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New proposed censorship rules mean more torture for California prisoners in solitary confinement

May 7, 2014
'Pelican Bay Censorship' drawing by Michael Russell, web

Drawing by Michael David Russell, C-90473, PBSP SHU D7-217, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

by Mutope Duguma

On April 7, the unit floor officer distributed a CDCr Notice of Rule Change to Regulations Sections 3006, 3134, and 3135, titled “Obscene Material Regulations.” (Links to relevant documents are listed below.) If these changes are approved, publications mailed to prisoners and considered to be in violation of the new regulations “shall be disallowed into the institution and included on the Department’s Centralized List of Disapproved Publications” – permanently banned.

If these changes are approved, publications mailed to prisoners and considered to be in violation of the new regulations “shall be disallowed into the institution and included on the Department’s Centralized List of Disapproved Publications” – permanently banned.

[Editor’s note: The nudity – “obscenity” – language seems to be a smokescreen for flat-out political censorship and banning as contraband of publications like the Bay View that enable prisoners to hold discussions and organize efforts to improve their situation. Typical of the Corrections officials’ excuse for the crackdown is this passage: “Subsection 3006(c)(19) is adopted to establish that inmates shall not possess or have under their control written material or photographs that indicate an association with a validated member or associate of a Security Threat Group (‘validated’ prisoners are the most prolific writers whose letters appear in the targeted publications), as described in Subsections 3378(c)(8)(C)-(D). This change is necessary to ensure the safety and security of the institutions by disallowing publications that indicate an association with groups that are oppositional to authority and society.” What’s oppositional is, of course, in the mind of the censor.]

The public comment period ends June 17, 2014, at 5 p.m. Written comments can be mailed to: Regulation and Policy Management Branch (RPMB), P.O. Box 942883, Sacramento CA 94283-0001. The contact person is Timothy M. Lockwood, chief of RPMB. If you have inquiries regarding the subject matter of the proposed regulations, call Christopher Abshire at 916-327-5305.

Prisoners would no longer be able to write to the media outlets that allow us to speak to our suffering.

A public hearing will be held on June 17, 10-11 a.m., in the Kern Room, located at 1515 S St., North Building, Sacramento CA 95811. The hearing is for the people to deliver oral comments, but your written comments are just as significant.

We must never forget that laws, rules, regulations and policies are established to systematically harm the people by creating deprivations that subject them to further oppressive conditions to which they are rendered helpless, as in the case with the ongoing torture and abuse of authority by CDCr officials.

The CDCr, with its cunning, conniving, manipulative, insidious, malicious, authoritative and incorrigible acts, is seeking approval of new regulations that are clearly geared toward taking away all prisoners’ First Amendment constitutional rights by proposing changes to the California Code of Regulations, Title 15, Crime Prevention and Corrections Division 3, Rules and Regulations of Adult Institutions, Programs and Parole Department, in Corrections and Rehabilitation – in two words, the “Rule Book.” These proposed changes will trump citizens’ and prisoners’ – our – constitutional rights and are an abomination of justice.

Where is the outrage?

We have to vigorously challenge this new attempt by the CDCr to confiscate books, magazines, newspapers and newsletters simply because Adult Institutions Division Director Michael Stainer and his cronies are retaliating against all who participated in the three hunger strikes held in order to put an end to the torture we all continue to suffer.

Our torture would be magnified under these new proposed rules that Stainer and his cronies are introducing by attempting to silence prisoners and publishers whose voices have been prominent in waging struggle against our perpetual suffering. CDCr wants to stifle our truths and disconnect us from society at large.

Our torture would be magnified under these new proposed rules that Stainer and his cronies are introducing by attempting to silence prisoners and publishers whose voices have been prominent in waging struggle against our perpetual suffering. CDCr wants to stifle our truths and disconnect us from society at large.

Prisoners would no longer be able to write to the media outlets that allow us to speak to our suffering, because CDCr is using their old, tired, worn-out line, “threat to safety and security of the penological interests.” Inventing a false security threat is their way to hide behind rules written to do away with our First Amendment rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

The PHSS News, Rock, Prison Focus, SF Bay View, Abolitionist, Prison Legal News, Turning The Tide, Final Call and countless other political literature will all be targeted under these proposed new regulations.

For example, the CDCr proposes, under the initial Statement of Reasons, Page 1, paragraphs 1 and 2: “The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) proposes to amend Sections 3006, 3141.1 and 3135 of the California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 15, Division 3, concerning obscene material disallowed from the institution as contraband. These amendments clarify Department regulations, in accordance with statute, concerning obscene material.”

An expert stipulates, “This amendment allows prison authorities to exclude obscene publications or writings and mail containing information concerning where, how or from whom this matter may be obtained.” The key word here is “exclude.” Any publication the Division of Adult Institutions (DAI) considers “obscene material” (which inexplicably includes political material, probably including all letters from or photographs of prisoners – ed.) could be excluded permanently from any California prison if these regulations are approved.

