Petition on Prisoner Mail in Texas

The Censorship in Texas Petition,
written by prison Blogger William Bryan Sorens,
recently freed and deported to Oklahoma

To: TEXAS LEGISLATURE

WHEREAS, the First Amendment gives to all Americans the guarantee of
free speech and to all publishers the guarantee of a free press, and,

WHEREAS, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has decided
to implement new prisoner mail censorship rules, under Board Policy
(BP) 03.91; and,

WHEREAS, the new rules violate the Supreme Court’s four-prong test
for prison censorship as set forth in TURNER v. SAFLEY, and, WHEREAS, new rules include opening and reading prisoner mail to media
and government officials; and,

WHEREAS, this mail has been protected from government oversight in
this manner for 25 years; and,

WHEREAS, TDCJ is virtually unregulated and has been the subject of
constant federal litigation, corruption, abuse and exists as a
political spoils system for Texas politicians and bureaucrats; and,

WHEREAS, prisoner correspondence to media and government officials is
often the only way the public becomes aware of corruption and abuse,
and,

WHEREAS, TDCJ has already limited prisoner stamp purchase and
possession, has ended Saturday mail service including mail to and
from attorneys, courts, media and government, has banned
prisoner-to-prisoner mail, has punished prisoner-writer William Bryan
Sorens by effectually sentencing him to another year in prison for
the stated offense of “writing articles for publication,” and has
outlawed prisoner art or messages drawn on outgoing envelopes; and,

WHEREAS, the new mail rules ban publications containing nudity; and,

WHEREAS, the Texas media and most mass media refuse to cover such
subjects as corruption and abuses inside Texas prisons; and,

WHEREAS, only such “edgy” publications as PLAYBOY and PENTHOUSE
have dared publish investigative reports about Texas prisons; and,

WHEREAS, publications containing nudity have been permitted in Texas
prisons for a quarter-century, with no security-related problems; and,

WHEREAS, sufficient rules already exist in TDCJ for punishing sex
offenders who harass staff and which protect staff from coming into
unwanted contact with “offensive” material; and,

WHEREAS, it appears TDCJ’s ban on nudity is a moral ruse and pretense
for egregious censorship; and,

WHEREAS, TDCJ’S censorship of both outgoing and incoming media mail
appears to be retaliatory and punitive in nature and design, aimed at
silencing voices from inside and harming the subscriber bases of
media most critical of TDCJ; and,

WHEREAS, the only deterrent to government censorship is a free press,
including publications we may not like nor agree with, and including
prisoner writers we may not like nor agree with; and,

WHEREAS, conservatives and liberals and everyone-in-between should
agree that under the Constitution criminals are sent to prison AS
punishment and not FOR punishment; and,

WHEREAS, government censorship begins in obscure public institutions,
as a matter of public policy, and tends to grow to include other
disfavored persons or publishers; and,

WHEREAS, this wave of public censorship is already evident in current
affairs, including U.S. marshal confiscation of reporters’ tapes
after a public speech by Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, and
including theft and destruction of campus newspapers, and including a
“decency war” on popular radio personalities, and so much more;

THEREFORE, WE THE PEOPLE insist that the Texas Legislature compel the
Texas Board of Criminal Justice and TDCJ to reinstitute TDCJ
Correspondence Rules 3.0 as they existed in policy and practice for
25 years, and to rescind Board Policy (BP) 03.91 establishing the
above censorship of prisoner mail.
William Bryan Sorens

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