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Sherburne County sued for not delivering Prison Legal News & Criminal Legal News to jail inmates

StarTribune, Aug. 24, 2020.

By  Star Tribune 

A Florida nonprofit is suing Sherburne County and Sheriff Joel Brott over the jail's alleged refusal to deliver copies of its legal magazines to inmates at the county jail.

In a federal lawsuit filed Thursday in Minnesota, the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC) said Sherburne County jail employees have refused to deliver copies of its two monthly magazines and other publications since June 2019. The jail failed to inform the center of its decision not to deliver the mail, thus denying it a chance to appeal what the lawsuit describes as censorship.

"When the Jail prohibits incarcerated persons from receiving newspapers and magazines, these persons are left in the dark — deprived of the ability to defend themselves in the criminal cases against them or expand their minds through knowledge and education," attorney R.J. Zayed wrote in the lawsuit's complaint. Zayed is a former assistant U.S. attorney in Minnesota.

A Sherburne County spokesman said Monday that Brott's office would not comment on pending litigation.

HRDC said it tried to send six different types of mail to inmates, including copies of its two magazines and a book titled "Prisoners Guerrilla Handbook." Three inmates told HRDC that most of the materials were confiscated and undelivered. Another inmate got both magazines but nothing else.

The lawsuit argues that the jail's actions violate the nonprofit's "First Amendment right to communicate speech to incarcerated persons" and its 14th Amendment right to due process for not allowing it a chance to appeal the censorship.



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