Texas prison officials have been censoring mail sent and received by inmates in order to attempt to block the ongoing prison strike happening in many of the country's prisons.
The strikes have been occurring since September in many prisons across the country to protest unpaid or low-paid labor, overcrowding, and abuse by prison guards and officials. “Every single prison system relies on slave labor for the mundane things,” said Paul Wright, editor of the Prison Legal News. “Everything being done in the prisons—janitors, cooks, laundry workers—if prisoners weren’t doing that, they’d have to hire someone to do it and they’d have to be paying them at least minimum wage. It wouldn’t be possible, economically.”
Texas-based members of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party-Prison Chapter (NABPPPC), an organization that teaches inmates about laws, politics, and history, have reported that prison officials have censored their mail and punished them for participating in the strike. NABPPPC member Kevin “Rashid” Johnson said that officials were “illegally opening and reading privileged legal and media mail … obviously focused on discovering, scrutinizing, and blocking any information coming into the prison about the work stoppage/strike planned for prisons across the U.S.”
Supreme Court rulings have deemed prisons as non-public forums where free speech is not guaranteed, and denied prisoners the right to join labor unions. “Correction officers and prison officials have an amazing amount of discretion when it comes to how to deal with protests,” Loyola University Law School professor Andrea Armstrong said. “We are creating, in many ways, a subordinate class. One of them is through labor, another is through repressing freedom of speech and critical thought. Those are two things, I think, that are essential to human dignity.”