Censorship in NY Prison: An open letter seeking help for William "Red" Graham

by David Seth Michaels, The Buddhist Channel, June 5, 2006

Spencertown, New York (USA) -- Although I've been involved in battles over prisoners' rights for 3 decades, I'm always disappointed when the same battle has to be fought over and over again.

<< William "Red" Graham

The present struggle: a friend, Kobutsu Malone, wrote a book called Prison Chaplaincy Guidelines for Zen Buddhism: A Source Book For Prison Chaplains, Administrators, and Security Personnel.  He sent a copy of the book to a friend and student of Zen incarcerated in Gowanda Correctional Facility in Gowanda, New York.  Gowanda is in the part of Mississippi southeast of Buffalo, New York, but I digress.
At Gowanda, the prison authorities decided that the prisoner should not be allowed to receive the book because it "depicts/describes procedures to be implemented solely by Administration."  Significantly, that doesn't appear to be a basis for denying literature to prisoners under Department of Correctional Services Directives. The prisoner has appealed to the Facility Media Review Committee from this determination.
Meanwhile, the book has been allowed in numerous other New York State prisons, in US prisons, and in various death rows in other states.
Kobutsu, who wrote the book and sent it to the prisoner, wrote to the Superintendent of Gowanda. He received a response saying in essence that the prisoner has the right to appeal, I'm doing nothing about this, thanks for asking.
There you have the story.
Obviously, if the prisoner's appeal to the Media Review Committee fails, the prisoner can appeal to the Courts, and I'm willing to help him litigate this unnecessary case.  This will take time and money. Obviously, Kobutsu can go to the Commissioner of Corrections about the inadequacy of the Superintendent's response and he may ultimately obtain relief.  This too will take time.  But that's not why I'm writing this.
Prison walls manage to keep the prisoners in.  But as important, they keep us all out.  We don't know, perhaps don't want to know, what goes on inside.  And the difficulties of accomplishing even the smallest things-- like getting this book to this particular prisoner-- are overwhelming and embittering to those inside even with outside help.

Nobody inside or outside should have to fight about this small book. Nobody inside or outside should have to struggle against the millions of other crazy decisions affecting prisoners lives that are made on a daily basis that don't end up in the papers or in the courts.  But if we don't pursue this matter vigorously, the one that has arisen for us, we weaken our already tenuous connection to those who are incarcerated and abandon them further to isolation and despair.  It's that simple for me.
So I'm asking for your help.  Will publicity cause somebody in DoCS to allow this book to be given to this prisoner?  Will letters to the Superintendent at Gowand Correctional Facility, PO Box 311, Gowanda, New York 12407-0311 help?  Will calling your state legislators help?  Will forwarding this request for assistance widely ultimately find somebody with an idea of how to accomplish this apparently simple matter?  I just don't know.
All I want in connection with this matter is for the prisoner legally to receive a copy of this excellent book.  I've already said that I thought the exposition of Zen in this book is one the best I've read. Can you think about this and see if there's something you can do that might help?

David Seth Michaels
PO Box 96
1028 Route 203 at Beale Road
Spencertown, New York 12165
Tel.: (518) 392-9150
Fax: (518) 392-9130
Web: www.davidseth.com
Blog: www.dreamantilles.blogspot.com
email: davidseth@davidseth.com

"Things are not as they appear, nor are they otherwise."
The Lankavatara Sutra

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv. Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/norbuchatbot. Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv