The Home of Zineland Security
By Donny Smith
Well, although I'd like to start this out with a long rant about how "security" is just an excuse for right-wing politics as usual, I figure you can read the papers yourself.
Of course, the more people who have a chance to read your zine, the more weirdos you'll hear from (for good or bad). Here's some practical advice on dealing with the prisoners, child molesters, fundamentalists, psychopaths, and everyone else you'll meet in zinedom. You can take it or leave it, mix and match, it's up to you:
1) Get a PO Box.
2) Use your first name only, or use a pseudonym.
3) Trust your instincts. If you get a bad feeling from someone, don't correspond with them at all.
4) Ask questions. If you get an odd request, don't send your zine. Instead ask the person something like, "Who are you? Why are you interested in my zine? How did you hear about it?" Watch for evasive or defensive answers. (Read Davida's Notice about Bill Price below.)
5) Be suspicious if a correspondent wants to meet you in person, especially if you're a woman, a transperson, or a gay man. No matter how well you think you know the person, always meet in a public place the first time and always let a friend know where you're going and who you're meeting.
6) Don't correspond with prisoners who mention that they're getting out soon -not unless you're prepared for the huge emotional, financial, and possibly legal risks of having them show up at your door. (But if you are prepared for that, ex-cons need all the help they can get!)
7) If you have any concerns at all about a prisoner, write to the warden. Just take the address the prisoner gave you, take off the prisoner's name, and write WARDEN. Include the prisoner's full name and prisoner number in your letter. (If you have online access, just type the name of the prison into a search engine or the name of the state plus the words "Department of Corrections.") But be judicious in what you say to the warden, because prisoners get disciplinary action over the slightest things.
8) If you get mail from a non-prisoner that's threatening, asks too-personal questions, or gives you a weird feeling, don't send your zine to that person. In fact, don't even respond to their letters. If necessary, consult with your local postmaster. The Postal Service can send that person a letter saying to stop sending you mail. The relevant forms are Postal Form 1500 Pornographic & Undesirable Mail, if someone's been sending you "obscene materials, violence-inducing materials, and some types of mail relating to lotteries," or Postal Form 8165 Mail Fraud Complaint Questionnaire, if there's been any money involved. I'm not sure what the form number is for creepiness.
9) Give some thought before you exclude prisoners entirely from your mailing list. They're human beings too, and this is the reading material they have available:
a) Prison libraries. In some cases a paltry collection of donated materials picked over by Christian fundamentalist hicks.
b) Mail-order purchases. But prisoners can't use Amazon.com and, in some prisons, can't order from used book stores. And while prisoners pay "outside" prices, plus shipping & handling, they earn "inside" wages, well below minimum wage.
c) Whatever you send. Many prisoners rely on zines and newsletters for their sanity. We are often their only connection to people like themselves. Imagine if all you had to read was Sports Illustrated, Walmart's Top Ten Bestsellers from 1997, and the Bible.
DIRECTORIES OF ZINE LIBRARIES & INFOSHOPS
FURTHER READING ON ZINES & LIBRARIES
FURTHER READING ON THE FUTURE OF U.S. DEMOCRACY, ZINES, YOUR RIGHT TO PUBLISH, & SO ON
Notice About Bill Price:
Bill Price is a twice-convicted child molester. In 1984, he was sentenced to 8 years in prison for molesting a 9-year-old girl. He went to jury trial with 5 counts of child molestation. In the early 90's, he repeatedly molested two girls starting at ages 5 and 6, respectively. In 1993, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He is approximately 50 years old.
He has published three zines: Bars, Ishi, and Fem Zine. The first issue of Ishi is written as if he is a sexually abused, young girl, and attempts to appeal to the same. Fem Zine is a listing of zines by young women. Zinewriters have reported an increase in orders from prisons after being listing in Fem Zine, which implies he is distributing this to other prisoners.
Distros and zinewriters have reported that he has shown particular interest in zines with topics of rape, abuse and sex, and zines by young women, heavy-set women, and lesbians. He is having some of his zines and letters mailed from outside the prison, so that people he contacts do not necessarily know he is incarcerated. He was released on parole in May 2001.