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Ninth Circuit Affirms Confiscation of Book about Black Panthers Sent by Mail to Prisoner

In an unpublished opinion, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment to prison officials who confiscated a book from a prisoner’s incoming mail.

In 2009, prison officials seized a book, The Black Panthers by Stephen Shames, mailed to San Quentin Death Row prisoner Javance Wilson.

Wilson filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that the seizure violated his First Amendment rights. In a motion for summary judgment, the defendant prison officials argued that the Panthers were a disruptive group and that the book, which purportedly contains, “anti-government/law enforcement ideologies ... not conducive to a prison setting,” could be used as a recruiting tool by the Black Guerilla Family (BGF) prison gang.

In August 2011, the district court, noting that courts “must defer to prison authorities’ professional judgment” – in this case, that the BGF gang could use the book to indoctrinate new recruits – granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment.

In November 2012, the Ninth Circuit, noting that Wilson had failed to show that defendants’ actions were not reasonably related to a legitimate correctional goal, affirmed the district court’s ruling. See: Wilson v. Panizza, 498 Fed.Appx. 722 (9th Cir. 2012) (unpublished).

Additional source: San Francisco Chronicle

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Related legal case

Wilson v. Panizza