Important Update about PRLF Donations
PRLF's fiscal sponsorship by Alliance for Global Justice at the end of 2012 was a temporary agreement, and PRLF is no longer able to accept tax-deductible donations until further notice. PRLF continues to explore other fiscal sponsors and will make an announcement when we can accept tax-deductible donations again.
Many thanks to all our donors and sustainers. We urge everyone to continue donating to PRLF to meet the ongoing and rapidly growing requests for revolutionary literature from prisoners as word of PRLF and our literature spreads throughout the hellholes of U.S. prisons.
2.4 million people in the US are imprisoned. This is the highest per capita rate in the world. One in nine black men between 20 and 34 are imprisoned - a higher rate than in apartheid South Africa. One-third of the women in prison in the world are in prison in the US. Many Super-max prisons here openly violate international standards of torture.
Statements from PRLF Supporters & Donors
Ray Hill—Founder of Pacifica radio station KPFT and host of the weekly radio program "The Prison Show".
Lynne Stewart—A highly respected 'peoples' attorney' in NY who is presently appealing a prison sentence of her own. She was tried and convicted on criminal charges for actions related to representing a client.
New Letters From Prisoners:
Help Send BAsics to Prisoners in the hellholes of America!
A new book, “BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian”, has just been released. Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, is a wide-ranging critical thinker; this book speaks powerfully to questions of revolution and human emancipation. Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF) and Revolution newspaper (www.revcom.us) are sending 2000 copies of BAsics to prisoners across the US. This is a very bold foray to expand the influence of Avakian’s unique revolutionary perspective widely throughout US prisons. At $10/copy, this costs $20,000. Your help is needed to get this vital educational material to thousands of prisoners.
“…Like Cornel West, I say this not because I fully agree with everything that Bob Avakian teaches, but because Bob Avakian's revolutionary teachings and theory challenges me to think on the highest level of logic and reasoning, keeps my analytical mind strong, and my discriminating eye sharp…(read more)
Prisoner Letter: Greetings from the Belly of the Beast (Dramatic Reading)
Struggle Against Prison Censorship Continues
In February 2010, the first official word arrived from authorities at the supermax Pelican Bay State Prison in California—Revolution newspaper was banned. The Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF) provides the subscriptions for 45 prisoners at Pelican Bay, one of America's most notorious hellholes. Days later, Chuckawalla Valley State Prison (CVSP) sent a similar notice.
A lengthy political and legal fight ensued to Overturn the Ban at Pelican Bay and Chuckawalla Valley state prisons.
Through the efforts of the PRLF and its legal counsel, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California (ACLU-F, S. Cal.), extensive evidence was gathered that a blanket ban had been in place for over five months before there was any notification from Pelican Bay officials. This was a gross violation of the California prison system's own rules and regulations for barring publications from the California prison system—the outcome of a court-supervised settlement won by Prison Legal News.
PRLF mounted a public campaign. A statement to overturn the ban was signed by many lawyers, human rights groups, anti-censorship and prison activists, academics, and other prominent voices. The San Francisco Bay Guardian ran an important article. On the legal front, the ACLU pursued getting the prison system to turn over all the documents related to the ban, making strong arguments about why a blanket ban was unconstitutional, and further that there was no basis to bar even a single issue of Revolution.
Over many months, Pelican Bay prison officials wriggled under the glare. They made the ridiculous claim that in the original February ban letter, they had mistakenly omitted four critical words, thus converting a total ban into a ban of only one issue of the newspaper. Later, feeling the growing pressure, Pelican Bay's warden sent a letter to the ACLU stating that "no ban of Revolution newspaper is in effect" and that all newspapers have been delivered to all prisoner subscribers, and that they "consider the matter closed." The warden has yet to openly acknowledge the five-month-long blanket ban. CVSP stonewalled and claimed that the case was moot due to the fact there were no longer subscribers at their institution. Conveniently, Chuckawalla Valley prison officials transferred out the prisoner who appealed the ban of Revolution there. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has still not responded to the ACLU's follow-up demand for public documents related to this situation.
Prisons Stonewall ACLU
Currently, the ACLU continues to pursue getting a response to its demands for documents, which so far have not been forthcoming. If the prison system can get away with flagrantly ignoring the ACLU, then that is a very bad precedent not only for Revolution's prison subscribers but for prisoners' basic constitutional rights. Most prisoners face situations like these without the legal help of a prestigious civil liberties group. It is not hard to imagine that if the prison officials get away with basically thumbing their noses at the ACLU, what happens to an individual prisoner's appeals? Conversely, if the ACLU succeeds fully in this situation, that will be very positive for the right of prisoners to a life of the mind. This is all the more reason why this issue needs to be pursued and not be stopped short of the goal line.
As of this writing, most prisoners at Pelican Bay that PRLF has heard from either report getting most of their issues of Revolution or at least have not reported ongoing problems. It continues to be very difficult for the PRLF and the ACLU to verify whether all prisoners are receiving all issues. Real-time communications are obviously impossible and are compounded by the fact that many prisoners are issued limited numbers of stamps each month. One prisoner even traded away future stamps in order to get a single stamp to write the PRLF.
Signs of Continuing Censorship
Indications continue that at least some issues of Revolution are not getting through to some prisoners. At least one prisoner has written that he has not received most issues. Last month, Pelican Bay officials returned a batch of various single issues of Revolution (June to October) addressed to 10 different inmates. Neither the ACLU nor PRLF has received notification from Pelican Bay State Prison, again, as required by their own regulations, that there was any problem with any issue for any prisoner. Most disturbing is the response to a prisoner subscriber's appeal in which the Pelican Bay warden states in July 2010, "the particular banned Revolution issues will not be issued to the inmate population…," contradicting his own June 2010 statement to the ACLU. Pelican Bay authorities also recently returned an envelope containing a Revolution newspaper. The envelope was stamped "contents unacceptable at Pelican Bay State Prison."
