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Prisoners Self Help Litigation Manual

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is Prison Legal News?
A.

Prison Legal News, a project of the Human Rights Defense Center, is an independent 72-page monthly magazine that provides cutting edge review and analysis of prisoners' rights, court rulings and news concerning criminal justice-related issues. PLN has a national (U.S.) focus on both state and federal prison issues, with some international coverage. PLN provides information that enables prisoners and other concerned individuals and organizations to gain a better understanding of a broad range of criminal justice topics, including issues related to the protection and enforcement of prisoners' rights.

Q. Can prisoners access or receive the material and information on the Prison Legal News website?
A.

Prisoners normally don't have access to the internet, yet they have the greatest need for PLN's content.  We encourage the distribution of PLN's web content to incarcerated persons so long as it is being provided at no cost to the prisoner.  If you are volunteering your time to research a topic for someone in a prison, jail or other detention facility, please feel free to print out our articles and mail them to the incarcerated person. 

Q. How do I subscribe by mail or telephone to PLN?
A.

You can subscribe for yourself or someone else (a gift subscription) by sending us a check or money order for the correct amount to: Prison Legal News, P.O. Box 1151, Lake Worth, FL 33460.

If you have a credit card you can order a subscription and/or any book sold by PLN by calling our office at 561-360-2523 from 9:00 am to 5:00pm (East Coast Time), Monday through Friday.

Q. How much does a subscription to PLN cost?
A.

Subscriptions are $30/yr for prisoners, $35/yr for non-incarcerated individuals and $90/yr for lawyers, government agencies and corporations. PLN regularly offers one or more subscription "specials" at any given time. The current subscription options are listed on the "Subscribe" tab on the menu bar.

Q. What other media work does PLN do?
A.

In addition to this website and its monthly magazine, PLN has published three anthologies, the first titled The Celling of America: An Inside Look at the U.S. Prison Industry. PLN's second book, Prison Nation, was released in January 2003. PLN's third anthology, Prison Profiteers: Who Makes Money from Mass Imprisonment, was published by The New Press in January 2008. PLN's editor, Paul Wright, and managing editor, Alex Friedmann, are regularly interviewed by journalists and media representatives on criminal justice-related topics. We also work with other media to develop and distribute prison-related stories and news reports. For a list of where PLN and the Human Rights Defense Center have been mentioned or quoted in news articles, see our In the News page.

Q. Who is PLN's editor?
A.

PLN is edited by Paul Wright. He can be contacted via the information listed on PLN's Contact Us page, or by email at: pwright@prisonlegalnews.org. PLN's managing editor is Alex Friedmann, who can be contacted at afriedmann@prisonlegalnews.org.

Q. Who manages PLN's day-to-day operations?
A.

PLN's editor Paul Wright is also the executive director of the Human Rights Defense Center, PLN's non-profit parent organization. Alex Friedmann is PLN's managing editor.

Q. Where is PLN located?
A.

PLN's business and editorial office is located in Lake Worth, Florida. See our Contact Us page.

Q. Who writes for PLN?
A. PLN has "regular" writers and also solicits and publishes articles by other writers, many of them in prison. Authors and activists who have published in PLN include: Noam Chomsky, Dan Savage, William Kunstler and Ron Kuby, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Ken Silverstein, Jennifer Vogel, Adrian Lomax, Raymond Luc Levasseur, John Perotti, Willie Wisely, Christian Parenti, William Greider, Noelle Hanrahan and many more.
Q. How does PLN get the information published in the magazine?
A.

PLN is on numerous online listservs for prison and jail-related news. PLN also has a subscription exchange arrangement with scores of other publications, from well-known alternative magazines to very small, independent newsletters. Another valuable source of information is the scores of newspaper clippings about prison-related issues mailed to PLN by readers and subscribers. Imprisoned PLN readers also regularly send us first-person accounts that provide PLN with "inside scoops." Many readers also provide unpublished court rulings that are a valuable source of cases that are not normally reported. PLN also investigates, develops and breaks news stories, some of which have been picked up by other media. Online research by PLN staff is also a valuable source of news reports, and we also rely on studies, reports and audits produced by both government agencies and non-governmental organizations.

Q. How is PLN produced?
A.

Prison Legal News has 13 full-time employees in our main office in Florida and at several remote locations. We also have work study students, volunteers, interns, part-time employees and others who help as needed to produce our monthly publication.

