UPLC and the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center have filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Chicago chapter of Black & Pink, a national nonprofit organization that provides LGBTQ prisoners with allies on the outside. For over two years, the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) has censored communication between this organization and LGBTQ prisoners in Illinois. This censorship is not because the mailings posed a threat to security or safety, but because IDOC is intentionally discriminating against Black & Pink based on the LGBTQ identities of its members and subscribers.
“Prisoners are extraordinarily isolated. Publications give them a lifeline to the outside world. Almost all prisoners will one day be released, and it does no good to isolate them while they’re inside. Having ties to the outside while in prison is one of the best predictors that someone will not return to prison,” -- Alan Mills, Executive Director of Uptown People’s Law Center.
IDOC has violated the First Amendment of the US Constitution by censoring Black & Pink mailings to individuals in at least eleven prisons.
Attorneys: Alan Mills, Elizabeth Mazur, Nicole Schult (Uptown People's Law Center), Sheila A. Bedi, Vanessa del Valle (Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center)
Date Filed: October 18, 2018
Court: U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
Case Number: 18 C 6986
Officials at an Illinois prison suspended an educational program for inmates, launched two internal investigations and removed 200 books from a prison library because many had “racial” content or addressed issues like diversity and inclusion, according to records obtained by the Tribune.
In September 2018, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections announced it would put a halt to book donation programs, mail-order books, and publications for incarcerated people housed in state prisons. Although the restrictive policy has since been reversed, there are still concerns among those who run the programs and people behind bars.
Censorship Isolates LGBTQ Prisoners, Lawsuit Says
On Oct. 18, Uptown People’s Law Center and the MacArthur Justice Center sued the Illinois Department of Corrections director on behalf of Chicago’s Black and Pink chapter for censoring the organization’s mail sent inside state prisons. According to the lawsuit, 11 prisons censored and refused mail from Black and Pink Chicago on over 200 occasions since 2016. The DOC’s censorship of Black and Pink material is part of a wider pattern of discrimination against LGBTQ people, the attorneys said.
Knowing there were other transgender inmates in prisons in Illinois and across the country made Leila Lee feel as though she wasn’t alone. She said it also made her want to help people like herself when she was released from prison.
Several Illinois prisons banned or censored publications, greeting cards and other written materials published by a group advocating for LGBTQ prisoners, it said in a free speech lawsuit filed in federal court in Chicago Thursday.
Attorneys with the Uptown People’s Law Center filed the suit on behalf of the Chicago chapter of Black & Pink – a nonprofit that offers prisoners news updates on LGBTQ issues through a monthly newsletter and other publications.
Today, attorneys filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Chicago chapter of Black & Pink, a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide LGBTQ people in prison with allies on the outside. For over two years, Illinois Department of Corrections ( IDOC ) has censored communication between this organization and LGBTQ prisoners in Illinois.
The Uptown People’s Law Center and the MacArthur Justice Center is filing a lawsuit today that alleges Illinois prisons are censoring correspondence and publications that have been mailed to prisoners by Black and Pink, a prisoners’ rights organization focused on supporting incarcerated LGBTQ and HIV-positive people.