Sexy letters and Men’s Health? — banned by new #prison #censorship rule


By Alan Prendergast Thu., Sep. 27 2012
Thumbnail image for prison clip art 5 long shot of corridor with cells on either side.JPG

A recent push by state prison officials to crack down on the sexual content of inmates’ mail has greatly expanded the range of books and magazines intercepted by prison censors, including such staid fare as Rolling Stone and Men’s Health. The move has also prompted complaints from inmates’ loved ones that even the most innocuous references to sex in personal letters are being censored.The Colorado Department of Corrections has had a ban on hardcore porn — anything visually more explicit than Playboy or Penthouse — in place for years. But concerns about female staff being exposed to a hostile work environment or sexual harassment evidently prompted a major revision of administrative regulation 300-26, which dictates what publications inmates can receive.

Venus de Milo.jpg
Inappropriate.

The new policy goes much further, prohibiting not only sexually explicit photographs but any nudity or descriptions of intercourse, oral sex, masturbation, bestiality, necrophilia, S&M or “discharge of bodily fluids” — a ban that would seem to encompass everything from soft-core “laddie” mags like Maxim to the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue to a drawing of the Venus de Milo to James Joyce’s Ulyssesto a Depends ad. Since the new rule went into effect in June, publication review committees at various prisons have rejected a staggering array of incoming materials. Laurell K. Hamilton‘s bestselling novels about vampire hunter Anita Blake have run afoul of the censors. So has a not-so-sexy article in Men’s Health about skin. Muscle and Fitness turned out to be unfit, or maybe too fit. Even an issue of Reason was found to be unreasonable because the cover illustrated an article about entitlement programs with a cartoon of an elderly woman in a wheelchair pointing a gun at a young worker. (This last one wasn’t too sexy, though; it was just politically incorrect enough to be labeled as “promotes violence, generational.”)

Inmate families and supporters say the worst part, though, is that the ban also applies to any references to sex in personal letters, whether incoming or outgoing. Diane Martin of Golden says she’s had letters to her inmate boyfriend rejected for sexual content for statements no more explicit than “I want to kiss you.”

“Our letters are the only form of intimate contact that we have,” Martin says. “He can’t write anything personal to me any more, and I think that’s going a bit far.”

Since the new rule doesn’t allow for “grandfathered” porn, prisoners are expected to surrender any ragged issues of Playboy or Maxim they may have squirreled away under the old policy. Although the regulation spells out a laborious appeal process, the decision to ban a publication can also be designated as unappealable.

Complaints have piled up at the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, which has successfully sued the DOC before over its publication policies (including its frequent censorship of Westword). “We have spoken to DOC officials,” says ACLU legal director Mark Silverstein, “and they acknowledge that the new regulation has problems. We have urged them to make substantial changes.”

As of this writing, DOC officials have not responded to a query about the new policy.

Calcutta High Court proposes equal facilities for all prisoners #goodnews #prisoner


HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
Kolkata, August 28, 2012

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There is good news for the thousands of prisoners, under trials or convicts, in Bengal. In its landmark verdict the Calcutta High Court on August 8 held that every prisoner, irrespective of class, colour, creed and race, was also entitled to special amenities provided for the political prisoners under the West Bengal Correction Services Act 1992. In his 30-page verdict, justice KS Ahluwalia held that what the Act proposes to give to the political prisoners are basic amenities, which are necessary for dignified human living, to which all prisoners ought to be entitled.

“Therefore, all these amenities except a separate kitchen should be provided to all prisoners. A common kitchen having proper hygiene and infrastructure run by the prisoners should be available to all the prisoners, irrespective of any class to which a prisoner belongs. For distribution of food, the State cannot create classes. However, it may provide food considering the health of an inmate.

A weak or sick may require healthier or special diet. Common reading room having newspapers, magazines and other books at fixed hours should be available to all prisoners,” the judge suggested.

“A slight improvement in the living conditions in prisons will erode the classification. Therefore, in changing times, the state is called upon to look into the provisions of the Act with a new humanistic approach and explore the feasibility that the prisons guided by reformative and restorative policy provide basic amenities to all and there remains no need to assign nomenclature to the prisoners for providing better facilities to one class ousting the other,” the judge said.

Holding the classification of prisoners and providing different amenities, prima facie, unconstitutional, the judge said: “To grade prisoners according to their status is alien to the constitution. There can be no distinction of a rich or poor prisoner and political prisoner or other prisoner while distributing basic amenities, which are necessary for a dignified human life.

The state, if it so desires, may consider to dispense with the classification of the prisoners and strive to make prisons the model jails as an example for other states to follow,” the judge said.

The judge ended his verdict by quoting the words of Nelson Mandela, who fought relentlessly against apartheid and remained confined for 27 years, for guiding the vision of everyone for betterment of jails: “It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones”.

Purulia armsdrop convict and British national, Peter Bleach, who spent eight years in a city jail, welcomed the verdict. “This ruling will have far reaching effects. It will assist in the extradition of wanted foreigners to India because it will reassure foreign courts that Indian courts will indeed intervene and ensure justice and fair treatment in jail,” Bleach told HT from London.

The ruling came on a batch of petitions filed by advocate Subhasish Roy on behalf of seven alleged Maoists, including Chhatradhar Mahato, who have also been charged with waging of war against the state, seeking the status of political prisoner.

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