Did Houston Chronicle Story Threaten Prison Riot? Not Really


Texas prison censors excluded from copies of the Houston Chronicle delivered to inmates a story officials said “a reasonable person would construe as written solely for the purpose of communicating information designed to achieve the breakdown of prisons through offender disruption such as strikes or riots.” The article, headlined “U.S. teens carry out bloody work for cartel,” told the story of Texas youths who ran drugs and murdered people on behalf of the notorious Zetas arm of the Gulf Cartel, one of Mexico's most powerful gangs.

The censors, explained a spokesman, didn't really think the story was written for a nefarious reason. It included information on the arrests of 14 Gulf Cartel members. Thirteen have pleaded guilty to various crimes. Charges against one have been dropped. Said the prison spokesman: “The situation can be delicate. If inmates understood someone was indicted from a gang, it could raise tensions in that group. They might think a fellow inmate had snitched.” The system's 156,000 inmates were sent 18.4 million pieces of mail in the last fiscal year. In addition, they were sent 186,632 packages. Every piece of mail was opened and inspected.

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