These new proposed regulations are designed to serve one purpose and that is to censor any writings, mailings and publications that educate the public to what is actually occurring in these prisons. Subsection 3134.1(d) as amended rules that “disallowance of the publication shall become permanent if DAI affirms the inclusion of the publication on the centralized list. If the DAI denies the request for inclusion, the institution shall deliver the publication to the inmate within 15 calendar days upon notification from DAI.”

These new proposed regulations are designed to serve one purpose and that is to censor any writings, mailings and publications that educate the public to what is actually occurring in these prisons.

Allowing these proposed regulations to be implemented will literally deny prisoners access to the publications they subscribe to, censor their writings and deny them their incoming and outgoing mail. The culture of the CDCr is already biased, prejudiced and racist against prisoners.

Bestowing on these prison officials the latitude to exercise their authority so arbitrarily speaks to their disregard for our constitutional rights. Withholding our publications, writings and mail while CDCr officials submit a request that said material be included on the Centralized List of Disapproved Publications – books, magazines, newspapers, newsletters etc. – is a mere pretext to censor our mail.

A publication’s value is based upon the timeliness of its delivery to its subscribers. Old news often loses all but its historical value. The CDCr know this very well; to propose a rule that allows them to withhold prisoners’ mail based on its content is an effort to make it irrelevant.

[Editor’s note: Even temporary “disallowance” can severely threaten First Amendment rights. In 2013, every month’s issue of the Bay View from January to June except February’s was “disallowed” at Pelican Bay State Prison and withheld until well after the hunger strike began on July 8. Those issues were packed with letters from prisoners explaining and discussing the reasons for the upcoming strike. Nevertheless, 30,000 prisoners across the state participated because other prisons did not withhold the paper from most Bay View subscribers. These regulations would expand Pelican Bay censorship to all prisons in an apparent effort to prevent another peaceful protest.]

Allowing CDCr to censor the content of our mail would violate not only the First Amendment but also CCR Title 15, Section 3135(b): “Disagreement with the sender’s or receiver’s morals, values, attitudes, veracity or choice of words will not be cause for correctional staff to disallow mail. Correctional staff shall not challenge or confront the sender or receiver with such value judgments.”

Allowing CDCr to censor the content of our mail would violate not only the First Amendment but also CCR Title 15, Section 3135(b): “Disagreement with the sender’s or receiver’s morals, values, attitudes, veracity or choice of words will not be cause for correctional staff to disallow mail. Correctional staff shall not challenge or confront the sender or receiver with such value judgments.”

If approved, CDCr’s proposed new regulations will nullify this section of Title 15 that protects prisoners’ rights to receive and send mail, including publications.

These new proposals will be very costly to the state, and CDCr is being deliberately deceptive, not only to prisoners in this regard, but to the business sector of society, especially publishers. Taxpayers will be footing the bill for the many First Amendment lawsuits that will be filed against CDCr for the constitutional violations that will occur if these changes are approved. Prison-oriented publications, if banned, may not survive.

The CDCr has literally been sucking the economic life out of California with an already bloated annual budget that may rise to $10 billion in the next few years and is currently steady at $.95 billion today – money that California taxpayers cannot afford.

CDCr has been an economic failure for California citizens. It’s a money laundering scheme that filters taxpayer money to the prison industrial slave complex. These proposals are very costly, and the bill will be paid by the citizens of this state.

CDCr has been an economic failure for California citizens. It’s a money laundering scheme that filters taxpayer money to the prison industrial slave complex. These proposals are very costly, and the bill will be paid by the citizens of this state.

The only reason CDCr is proposing these draconian measures is so that they can censor prisoner’s publications, mail and writings, which a reasonable mind can easily see is an arbitrary and deliberate abuse of authority, exposing its indifference to the rights of prisoners and taxpayers. It should be obvious that CDCr officials, with their propensity for retaliation against prisoners, are trying to disguise their attacks under the cover of these new proposals, which, if approved, will harm prisoners and destroy small businesses.

Mutope Duguma

Mutope Duguma

Is this even legal?

If ever there’s been a time that the people are in need of pro bono representation, the time is now! We call on the National Lawyers Guild and any attorney or law firm that believes in the First Amendment rights of the U.S. Constitution to challenge this blatant and retaliatory attack by the CDCR to silence all prisoners throughout the state. Publishers and media businesses that report and print prisoners’ horror stories, contact Mutope Duguma, s/n James Crawford, D-05996, PBSP SHU D2-107Up, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532.

Links to relevant documents

The following list comes from CDCr, at http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Regulations/Adult_Operations/Pending_Rules_Page.html#OM.

Title: Obscene Material
Section(s): 3006, 3134.1 and 3135
Notification Date: April 4, 2014
Public Hearing Date: June 17, 2014

 

 

 

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