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PLN files First Amendement censorship suit against Kansas jail

Prison Legal News, Jan. 1, 2011.
Press release - PLN files First Amendement censorship suit against Kansas jail 2011


Prison Legal News – For Immediate Release

August 31, 2011

Publisher Sues Shawnee County, Kansas, Over Jail’s No-Publication Policy

Topeka, KS – Prison Legal News (PLN), a non-profit monthly publication that reports on criminal justice-related issues and a project of the Human Rights Defense Center, today filed a federal lawsuit against the Shawnee County, Kansas, Board of Commissioners and Richard Kline, Director of the Shawnee County Department of Corrections.

The suit alleges First Amendment violations due to a policy at the Shawnee County jail that prohibits prisoners from receiving books and other publications sent to them through the mail.

According to the Shawnee County Dept. of Corrections’ website, "No packages, newspapers, magazines, books, or other personal property is to be mailed to the facility."

As a result of that policy, PLN’s monthly publication and books sent to prisoners at the jail were censored by jail staff. PLN consequently filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of
Kansas, arguing the policy unconstitutionally infringes on its right under the First Amendment to send reading material to prisoners at the jail.

According to PLN’s complaint, "since at least November 2010, Plaintiff has sent copies of the monthly publication Prison Legal News, subscription renewal letters, informational brochures and
soft-cover books such as Protecting Your Health and Safety to a number of individuals confined in the Shawnee County Jail." All of the reading material was censored pursuant to the facility’s mail

"The policy at the Shawnee County jail that restricts prisoners from receiving any books or other publications is an egregious violation of the First Amendment," said PLN editor Paul Wright. "One would think that law enforcement officials would be in the business of upholding the Constitution, not violating it on a daily basis by enforcing such ill-conceived policies."

PLN is seeking a declaration that the jail’s no-publication policy violates its rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as compensatory and punitive damages, attorney fees and costs. PLN has prevailed in similar censorship cases nationwide.

PLN is represented by Doug Bonney, chief counsel and legal director for the ACLU Foundation of Kansas and Western Missouri, as well as Kansas City attorneys Fred Slough and James D. Jenkins, and Human Rights Defense Center chief counsel Lance Weber. The case is Prison Legal News v. Board of Commissioners of Shawnee County, U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, Case No. 2:11-cv-02497-WEB-KGG.


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 approximately 7,000 subscribers nationwide and operates a website ( 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

Attorney Doug Bonney
ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri
3601 Main Street
Kansas City, MO 64111
(816) 756-3113
(816) 756-0136 fax

Attorney Fred Slough
Slough, Connealy, Irwin & Madden LLC
1627 Main St, Suite 900
Kansas City, MO 64108
(816) 531-2224
(816) 531-2147 fax



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