Ongoing Efforts to Uproot Censorship of Revolution in California Prisons
The PRLF and the ACLU continue to pursue getting all documents related to the ban from the California Department of Corrections and Pelican Bay and Chuckawalla Valley state prisons, and to correspond with prisoners to monitor the situation. PRLF is actively seeking remedies on a statewide level to end all instances of censorship of Revolution newspaper; to prevent the authorities from either re-instituting the ban or carrying out a de facto "underground" ban; and to prevent retaliation against prisoners who have appealed the ban.
Basic rights are at stake: the PRLF insists that news publishers, including Revolution newspaper, have access to readers in all places and situations, including state institutions; and that prisoners have a right to explore a spectrum of ideas, including revolutionary ideas, free of state interference and efforts at thought control. Prison authorities cannot arbitrarily ban Revolution, or any other alternative newspapers based on political disagreements with their content. Prison officials must reveal what was behind the ban of Revolution in the first place and turn over all relevant documents to the ACLU.
Meanwhile, subscription requests at Pelican Bay have grown in the face of the ban and requests for subscriptions have surged throughout the California prison system. In Illinois, a blanket ban is now in effect and PRLF has vowed to take the fight against censorship to the Illinois prison system next.
[from July 2010] Since October 2009, Revolution newspaper has been banned in Pelican Bay (PBSP) and Chuckawalla Valley State Prisons (CVSP) in California. Both prisons officially notified Revolution's publisher, RCP Publications (and thus PRLF), in February 2010 that the newspaper was banned. Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund, a non-profit 501(c)(3) educational literature fund that fills requests from U.S. prisoners for revolutionary literature, has been mounting a concerted campaign to determine the exact nature of the ban and to overturn it.
In early June, the ACLU – Foundation (Southern California), PRLF's legal counsel regarding the ban, sent letters to prison officials in both prisons, informing them that if they did not lift their blanket bans on Revolution and permit its distribution to its prisoner subscribers, the ACLU would discuss with PRLF future options, including litigation. In response, the Assistant Warden of CVSP Neil McDowell wrote on June 15th: “This is to advise you that your publication entitled 'Revolution' does not have a blanket ban at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison (CVSP). The memo dated February 16, 2010 authored by Sergeant L. Nunez was inaccurate in stating as such.” No further explanation was given for why the letter was written nor for the ban that has been in effect. The Warden of PBSP, G.D. Lewis, also sent a letter to the ACLU on June 15th, which stated: "To date, ALL issues of Revolution Newspaper mailed to PBSP inmates in the past nine months, have been delivered," and that "No ban of Revolution Newspaper is in effect... I am considering this matter closed."
However, PRLF has serious concerns about the complete truthfulness of the Wardens' claims. In June, PRLF has received at least two letters from prisoners at PBSP who state that their newspapers are being delivered at best sporadically. One prisoner says he received only a single issue in March, one in April and another in May. What is really going on? Numerous important questions remain that prison officials must be compelled to address, including:
• There was a period of at least 5-6 months from October 2009 till at least May 2010, when Revolution newspaper was deemed to be "contraband" and was NOT delivered to any of the over 45 prisoner subscribers at PBSP. Why didn't they receive their newspapers and what were the justifications for it?
• In a letter dated October 22, 2009 from PBSP, four ranking prison officials moved to have Revolution newspaper put on the statewide CDCR's "Central List of Disapproved Publications," and PBSP instituted the ban at its own facility - in open violation of their own procedures which spell out that unless a publication is on the statewide banned list no institution can ban it. Who received this letter, what was the reply to it, and what was the basis for it? (The October 22, 2009 letter states that there were 3 levels of appeals from a subscriber, including up to the State level. What was the content of all this?)
• How did the ban spread to Chuckawalla Valley State Prison (CVSP) within days of the PBSP letter notifying the publisher of Revolution newspaper that it was banned at their institution? CVSP has stonewalled ACLU's request for public records, and at least one prisoner reports retaliation for appealing about his right to literature from the PRLF (placing him in the hole and then sending him to a more restrictive prison).
• While the PBSP warden now implicitly admits there were no grounds to ban Revolution, he has not explained what was the basis to attempt the ban in the first place; nor has he "cleared the record" of the serious and baseless allegations made and sent to the publisher of Revolution newspaper and to the prisoner subscribers.
Thoroughly resolving this in a way which requires the prison officials to follow their own regulations and inhibits their ability to manufacture or arbitrarily institute new bans in any form has important implications: for upholding the rights of prisoners to a life of the mind, for the distribution of Revolution newspaper and other revolutionary literature in the prisons - and beyond that for critical thinking in society as a whole.
The efforts of a broad range of people who have taken up work to Overturn the Ban are having an impact on the prison officials. Important headway is being made, and nearly 200 people have signed the statement to overturn the ban. But if we stop now, it could be like starting a course of antibiotics and not finishing the full course. The infection can come roaring back and then you are less able to deal with it because you didn't finish the full course of treatment.
It is up to us to make sure that prisoners receive their subscriptions without interference in a timely way; and that prisoners are not retaliated against for insisting on their right to read Revolution newspaper.
We urge you to keep the heat on California prison officials, including through adding your name to the Statement to Overturn the Ban, and by asking others to add their names, while fully informing yourself and others of the current juncture in this effort.