Cartoon too provocative for inmates?
A cartoon deemed unacceptable by a south Georgia prison warden has resulted in a federal lawsuit against the warden and other officials.
Since 1993, Freedom Ways, a tiny newsletter published bi-monthly by the Americus-based Prison & Jail Project, has carried stories, columns, poems and cartoons aimed at furthering its mission of reforming abuses in the state's prisons, and urging an end to the death penalty.
But a cartoon drawn by a Massachusetts student was deemed too provocative by Calhoun State Prison Warden Danny Waters, who decided not to allow the dozen or so inmates receiving subscriptions to the free publication to receive last year's September-October issue.
The drawing depicts seven hanged black men with a Confederate battle flag superimposed over their bodies, while the looping rope above and smoldering logs below spell out "Southern Heritage." The cartoon was drawn by then-15-year-old Hannah Jukovsky, a white Cambridge, Mass., student who last year toured the South as part of a civil rights research project.
"She was trying to convey the idea that, for many people of color, that flag means something akin to terror and racial oppression," says Robert Tsai, an attorney with the Georgia affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union. "But the prison administrators were so afraid that it would incite some sort of racial unrest that they wouldn't let it in."
On March 16, the ACLU filed suit on behalf of the Prison & Jail Project in federal court in Augusta, citing First Amendment and due process concerns, Tsai says.
"We think the law's pretty clear that you can't keep something out unless, objectively, the material exhorts someone to commit violence," he says. "There's no way this meets those standards."??