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Prisoner Education Guide

PLN is a project of the Human Rights Defense Center

Welcome to Prison Legal News!

Prison Legal News (PLN), a project of the non-profit Human Rights Defense Center, is a 72-page monthly magazine that reports on criminal justice issues and prison and jail-related civil litigation, with an emphasis on prisoners' rights. PLN has published continuously since 1990 and covers a wide range of topics that include prison labor, rape and sexual abuse, misconduct by prison and jail staff, prisoners' constitutional rights, racial and socioeconomic disparities in our criminal justice system, medical and mental health care for prisoners, disenfranchisement, rehabilitation and recidivism, prison privatization, prison and jail phone rates, women prisoners, the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), prison censorship, the death penalty, HIV and hep C, solitary confinement and control units, and much more.

In 2013, PLN received the First Amendment Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. 

This website includes all of PLN's articles published since 1990 plus thousands of other articles, case reports, publications and pleadings. We have also launched a companion publication, Criminal Legal News (CLN), which covers criminal case law, policing, prosecutorial misconduct and related issues. 

To search PLN's articles and other content, click "Search Content" on the top menu bar. For recent news articles that mention PLN and the Human Rights Defense Center or quote PLN staff, click "In the News" (which also includes our press releases). For our litigation project, which tracks our First Amendment lawsuits, public records cases and other legal actions, click "Litigation."

PLN's monthly magazine is a subscription publication. We have thousands of subscribers nationwide, and around 65-70% are incarcerated. We also offer online subscriptions that provide full access to all content on our website (most of our news content is free, but a subscription is required to access some of our legal content). For subscription options and fees, please click on "Subscribe" on the menu bar.

PLN also distributes a number of criminal justice, legal and self-help books through our Book Store. Plus we do much more -- for a better understanding of everything we do, please review our Annual Reports (also available under the "About" tab).


     Recent PLN Articles

ACLU Sounds Alarm: LA Council Free Speech Restrictions

by Derek Gilna

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees free speech to all Americans, but apparently the Los Angeles, California City Council and the Los Angeles Police Department(LAPD) feel that their compliance with that core citizen protection is optional. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of ...

Prosecutor Deciding Disparate Sentencing for Drug Convictions

by Mark Wilson

The Massachusetts Supreme Court held that the prosecutor, not the judge, determines the applicable sentence under drug laws that authorize two different sentences for the same conduct.

Massachusetts General Law, chapter 94C, section 32A criminalizes the distribution of controlled substances. Subsections (a) and (c) criminalize first-time distribution ...

Tenth Circuit: Lengthy Denials of Outdoor Exercise Protected by Qualified Immunity

The Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit issued two decisions in July 2017 which held prison officials were entitled to qualified immunity for denying outdoor exercise to prisoners for 11 and 25 months.

Colorado state prisoners Jonathan Apodaca and Joshua Vigil were denied outdoor recreation during the eleven months ...

The Criminalization of the Mentally Ill in Maine

by Lance TapleyPine Tree Watch

In April, 2017, while incarcerated at the Maine State Prison’s Intensive Mental Health Unit in Warren, James Staples removed his own eyeball.

The 66-year-old prisoner, who has a lengthy history of both mental illness and assault and had previously been incarcerated at several ...

From Cages to the Community: Prison Profiteers and the Treatment Industrial Complex

by Christopher Zoukis

Criminal justice reform is slowly taking hold in the U.S. Since 2014, at least 30 states have passed legislation aimed at reducing their prison populations. And following the election of “law and order” President Donald J. Trump, states have continued to take reform efforts into their ...

More articles



Prisoner Education Guide

Recent Headlines

Listen now to the March 22 broadcast of the radio program, "Loud and Clear." HRDC founder and executive director Paul Wright is a contributor to its weekly segment, "Criminal Injustice." Paul joins the show to discuss the most egregious conduct of our courts and prosecutors and how justice is denied to so many people in this country. Today’s segment focuses on private prisons and prison profit.


Prisoners Self Help Litigation Manual


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