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Opposition to new prison censorship rules comes from The Netherlands

June 14, 2014

This letter was submitted to CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) by emailing it to RPMB@cdcr.ca.gov. Readers are urged to submit  your comments by the deadline, Tuesday, June 17, at 5 p.m., by using that email address or going to Tell CDCR What You Think About the Proposed Censorship Regulations.

Amsterdam, June 14, 2014 –I am a European national living in The Netherlands. I correspond with people inside California prisons. Among the things we write about is political analysis, comparing European politics with U.S. politics, discussing issues of discrimination, racism, poverty and its connection to crime and how we can build a better society, amongst other things.

Argentina censorshipWe base our discussions and growth of ideas on publications such as but not limited to The Nation, Rolling Stone, SF Bay View, California Prison Focus, Rock and many more that are available for subscription and online for us on the outside.

Now I have heard that CDCR has proposed regulations to censor “obscene” text and images, but that is of course not restricted to nudity – a restriction which, in the eyes of many of us in the rest of the world, is already questionable.

Under these new regulations, CDCR will permanently ban any documents it defines as “contraband,” including political publications and correspondence that should be protected by First Amendment constitutional rights.

CDCR officials state that the purpose of these censorship rules is to forbid “publications that indicate an association with groups that are oppositional to authority and society.” This ominous language reveals the political underpinnings of these proposed changes – changes that impose even more rules, more censorship, less education, less contact, less of what makes us human. This is extremely bad for all humans involved in the criminal justice system, and only creates more problems.

I am asking you: Why are prison officials attempting to increase the political, mental and emotional isolation of people in solitary confinement struggling to resist an already crushing physical isolation?

Why are prison officials attempting to increase the political, mental and emotional isolation of people in solitary confinement struggling to resist an already crushing physical isolation?

If this rule is allowed, will I then be associated with a so-called STG (Security Threat Group, the new term for gang) if I write about politics, racism and rising fascism as being installed in the state of California?

Here in The Netherlands and in Britain, our parents, grandparents, other family members and many of their fellow countrymen fought against fascism, occupation and censorship by the occupying fascist regime in World War II. In The Netherlands, a “Kultuurkamer” (“Culture Chamber”) was imposed on us by the German (Nazi) occupying army, forcing artists, journalists and authors to choose either to become a member and submit their work to the censors, to publish their work underground, clandestinely, or to perish without an income.

Thus the Kultuurkamer censored the press plus artistic expression, keeping the public uninformed about news analysis and possible criticism.

In The Netherlands during World War II, the Kultuurkamer imposed by the Nazis censored the press plus artistic expression, keeping the public uninformed about news analysis and possible criticism.

CDCR wants to propose an even stricter set of regulations than is already in existence to restrict what people in prison read and write and what the public outside read and write to their loved ones inside. Is this really necessary? Is this not just because CDCR fears criticism coming from those it keeps in prison in SHUs (solitary confinement) forever?

Is it not time to release the people from the SHU within a reasonable time, regardless of their affiliations, race or culture, but solely based on if they used violence, and only then for a restricted period of time?

Is it not time to release the people from the SHU within a reasonable time, regardless of their affiliations, race or culture, but solely based on if they used violence, and only then for a restricted period of time?

Please see through this new censorship rule of CDCR, which is a body that is fearful of any criticism from within and outside.

Please do not let your beautiful First Amendment be tarnished by CDCR’s usurpatory regulations. It is illegal according to Justice Thurgood Marshall’s opinion in Procunier v. Martinez. The Supreme Court has already held as protected speech under the First Amendment prisoners’ right to both criticize and protest prison conditions and regulations as they are clearly subjects of public interest.

Please do not let your beautiful First Amendment be tarnished by CDCR’s usurpatory regulations. It is illegal according to Justice Thurgood Marshall’s opinion in Procunier v. Martinez.

In “The First Amendment Rights of Prisoners,” published by the Northwestern University School of Law in the Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology and Police Science in 1972, Barry M. Fox writes: “(R)eviewing courts should consider carefully the words Justice Frankfurter wrote in a similar context:

“‘Freedom of expression is the wellspring of our civilization – the civilization we seek to maintain and further … The treatment of its minorities, especially their legal position, is among the most searching tests of the legal civilization attained by a society. It is better for those who have almost unlimited power of government in their hands to err on the side of freedom.’ (Dennis v. United States, 341 U.S. 494, 548-50 (1951) (Frankfurter, J. concurring).

“State interests on many levels will be best served by greater not lesser First Amendment rights for our incarcerated minority.”

Legal analysis

The proposed regulations would expand the definition of contraband to include “written materials or photographs that indicate an association with validated STG members or associates” – Section 3006(c)(19).

What most concerns me personally is this potential outcome, published in a legal analysis: “Under the new, pending Security Threat Group regulations, CDCR will be able to validate non-prisoners and non-parolees. This means that family members and activists are not immune from being validated as STG members/associates. Further, under those proposed regulations, the number of groups that can be validated as STGs is expanded. In combination, the STG regulations and the contraband regulations greatly expand the sheer number of items that will be deemed contraband.”

Under the new, pending Security Threat Group regulations, CDCR will be able to validate non-prisoners and non-parolees. Family members and activists are not immune from being validated.

This means I will possibly be named a “STG associate” solely through my letters to and from people CDCR has designated as being “validated” gang, or STG, members, without them having done anything but write political essays analyzing the growing fascism inside CDCR, amongst other political issues, and the websites I keep as archives of their articles, for the general public to read and share. CDCR has already been working on this by mentioning my name as an “associate” in a bogus write-up a friend received, which we are fighting.

This is a very serious threat to the First Amendment and to the human rights of people inside and also outside prison, those who assist people inside cope with the oppressiveness of this inhumane system (CDCR) that is more and more used as a political tool by the governing elite and a money machine by those who run it and who choose the elected governor of California.

This is a very serious threat to the First Amendment and to the human rights of people inside and also outside prison, those who assist people inside cope with the oppressiveness of this inhumane system (CDCR) that is more and more used as a political tool by the governing elite and a money machine by those who run it.

As a European, a world citizen, an intellectual and a fighter for human rights and decency, I strongly protest these proposed regulations.

Yours faithfully,

A. Parker, The Netherlands

More information

California Court Says Prisoners Have First Amendment Right to Receive ‘Snail Mail’ Printed From the Internet” by the ACLU, Sept. 11, 2002

Prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com

CDCr counterpunch: New rules designed to silence prison protest” by Mutope Duguma, incarcerated in Pelican Bay SHU

New proposed censorship rules mean more torture for California prisoners in solitary” by Mutope Duguma, incarcerated in Pelican Bay SHU

Fact Sheet by Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity

Legal Analysis by Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity

A. Parker, who can be reached at people.matter@ymail.com, urges readers to write your comment by the deadline, Tuesday, June 17, at 5 p.m. PST, and email it to RPMB@cdcr.ca.gov.

 

One thought on “Opposition to new prison censorship rules comes from The Netherlands

  1. Galeus Canis

    the only way to battle this is to INSIST on the transparency of corrections as a business and an institution… hey look at that, two birds,and only one stone!!

    Reply

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