Saturday, February 23, 2013

Books are our real weapons

This was written for and published in: Nevada Prisoners' Newsletter #13 (2013) [to be uploaded]

Before I make my statement, and bring to the attention or E.S.P. prisoners the situation going on here, first allow me to open this article with a brilliant quote from a brilliant, dedicated comrade of mine (whom I wish would frequently write more articles for the NPN, to help give these prisoners more of a social consciousness :( ), it goes like this:

“To complete the revivication of our innermost individuality and breath the potential back into the listless body that becomes us, understanding of reality becomes essential in shattering the disinformation oppressors of every sort have forcefully shoved down our throats since birth. Those who wish to keep us enslaved have always related that we are to accept their anthologies of dogma and not once question their explanation (justifications) of our conditions.” – Victor TrayWay

Okay, now with that quote on your minds, please allow me to proceed…

It has come to my attention that AWP Burns has been categorically denying various prisoners books by outright rejecting their book approvals! This goes to show that the E.S.P. administration wants to dictate what we can and cannot read (but only if we let them!). Because, truth be told, what they’re doing is illegal (according to their own laws) and a blatant violation of our Fourteenth Amendment rights (Due Process) and our First Amendment Rights (Freedom of Speech)… (the “rights” that they supposedly give us, yet violate on a consistent basis).

Now, I’m no jailhouse lawyer, unfortunately, but I do know enough to know that here at Ely State Prison we are supposed to have what is called a Publication Review Committee. This Publication Review Committee is put in place to review books that they “think” could possibly pose a threat to the safety and security of the institution. Once these books are sent in, then they could review them. After the books have been reviewed, then they could decide whether to reject them or let us have them. This is called Due Process. To outright deny our book approvals, without even allowing the Publication Review Committee to review these books is a violation of Due Process.

Furthermore, the only reason that they could legally deny us books is if they could actually prove that the books indeed pose a threat to the safety and security of the institution. Currently, the AWP is trying to deny us books that this prison actually carries in the E.S.P. Library! He wants us to tell him what each book is about before he approves them. Well, how are we supposed to know what the books are about until we’ve received them?

Secondly, we don’t have to tell him what the books are about. This is why we have a special form, an “Inmate Book Request” form (DOC 1562) that we have to fill out when we want an approval to order books from the outside. The DOC-1562 form has the stipulations printed on it and nowhere on that form does it say we have to tell him what those books are about. If they feel that the books could possibly pose a threat to the safety and security of the institution, then they could review them at the Publication Review Committee. It even says right there on the “Inmate Book Request” )DOC-1562 form):

“All books received may be reviewed for content by the Publication Review Committee.”

Fortunately, they are not denying everybody approval for books, but we do know for a fact that there are many of us who have had our book approvals rejected, and, as pointed out above, the only penological reason they could have for denying us new, paperback books that come from an Authorized Vendor, via First Class Mail, is if they can prove that these books actually pose a threat to the safety and security of the institution. They cannot deny us books simply ‘cuz they don’t like them, or ‘cuz they disagree with the content.

It even says in AR 750:

“A magazine or publication may not be rejected solely because its content is religious, philosophical, political, social, or sexual or because its content is unpopular, repugnant, or does not agree with commonly held beliefs and practices.” [F, pt 5, page 7]

That is exactly what it says in the AR, and believe me when I tell you that the AR is mandated by law (by their laws): NRS 209.131; 209.365. Many prisoners in many states have sued over these same reasons and have won. This is definitely something worth fighting for. We should be able to read what we want to read, not what they want us to read.

We can challenge this through grievances and through the courts (their courts). Every time they reject one of our book approval forms that is a violation of Due Process, and of Freedom of Speech. The more evidence we collect, and the more they violate our rights, the more money we could sue them for (anybody looking for a hustle, here you go!), but more importantly we can use their weapons (the law, the courts) against them so that we can get them to stop these arbitrary and discriminatory practices and oppressive tactics against us.

I would like to ask E.S.P. prisoners to start a paper trail and start challenging this. You can do this by writing a kite to all of the wardens, your caseworkers and the property sgt, asking them who is all on the Publication Review Committee? Asking them what’s the purpose of the Publication Review Committee? Write kites to AWP Burns and to Warden Baker, explaining to them that they cannot deny our book approvals without first reviewing the books. Collect all the evidence you can collect, and every time one of your book approvals is rejected, save that too.

For further information into all of this, check out these things from the Law Library:

- AR 750
- NRS 209.131
- NRS 209.365
- U.S. v. Eichmann, 496 US 310, 319, 110 SCT 2404 (1990)
- Police Dept. of Chicago v. Mosley, 408 US 92, 95, 92 SCT 2286, 2290 (1972)
- Pell v. Procunier, 417 US 817, 822, 94 SCT 2800, 2804 (1974)
- Turner v. Safley, 482 US 78, 107 SCT 2245 (1987)
- Bell v. Wolfish, 441 US 551, 99 SCT 1880
- Abu-Jamal v. Price, 154 F3d 128 (3rd Cir., 1998)
- X v. Blatter, 175 F3d 378 (6th Cir., 1999)

I encourage prisoners to check out these materials from the library and do their own research. [...]

Books are our real weapons. The knowledge contained within the pages is what we gain strength from. And with that strength there’s no limit to what we can do! Those who keep us confined and who hold us captive have clearly shown that they don’t want us in here gaining knowledge or getting strong. So these types of tactics are to be expected – but never accepted!

It reminds me of the History books that I’ve read about slavery. I mean the real History books like Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States 1492-present,” real history that explains what really happened, not the history that we’ve been force-fed in school.

In the History books I’ve read about slavery it explains how the slave-owners made it illegal for a slave to learn how to read and write. Why? Because in order to keep their slaves servile, they had to keep them uneducated, ignorant and always dependent on “Master.”

For those of you in prison who do not see how all of this correlates to our situation here, then I would advise you to take a more critical, analytical, deeper look at yourself, your oppressor, your circumstances, the environment you live in now and the environment you grew up in, and take a deep hard look at the nature of power, and see that it is those in power who oppress, exploit, and enslave those who have no power; the poor, the weak, the lower class, the minority.

But it is through that strength that we find the confidence and the determination to strive for our liberation from these chains; from slavery, from oppression. The administration here at ESP understands this better than we do. That’s why they try to make it so difficult for us to get our books in. Imagine if we were in here educating ourselves, learning how to use the law as a weapon, learning how to use History as a weapon. Imagine if we were in here learning Economics, Sociology, Philosophy, Anthropology, and then using this knowledge to construct our own societies with our own social and economic systems. Imagine all of the different ways we could empower ourselves with knowledge.

Books are our real weapons. They don’t want us to be armed like that. They try to dictate what we can and cannot read because they want us to learn the lessons they want to teach us, which is a lesson of conformity. They want us to conform to their ideologies, their economic system, their standards, and to their laws and constitutions- that we had no part in creating ourselves. This is a fight we all have to partake in. It’s a fight to be able to read what we want to read, learn what we want to learn. This is a real fight, something that we really need to fight for. So if your book approvals are being rejected, I hope you will join me in this fight. Thank you.

Solidarity and Respects,

Anarchist Black Cross
Nevada Prison Chapter
November 4th, 2012