Help stop censorship: Public comment needed by November 10 regarding revised proposed censorship regulations (“Obscene Materials”)

The proposed censorship regulations that we collectively and vehemently opposed a few months ago have been revised (as of October 20).  The deadline for public comments is November 10—short notice.

Please submit your comments regarding the revisions asap!  (A sample letter is included below.)  The revisions can be viewed here.

The CDCr specifies:  Please submit comments to Timothy M. Lockwood, Chief, Regulation and Policy Management Branch, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, P.O. Box 942883, Sacramento, CA, 94283-0001; by fax to (916) 324-6075; or by e-mail at rpmb@cdcr.ca.gov before the close of the public comment period. Comments must be received or postmarked no later than 5:00 p.m. on November 10, 2014.  (We additionally recommend that those responding by e-mail cc staff@oal.ca.gov)

The revisions made since these proposed regulations first came out on March 25, 2014, appear to be non-substantive.  Our comments supposedly will only be “heard” to the extent that they address the revisions, rather than the originally proposed text.

To the extent that the revisions incorporate language from the newly approved STG regulations that went into effect on October 17, 2014, they need to be robustly resisted.  The revisions specify, at 3006(c) and 3006(c)(19), that “[w]ritten materials or photographs that indicate an association with validated STG members or associates, as described in subsections 3378.2(b)(5)-(6)” are deemed contraband. Well, 3378.2(b)(5)-(6), as adopted and enacted on October 17, 2014 (along with all of the new STG regulations), describes—in vague terms open to subjective interpretation by prison staff— materials that may innocently be present in a person’s cell, such as:

“[a]ny material or documents evidencing STG activity such as the membership or enemy lists, roll call lists, constitutions, organizational structures, codes, training material, etc., of specific STGs or addresses, names, identities of validated STG affiliates. …”

“[i]ndividual or group photographs with STG connotations such as those which include insignia, certified symbols, or other validated STG affiliates. …”

In other words, under the revised regulations, any of the following may be considered contraband: an address for, or photo of, a loved one whom happens to be deemed an STG affiliate; a photo or item that includes cultural iconography deemed “certified” by the CDCr (e.g., a jaguar, a pyramid, an image of MLK); a copy of the San Francisco Bayview, as discussed below.

Moreover, the CDCr’s October 20 revisions of 3134(d)-(e) do NOT reflect the community’s concerns regarding the originally proposed text—as recently expressed via hundreds of public comments—regarding the inclusion of publications (e.g., newspapers and the publications of rights organizations) in the list of items that may be considered “STG materials.”  Nor do the revisions reflect the community’s concerns over the prospective permanent banning of publications.  The text of 3134(d)–(e), as originally proposed, is more or less unchanged, except to the extent that the term “STG recruitment materials” has been swapped out for the phrase “STG written materials or photographs, as described in 3378.2(b)(5)-(6).”

Some publications, like the Bayview, may and often do contain the self-disclosed names of, and/or addresses for, persons who are validated. Thus, they are subject to censorship under 3378.2(b)(5)-(6).

Sample letter:

[DATE]

Dear Mr. Lockwood et al.,

I recently reviewed the Revisions to Text as Originally Proposed (Obscene Materials) issued October 20.  To my dismay, the Department has failed to meaningfully take into consideration concerns previously expressed by hundreds of community members regarding the originally proposed text.  This, despite the Department’s promise that it would go back to the drawing board, and its claim that the public had misunderstood its intent.

If the public misunderstood the Department’s intent, the minimally revised language around so-called obscene materials does not clarify what the Department’s intent is.  E.g., the text of 3134(d)–(e), as originally proposed, is not changed except to the extent that the term “STG recruitment materials” has been swapped out for the phrase “STG written materials or photographs, as described in 3378.2(b)(5)-(6).”

Moreover, “STG written materials or photographs, as described in 3378.2(b)(5)-(6)” comprises a category of materials that’s highly subjective to individual interpretation and whim on the part of staff.  It apparently includes a host of innocent items that may be found in a person’s cell, including but not limited to:

—An address for, or photo of, a loved one or friend who happens to be deemed an STG affiliate

—An item that includes cultural iconography (e.g., a jaguar, a pyramid, an image of Martin Luther King)

—A copy of the San Francisco Bayview newspaper

The Department needs to go back to the drawing board again to ensure that (1) no person in custody will be penalized for possessing materials that in and of themselves have nothing to do with prohibited conduct or any rules violation; (2) no publication will be banned—permanently or temporarily— merely because a person in custody has chosen to publish his name and/or location in an editorial or news article, for example, or is seeking a penpal.

Sincerely,

[NAME]

2 thoughts on “Help stop censorship: Public comment needed by November 10 regarding revised proposed censorship regulations (“Obscene Materials”)

  1. These new proposed regulations are clearly a constitutional civil rights violations. The CDCR’s obvious attempt to further isolate inmates from contact with the outside world is once again trying to be hidden under the catch-all phrase of “safety and security”. To limit access to publications that provide meaningful information and civil rights struggles is an “obscene” act on the part of the CDCR. It is further one more example of how hilarious it is that the CDC added R to their name. They do not want people to rehabilitate themselves and educate themselves if they fight the system. They just want to keep their cages full. To try and disallow such papers as the Bayview because inmates locations are listed in there is a joke. Inmate locations are listed on your own website and are public information under the inmate locator.
    There is also no exception in your provisions for inmates who have a loved one incarcerated, like father and son, to be able to have correspondence or family photos. It is once again another clear deliberate act to separate families and break down the strength of united voices who try to advocate for their own civil rights.

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