By Uhuru B. Rowe
November 30, 2018
Below is a link to an article that was published in the Daily Progress concerning a lawsuit filed by my attorney, Jeffrey E. Fogel, challenging the unconstitutional and retaliatory cencorship of my writings by prison authorities at Sussex II State Prison; the same kind of censorship that then 17-year-old valedictorian Lulabel Seitz experienced back in June during her graduation ceremony at Petaluma High School in Petaluma, California. When Lulabel made it known to school administrators that she had been sexually assaulted on campus, they failed to take action and even tried to cover it up. Fearing exposure of the matter to the public, she was warned by school administrators not to mention it during her graduation speech.
There are two possible options one can take after being abused: Either suffer in silence, perhaps out of fear of retaliation or further abuse from their abuser, or courageously stand up and speak out about their abuse and expose the individual or individuals responsible for their victimization like the women (and men) in the #MeToo movement. But there’s always a price to be paid when one chooses to defy authority and challenge the status quo by standing up and speaking out, and for Lulabel, that price came in the form of censorship. And so, as she began to speak about her sexual assault on campus and the school’s failure to fully and fairly investigate her claim, her microphone was turned off in an attempt to silence her.
Lulabel’s ordeal parallels, in no small way, what I experienced at Sussex 2 State Prison. During my last year there in 2016, prison administrators from the Warden all the way down to Institutional Investigators colluded to symbolically turn my microphone off by censoring my writings. This was done so that the abuse and neglect of the prisoners there, and those responsible for that abuse and neglect, would not be publicized to the masses. And there’s another parallel between Lulabel’s ordeal and my own: When her microphone turned off, people in the audience yelled, “Let her speak!” Similarly, the civil suit filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division (Civil Action No. 3:18-cv-00780) is seeking an injunction ordering the Virginia Department of Corrections to “Let him speak,” meaning, let me continue to writing about the living conditions within these prisons without government interference.
The civil suit is challenging the censorship of two of my essays in particular: “Sussex 2 State Prison is a Potemkin Prison” and “Life at Sussex 2 State Prison-Revisited.” But the civil suit very much applies to all of my writings, including those I will write in the future. If my writings have touched you, moved you, inspired you, enlightened you, or transformed you in any way, then I ask you to support and help spread the word about this case. Because, truth be told, you have just as much of a stake in the outcome of this case as I do. Why? Because whenever my writings are unconstitutionally censored, your First and Fourteenth Amendment rights are being infringed upon as well.
In Procunier v. Martinez, 94 S.Ct. 1800, 1809 (1974), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “Communication by letter is not accomplished by the act of writing words on paper. Rather, it is effected only when the letter is read by the addressee. Both parties to the correspondence have an interest in securing that result, and censorship of the communication between them necessarily infringes on the interest of each.” Simply put, I have a First Amendment right to write these political essays and have them posted to my blog and you have a First Amendment right to read them, and when they are censored, both of our First Amendment rights are being violated. That’s why I titled this essay, “The People Verses the Virginia Department of Corrections.”
So I ask you, the People, to share this link ** https://www.dailyprogress.com/news/local/fogel-files-federal-suit-alleging-inmate-s-writings-improperly-censored/article_459c02d8-ef6e-11e8-a0a9-abf785b7864d.html ** with all of your social media contacts. Additionally, please e-mail my attorney at firstname.lastname@example.org and express your support for this case. The more publicity we can bring to this case, the better. The future of my writings and your ability to read them hangs in the balance. Power to the People