News & Letters banned in Pelican Bay

September 19, 2013

Editor’s note: Days after California prisoners started a hunger strike at two-thirds of the state’s prisons, News & Letters subscribers at Pelican Bay State Prison were notified that the July-August issue had been banned. Here are two of their letters:


I recently received a disapproval form stating News & Letters‘ July-August 2013 issue was censored here at Pelican Bay. The form states the reason is that on page 9 there is an article on the Pelican Bay hunger strike and goes on to cite “plans to disrupt the facility” being in violation of prison rules.

I read this nonsense and asked a comrade on the tier, “They don’t want us to know there’s a hunger strike going on?” (It should be noted today marks the 7th day we are on hunger strike.) These weak excuses for censorship are amongst the issues that brought us to strike in the first place.

What we prisoners are demanding is of course to put an end to torture, but what must be identified is that prisoners have consciously acted as a class with class interests.

The call that was issued by Pelican Bay SHU prisoners to end hostilities validated this leap in consciousness amongst prisoners. So our current struggle goes far beyond simple cosmetic changes, i.e., color pencils, or even natural rights like access to sunlight.

What we are up against is the unvarnished essence of living in a capitalist society, a class struggle between the prison class vs. the ruling class.

I cannot fathom ending my hunger strike anytime soon; this torture has gone on far too long and will not continue. We will stop these torturous conditions!

We draw strength from knowing that News & Letters delivered such a powerful article in favor of those of us tortured that the state felt the need to censor your work. Power to the people!

–Pelican Bay SHU prisoner

* * *

July 14, 2013

On July 8, 2013, another hunger strike was launched here inside the security housing unit (SHU) in an ongoing effort to try to bring an end to the injustice of long-term SHU confinement.

On July 10 the Crescent City channel 3 newscast had a piece on the hunger strike throughout the California prison system. It said that the hunger strike happened in at least 24 out of the 33 prisons in this state, and it was estimated that 30,000 prisoners weren’t accepting prison rations. It mentioned that prisoners held in the SHU were demanding an end to long-term SHU confinement.

On July 10 prisoners on various kinds of medications received a form from M. Sayre, M.D., letting us know that we have been subjected to a stop medication order. This can have very detrimental consequences for prisoners who suffer from serious illnesses like diabetes.

On July 11 the correctional officers (COs) descended upon all of the short corridor representatives, taking them out of their assigned cages and escorting them to administrative segregation (Ad-Seg). Without a doubt it was in retaliation for their sheer audacity to speak out about the unjust nature of long-term SHU confinement. They were taken without any personal property, for example, clothing to keep them warm.

On July 12 I was prevented from receiving the July-August issue of N&L because page 9 had an article on the Pelican Bay hunger strike. This decision shows frustration on the part of COs over their inability to prevent the hunger strike and to control the message.

Whatever comes out of our present efforts, good or bad, it can’t be seen as the end, but a new jumping off point in which to begin the fulfillment of what it means to be human beings.

–Faruq, Pelican Bay SHU

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