Behind Bars

Censorship in the 21st Century:
San Quentin Prison Style

By Kevin Cooper

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution grants all citizens of this country the right to freedom of speech. We also have the constitutional right to protest for our rights using free speech, as well as to speak out against any action being done to us by the state or federal government.

Apparently there is at least one San Quentin prison guard who either doesn’t know this, or doesn’t care about this hard-fought constitutional right. Or, maybe he or she was ignoring it in order to impose their will against my speaking out against this historic and horrific crime against humanity—the American institution of capital punishment.

On Thursday, March 3, 2011, I was to do a “Live From Death Row” telephone call to speak, live, to a group of college students in Indiana. I made the call at 4:00 P.M. and began my opening statement about the racism and classism that is involved with the death penalty in this country. I even managed to answer a few questions that were asked by students, and while answering one of these questions the telephone call was disconnected by the prison guard who was monitoring the telephone call.

I had not been on the phone ten minutes before that call was ended. But within the time that I was on the phone I did tell the students these truths: every person who these volunteer executioners strap down to a table, chair or gurney to torture and murder in the name of the law is a poor person, no matter what color their skin, or sex, or religion. It appears that the powers that be within this country only execute poor people.

So this truth, and the fact that I said that I am an innocent man, as well as the fact that I live in a cage the size of a bathroom, or smaller, was enough to make this prison guard cut off my phone call!

What this prison guard doesn’t know is this: Now every one of those college students who took time to come and learn about America’s pride and joy, it’s death penalty system, have learned that I was not lying about this system! Because I can’t even do what the First Amendment says that I can do, even as a prisoner on San Quentin’s death row—exercise my constitutional right to free speech!

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