The Silencing of a Political Prisoner

On September 23, 2016, I was placed in keeplock status for reasons unknown. On September 24, 2016, I was issued a Tier III misbehavior report that has been posted. It generally charged I was engaging in unauthorized organization for suggesting that a Critical Resistance correspondent contact and support the IamWe Prison Advocacy Network initiative to organize the Millions for Prisoners March on Washington for August 2017. The disciplinary hearing commenced on September 26, 2016, and during the course of the hearing I learned I had been under investigation and mail watch. To this date no one has informed me what prompted the investigation or exactly what was being investigated. What has been learned is that my correspondence is being censored; some mail is not being sent out of the facility, some has been sent out opened after I had sealed them, and I have not received mail from correspondents. Attica correspondence department is violating specific regulations and procedures in Directive #4422, which explains what is to happen when the Superintendent decides to order a mail watch, etc. As of this writing, I do not know what mail I am actually receiving or what letters are being sent out of the facility.

The disciplinary hearing was completed on October 7, 2016. After a vigorous argument on the merits of the disciplinary report, the charges were dismissed on a technicality. Since the disciplinary hearing did not commence within 7 days after being placed in keeplock status, there was a violation of Chapter V § 251.5. However, it was learned that I had been under investigation and there had been an ongoing mail watch. It was argued that violated Rule 105.14, which states:

“An inmate shall not engage in or encourage others to engage in unauthorized organizational activities or meetings or possess printed or handwritten material related to any unauthorized organization where such material advocates either expressly or by clear implication, violence based on race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, creed, law enforcement status or violence or acts of disobedience against department employees or that could facilitate organizational activity within the institution by an unauthorized organization.”

The Rule also states: “For purposes of this rule, an unauthorized organization is any organization which has not been approved by the Deputy Commissioner for Program Services.”

While I readily agree with the substance of this rule, the problem is the vague condition in the identifying of an unauthorized organization. This is especially complicated when no list exists that identifies approved or unapproved authorized organizations. During the disciplinary hearing, I was told that any organization that is not registered in New York State or approved by DOCCS is unauthorized, and prisoners are prohibited from communicating or corresponding with them. Since the disciplinary charge was resolved on a technicality, the substance of the charge was not addressed. Therefore, I sent a letter to DOCCS Commissioner Anthony Annucci. A similar letter was sent to Attica Superintendent Dale Artus.

Since this issue does not affect only me, it is imperative that legal representatives and prison activists recognize this problem severely limits prisoners’ First Amendment rights of free speech. This issue must be addressed and resolved to preserve a fundamental constitutional guarantee and prohibit the silencing of prisoners’ speech, including political speech.

I want to thank all those who wrote and called in support of my efforts to defeat these charges. It is my hope the unintentional consequences of the efforts to curtail my correspondence result in increased support of IamWe Prisoner Advocacy Network’s exercise of their constitutional right to assemble in opposition to mass incarceration.

Remember: We Are Our Own Liberators!

Jalil A. Muntaqim
Apartheid Attica
October 7, 2016