Issue #1 – Winter/Spring 2023

Published in January, this zine offers an introduction into the topic of censorship and book banning in U.S. prisons, as well as some ideas toward how to build a larger campaign and autonomous movement against it. 

Contributors include: Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin, JoNina Abron-Ervin, Oakland Abolition and Solidarity, Midwest Books to Prisoners, Wayland “X” Coleman, Steven J. Levy, Panda Insurgente, Michigan Abolition and Prisoner Solidarity, True Leap Zine Distro, and South Chicago ABC Zine Distro; with front cover art by SKS-Heruglyphx.

We are all part of a growing coalition seeking to band together and coordinate a campaign against prison censorship and book bans.

Hundreds of thousands of books, magazines and other materials are currently banned in prisons. Simultaneously many prison systems are increasing their grip over correspondence, seeking to block physical mail altogether and replace it with scans or tablet based messaging; both of which are tools facilitating surveillance and control. These moves are similar to what is going down with oppressive legislatures, school districts, and mainstream media throttling what can be taught, read, and discussed. 

At the moment, efforts to push back against censorship and book banning are disconnected and uncoordinated; from one author somewhere suing to get their book in, to someone locked up over their filing a grievance against a mailroom block. Of course, there are many groups already resisting, involved in their own locally situated struggles. The basic idea encouraged by this zine is to connect these different struggles together into a stronger constellation of abolitionist insurgency. Some contributors also touch on the link between book bans in prison and the escalation of racist, homophobic, and transphobic bans by other state institutions, including schools and libraries. Three of the contributors listed by name are currently imprisoned.

This is the first in a series of publications that we hope can provide a forum for discussion and debate around the politics, principles, strategies/tactics, and trajectory of abolitionist struggles against censorship and book banning. Copies of the zine have been printed and distributed to imprisoned people across several states, accompanied with a survey. Please print it out, share it with friends, mail it to people you know who are locked up, and join us in building this campaign.

If you are part of a crew that is already engaged in such struggles and have updates on your own fight against book bans, mail scanning, and other forms of information censorship (including writing, emails, library use, creative expression, study, etc.), please reach out and share updates to be included in future issues of this zine series.

True Leap publishing collective