Q. What if I don't want to subscribe but would like to make a contribution to Prison Legal News?
A.

As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, donations to PLN or the Human Rights Defense Center are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by the IRS code. The same procedures outlined above to subscribe to PLN can be used to make a donation to PLN or HRDC. You can also donate online via the "Donations" tab on the menu bar. In addition to accepting contributions, PLN has an annual fundraiser drive. Contributions are used to fund PLN's promotional programs and to ensure that low-cost subscriptions can continue to be offered to prisoners.

Q. How long has PLN been published?
A. PLN has been published monthly since May 1990.
Q. Does PLN sell books?
A.

Yes. PLN directly sells about four dozen prisoner-oriented books, plus indexes of past PLN issues. You can either order over the Internet with your Visa or MasterCard, you can call PLN's office and order with your Visa or MasterCard, or you can print the pages on your printer and mail your order to PLN with the appropriate payment. A flat shipping and handling charge of $6 applies to all book and index orders under $50. Orders $50 and more are shipped at no extra charge. All PLN book and index orders are mailed at the U.S. Postal Service's media mail rate with tracking. Tracking provides PLN with a record of when a book or index purchase is delivered to a prison facility; this protects both the purchaser and PLN from prison mail rooms that are not conscientious about delivering mail to prisoners. For more information, please visit PLN's Book Store.

Q. What does an advertisement in PLN cost?
A.

PLN's advertising rates can be viewed by clicking on Advertising under the "About" tab on the menu bar. Please contact us directly about website advertising.

Q. Does PLN have prisoner-oriented advertising?
A.

Yes. Each issue of PLN has numerous advertisements from businesses and organizations nationwide that provide prisoner-related personal and legal services and books. PLN only accepts advertisements from sources that provide their products or services in a manner consistent with their claims. PLN does turn down ads for products or services that are not reputable or are contrary to the editorial content of PLN. We are not a profit-driven publication; therefore, we can refuse advertising without having to worry about antagonizing shareholders expecting a satisfactory return on their investment, unlike many mainstream media publications.

Our website accepts advertising for a wide variety of products and services that are of interest to our online users.

Q. How does PLN support its operations?
A.

PLN is a project of the Human Rights Defense Center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is primarily funded by subscription and advertising revenue, foundation grants, book sales and individual donations. Subscription rates for prisoners are kept at a near-subsidized level by the higher rates for non-prisoners and advertising revenue, which enables PLN to cover its operating costs. PLN's financial self-sufficiency enables it to maintain complete editorial independence. PLN does not accept government funding. We gratefully accept donations and grants, and have received grants from several large foundations.

Q. What type of people subscribe to Prison Legal News?
A. About 65% of PLN's subscribers are state and federal prisoners. The balance of PLN's subscribers include civil and criminal trial and appellate attorneys, public defender agencies, journalists, academics, paralegals, university and law school libraries, prison law libraries, investment bankers, prison rights activists, students, family members of prisoners and concerned private individuals. State-level government officials also subscribe to PLN, including attorney generals, prison wardens and members of other criminal justice agencies.
Q. What is PLN's circulation and readership?
A.

PLN has thousands of subscribers nationwide who receive our monthly publication. PLN also has subscribers in European and Asian countries. About 65-70% of PLN's subscribers are incarcerated, and PLN has prisoner subscribers in all fifty states. Based on a PLN reader survey, each subscriber's magazine is read by an average of almost 10 people.

Q. What sorts of issues does PLN cover?
A.

Prison Legal News' coverage includes court access, disciplinary hearings, prison conditions, excessive force, mail censorship, jail litigation, visiting, telephones, religious freedom, free speech, prison rape, abuse of women prisoners, retaliation, the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), medical treatment, HIV and hep C, the death penalty, control units, attorney fees and much more. Sample copies of the most recent copies of PLN are posted on our homepage in PDF format.

Q. If I live in the South Florida area, can I do volunteer work for PLN?
A.

Sure! PLN has a regular need for people willing to volunteer a few hours of their time to do envelope stuffing and sorting, particularly during the last week of each month. Such help enables PLN's paid staff to focus on the business of producing our monthly publication. Further, as a non-profit organization, PLN is also always interested in people with specialized skills related to fundraising. Contact PLN's office at 561-360-2523 if you have any questions related to volunteering your time or if you want to contribute your specialized fundraising skills. Thanks!

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