LGBT Inmate Group Accuses Illinois Prisons of Censorship

CHICAGO (CN) – 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.

Black & Pink sued to stop 11 Illinois Department of Corrections wardens from banning written materials sent to inmates by mail.

Represented by the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, and Uptown People’s Law Center, Black & Pink seeks an injunction against Department of Corrections Director John Baldwin and the wardens for violation of its First and 14th Amendment rights.

Uptown People’s Law Center attorney Alan Mills said in a phone interview Thursday that it is “bad for everybody” if prisoners are not allowed to communicate and establish strong ties with the outside world. That is of particular concern to LGBTQ inmates who can be isolated in a “masculine” prison environment, he said.

“It’s so important that the flow of communications with prisoners continues,” Mills said.

Illinois Attorney General’s Office spokeswoman Annie Thompson declined to comment and the Department of Corrections did not immediately respond Thursday.

Founded 14 years ago, Black & Pink’s website states that the group’s focus is on LGBTQ prisoners’ rights and that it is working “toward the abolition of the prison industrial complex.”

It sends a monthly newsletter out to 13,000 prisoners in U.S. prisons. The organization has a Chicago chapter and also publishes zines about solitary confinement, chapter updates and birthday and holiday cards.

Eleven correctional facilities have banned and censored the materials as part of a “coordinated effort,” the filing states.

The lawsuit notes that prisons have used similar language to ban Black & Pink’s “The Solitary Zine.” The prison said that zine could incite violence, according to the lawsuit, while the prisons called holiday cards sent to inmates “propaganda.”

The censorship has caused the group “irreparable harm including, but not limited to: suppression of its political message, frustration of its organizational mission, loss of its ability to recruit new supporters, subscribers, and writers, loss of subscriptions, and diversion of its resources,” the 28-page complaint states.

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