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PLN's South Carolina jail settlement profiled on WSJ's law blog

Wall Street Journal, Jan. 1, 2012.
PLN's South Carolina jail settlement profiled on WSJ's law blog - Wall Street Journal 2012

January 11, 2012, 11:15 AM

Read Away, South Carolina Inmates!

By Sam Favate

Wall Street Journal Law Blog

Inmates in South Carolina can once again get out their reading glasses. The Berkeley County jail has agreed to stop barring prisoners from accessing books, magazines, newspapers and other periodicals, as part of a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union.

The jail officials will also stop enforcing a policy that bans publications bound with staples and those that contain any level of nudity – which was being applied to newspapers with lingerie ads, according to an ACLU statement.

Prior to the lawsuit, inmates could only receive religious literature and could purchase some publications at the jail commissary. The jail turned away the monthly newsletter Prison Legal News, and the ACLU took up the case, saying the jail’s policies violated the inmates’ constitutional rights, Charleston’s Post & Courier reported.

“They don’t cede their constitutional rights just because they are incarcerated,” Will Matthews, an ACLU spokesman, told the Post & Courier.

An attorney for the jail, Sandy Senn, said the case was a drain on the staff, as well as the taxpayer. Staff members will continue to reject any material that is sexually explicit, but not educational or artistic images, and officials will remove staples from incoming publications. The county claimed that staples were being used to damage the jail, and for activities such as tattooing.

Prison Legal News is a monthly publication that focuses on legal issues like court access, prison conditions, and mail censorship. The lawsuit charged that, beginning in 2008, copies sent to Berkeley County inmates were returned to sender or discarded.

The ACLU filed another suit on behalf of Prison Legal News in November, against the Florida Department of Corrections, claiming that its publications are withheld from inmates.



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