The Right to Write: Publishing From Prison

Considering that the formation of our land, Americans have enjoyed a right to Free Talk that is unrivaled among modern nations. The right has long survived incarceration as well, from the 1800s Henry David Thoreau’s “On Civil Disobedience” to the Letters from Greater london Jail, by Doctor Charlie Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movements of the 1960s. It truly is alive and well today, notwithstanding the great changes in the ways our society communicates online Age and this post-9/11 age group. StarUp

Jaan Lamaan is evaluation prisoner serving a life sentence at USP Tucson, Arizona, a maximum security prison operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He is also the Publisher of 4Struggle Journal, a forum devoted to the expression of what the publication calls Numerous political prisoners. Mr. Lamaan is in his 60s now, and is him or her self imprisoned for his activities as a member of the Ohio Seven, a self-described counterrevolutionary group that robbed banks and determined other crimes in the 1960s. Other contributors to 4Struggle include Mumia Abu-Jamal, a Pennsylvania prisoner and internationally known activist and members of MOVE, Soil Liberation Front and other groups considered terrorists by many observers. The newsletter is, by any solution, controversial, and makes no bones about its objective to disseminate the ideas of the outermost users of our political system, people whose views are hostile to our system of government and others who operate it.

Notwithstanding the adversarial bent of 4Struggle and its contributors, the publication operates in an totally legal manner, pursuant to the long record of Free Speech from behind prison walls. The Supreme Court has constantly held that prisoners have a First Amendment immediately to be “free from government interference” in revealing their views outside the walls, if that disturbance is “based on the content of [their] speech or offered speech. “*1

The Court’s protection of Free Conversation has even led it to strike down such well-intended statutes like Fresh York’s so-called “Son of Sam” law, which was written in the wake up of David Berkowitz’s confidence for murdering 11 people, intended to prevent him and those like him from profiting from their stories. In doing so, the Court ruled that no matter how repugnant the idea of allowing murderers make money from their adventure might be, such content-based restrictions are prohibited by the First Amendment. *2 It should be mentioned that although these individuals can still publish their articles, any income earned through them can be bombarded by victims’ rights organizations or those who they are indebted.

The right to Free Speech ensures that prison administrators aren’t bar prisoners from writing to the press. Whilst the press has no more right to get into a prison and speak to prisoners than some other member of the public, the courts have held that any limitations on press interviews must be fair and non-discriminatory, *3 and prisoners enjoy an unimpeded directly to write to the press from their cells. A recent court ruling even allows prisoners to write under a byline (have their name published with their writings)*4, something which the Bureau of Prisons had strenuously argued against.

Magazines like 4Struggle are not the only form of prisoner periodicals protected by the Constitution. Indeed, even publications whose purpose is to criticize the very correctional officials confining the prisoner-authors are protected, such as Prison Legal Reports, a prisoner-run periodical emanating from the Washington point out prison system, and the California Lifers Newsletter, which is extremely critical of the state’s parole system and its personnel. Possibly Martha Stewart, the tv set personality imprisoned for investment-related crimes, published on the Internet during her incarceration, advocating for better remedying of her fellow female criminals.

According to the Prisoners’ Self-Help Litigation Manual*5, “Prisoners generally don’t have access to the internet, nonetheless they may get others to place materials on the world wide web for them, or others may write about them on the world wide web. One court*6 has struck down a convention that forbade prisoners from contact by mail with communication companies or from the ability to access the Internet through a provider. “

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *