jerry Brown and Secretary Jeffrey Beard granting the hunger strikers’ five core demands.

Fighting censorship in prisons is fighting for the human rights and dignity of captives whose very humanity is regularly denied by their “keepers.” The media ban and the severe restrictions on communication of all kinds, especially in the SHU, make prisoners feel invisible. By publishing their voices, the Bay View, along with Revolution, Rock, Prison Focus, PHSS and SJRA Advocate, enables them to express their humanity and to exchange news, views, ideas, strategy, encouragement and inspiration.

That – and the heroic efforts of their loved ones – is how 30,000 California prisoners were inspired to join the hunger strike. Ironically, the prison most notorious for censorship, Pelican Bay, is where the calls for the hunger strikes and the Agreement to End Hostilities came from. So the writers couldn’t read their own words or the responses to them, but thousands of other California prisoners could.

And they heeded those calls, not because some “shot caller” ordered them to but because they want to end the specter and threat of solitary confinement hanging over their own heads and are willing to starve themselves to do it.

Now let’s hope this is the harbinger of more miracles to come – first and foremost, Gov. Jerry Brown and Secretary Jeffrey Beard granting the hunger strikers’ five core demands.

Bay View publisher Dr. Willie Ratcliff can be reached at publisher@sfbayview.com or (415) 671-0789.

 

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