Federal Court Rules that Human Rights Coalition’s Censorship Lawsuit can Go Forward
On Thursday, May 15, United States Federal District court ruled that a lawsuit challenging censorship of political literature in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) can go forward. The court denied the defense’s request to dismiss some of the censorship claims and all of the supervisory officials named as defendants.
The lawsuit, _Holbrook et al. v. Jellen et al_., was filed in January on behalf of the Human Rights Coalition (HRC), politicized prisoner Robert Saleem Holbrook, and College of Charleston Professor Kristi Brian against several employees of the State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Coal Township and the (PA DOC) for confiscation of mail sent to Holbrook, a co-founder of HRC who is currently held at SCI Coal Township.
The suit details a series of confiscations of Holbrook’s mail since January 2012 that includes academic correspondence with a college professor, issues of The Movement, essays written by Angela Y. Davis and James Baldwin, and a newsletter published by HRC which focuses on prison abuse, solitary confinement, and ways that prisoners’ family members can come together to challenge human rights abuses and injustice in the criminal legal system. The content of the materials censored by SCI Coal Township and Central Office officials touch on the most vital issues of the operation of the prison system in Pennsylvania: juveniles sentenced to die in prison, deaths in solitary confinement, repression of human rights defenders inside prisons, advocacy efforts by families of prisoners, and the pervasive racism that defines the criminal legal system in Pennsylvania and the United States.
Plaintiffs are represented in the case by the Abolitionist Law Center and Necia Hobbes of the firm Jones Day.