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PLN files censorship suit against Galveston County, Texas jail

Prison Legal News, Jan. 1, 2010.
Press release - PLN files censorship suit against Galveston County, Texas jail 2010

PRESS RELEASE

Prison Legal News – For Immediate Release

June 28, 2010

Publisher Files Censorship Lawsuit Against Galveston County Jail


Galveston, Texas – Prison Legal News (PLN), a monthly publication that reports on criminal justice-related issues, filed a lawsuit today in U.S. District Court against Galveston County, Sheriff Freddie Poor, former Sheriff Gean Leonard and a Sheriff’s lieutenant. The suit alleges unconstitutional censorship at the county jail in violation of the First Amendment.

According to the jail's inmate handbook, prisoners can receive "books, magazines or news-papers" if they are sent by the publisher, but only if approval is obtained from jail officials. Such approval is only granted "under special circumstances." However, when PLN's editor called the jail he was told that prisoners could not receive any books or magazines.

Although PLN has six subscribers at the Galveston County Jail, they have been unable to receive PLN’s monthly publication or book orders due to the jail's policy. Further, according to PLN's complaint it "has never received any notice from Galveston County that the publication was being censored."

For example, prisoner Clarence Crawford was told by jail staff that he could not receive a book from PLN, titled Protecting Your Health and Safety, because "it was not authorized through proper channels." He was also told to "read the inmate handbook on what you can have or can't in this facility." PLN received no notice of this censorship.

"Prisoners in jail, many of whom are awaiting trial, have not been convicted and are presumed innocent until proven guilty, have a right under the First Amendment to receive reading material, and publishers such as PLN also have a First Amendment right to send publications to prisoners. There is no exception in the Bill of Rights that excludes prisoners from freedom of speech," said PLN editor Paul Wright.

PLN is seeking injunctive relief, declaratory relief, and compensatory and punitive damages against the defendants, as well as attorney fees and costs of the litigation.

The case is Prison Legal News v. Sheriff Freddie Poor, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Case No. 3:10-cv-00251. PLN is represented by attorneys Lauren Izzo, Scott Medlock and James C. Harrington with the Texas Civil Rights Project.

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Prison Legal News (PLN), founded in 1990 and based in Brattleboro, Vermont, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human rights in U.S. detention facilities. HRDC publishes a monthly magazine that includes reports, reviews and analysis of court rulings and news related to prisoners’ rights and criminal justice issues. PLN has almost 7,000 subscribers nationwide and operates a website (www.prisonlegalnews.org) that includes a comprehensive database of prison and jail-related articles, news reports, court rulings, verdicts, settlements and related documents. PLN is a project of the Human Rights Defense Center.


For further information, please contact:

Paul Wright, Editor
Prison Legal News
P.O. Box 2420
Brattleboro, VT 05303
(802) 257-1342
pwright@prisonlegalnews.org

Lauren Izzo, Attorney
Texas Civil Rights Project
1405 Montopolis Dr.
Austin, TX 78741
(713) 743-1011
lauren.tcrp@gmail.com

Scott Medlock, Attorney
Texas Civil Rights Project
1405 Montopolis Dr.
Austin, TX 78741
(512) 474-5073
(512) 474-0726 fax
smedlock@texascivilrightsproject.org


 


 

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