By Ed Mead
As many of you know issue #2 of the PLN was banned from both the Penitentiary and the Reformatory. We immediately drafted a comprehensive civil rights complaint challenging the censorship, but just days before the suit was to be filed both bannings were reversed. The warden at the Penitentiary said our newsletter "fails to rise to a level of having the potential to be intellectually disruptive to our population." He went on the say that most of the writing is done "by radical, but harmless, malcontents that receive little support or sympathy form our general population. The articles promote somewhat archaic concepts that fail to generate patronage form our very young population." He said that each future issue would be carefully examined by officials, presumably to insure that we stay "harmless."
Our law suit raised a number of issues, one of which that prisoncrats suppressed our paper not because of any legitimate security concerns, but rather because of a Nazi-like drive to prevent us form communicating an alternative to corrections to prisoner, their families, and, ultimately, the community. An important aspect of this alternative, we argued, is the understanding that it serves neither the needs of the individual or the public good to maintain a segment of society in a state of literal slavery, completely disenfranchised, and reduced to a condition of child-like dependency and irresponsibility. The credo of the PLN, we said, is "Working To Extend Democracy To All," and it is the expression of this idea of democracy, and the notion that prisoners should be conscious of their legal rights, that our captors have sought to suppress. The want prisoners to continue stumbling around in a blinding fog of political and legal ignorance.
No wonder, too. Government statistics reflect a national recidivism rate of 62.5 percent (it is much higher than that for younger offenders). According to Phil Talmadge, member of the Senate's Sub-committee on Corrections, Washington's prison officials spend $40,000.00 a year per prisoner. Can you imagine a private industry "making it" with 63 percent failure or product rejection rate for each of the very expensive parts it processed? Of course not. Why they could send us each to Harvard and make nuclear physicists of us for considerably less money. Instead they degrade and dehumanize us and our loved ones, and in the process create a rage that eventually gets taken out on the community.
The state's entire apparatus of repression the police, courts, prison system, etc. tell the public that theirs is the only correct way to solve the crime problem. And to the extent that it isn't working, the glibly argue, it is merely a matter of applying increasing amounts of the same old medicine - more police, more judges, more prisons, more punishment, etc. The public has bought into this big lie because they see no alternative. They have no vested interest in the concept of punishment. They don't care whether you are sent to Harvard or to jail. They simply want something that works. They don't want their daughters raped or their VCR's stolen.
The interests of prisoners and those of poor and working class communities are one and the same. Our common contradiction is not with each other, but with the state and its lap-dog media. We have some alternatives the public deserves to hear. Yet it will take much building with our loved ones to effectively communicate these alternatives. We will also need to keep the pro-slavery, anti-democratic DOC functionaries from censoring us. And, finally, we will need the talents of those young offenders warden Blodgett says we fail to reach.
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