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HRDC v. St. Joseph County, IN, USDC, Complaint, Censorship, 2022

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USDC IN/ND case 3:22-cv-00489 document 1 filed 06/27/22 page 1 of 10

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SOUTH BEND DIVISION
HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENSE CENTER,

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Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM J. REDMAN, SHERIFF,
ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, INDIANA, in his
official and individual capacities,
Defendant.

No. 3:22-cv-489

Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief and Damages
Introduction
1.

For decades, the United States Supreme Court has recognized that the freedom to

read and correspond with the outside world while incarcerated carries important benefits
to both prisoners and society as a whole. To this end, plaintiff, the Human Rights Defense
Center (“HRDC” or “plaintiff”), provides incarcerated persons across the United States
with publications about their legal and civil rights, as well as options for accessing
education while incarcerated. Some of these publications are periodicals and some are
books. At times HRDC will send information that is requested by prisoners and at other
times HRDC will send information unsolicited to assist prisoners and in furtherance of
its mission to educate incarcerated persons.
2.

Defendant, William J. Redman, the St. Joseph County Sheriff (“Sheriff”), has a
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policy that prohibits prisoners from receiving periodicals unless they are by subscription
and unless the periodical received is the current issue of the subscription. Based on this
policy, the Sheriff has rejected a number of periodicals that HRDC has attempted to send
to prisoners at the St. Joseph County Jail. At times, but not always, the Sheriff has also
prohibited HRDC’s periodicals because they contain staples. At no time has the Sheriff
provided an opportunity for HRDC to be heard concerning the censoring of these
materials.
3.

The actions of the Sheriff violate the First Amendment rights of HRDC as well as

procedural due process. HRDC is entitled to declaratory and injunctive relief and
damages.
Jurisdiction, venue, cause of action
4.

The Court has jurisdiction of this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

5.

Venue is proper in this district pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391.

6.

Declaratory relief is authorized by 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201, 2202 and by Rule 57 of the

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
7.

This action is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to redress the deprivation,

under color of state law, of rights secured by the Constitution of the United States.
Parties
8.

The Human Rights Defense Center is a not-for-profit charitable organization

recognized under § 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, incorporated in the state of
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Washington and with principal offices in Lake Worth, Florida. The purpose of HRDC is
to educate and assist prisoners and to inform the public about the destructive nature of
racism, sexism, and the economic and social costs of prisons to society. HRDC
accomplishes its mission through advocacy, litigation, and the publication and
distribution of books, magazines, and other information concerning prisons and prisoner
rights.
9.

William Redman is the Sheriff of St. Joseph County, Indiana, and, as such, is the

duly elected head of the St. Joseph County Police Department, which operates the St.
Joseph County Jail. He has ultimate responsibility for the promulgation and enforcement
of all Jail policies, practices, and procedures, including the policies, practices, and
procedures relating to mail and the reading material that is available to prisoners. He is
sued in both his individual and official capacities.
Facts
10.

For more than 30 years, HRDC’s mission has been public education, advocacy, and

outreach on behalf of, and for the purpose of assisting, prisoners who seek legal redress
for infringements of their constitutionally guaranteed and other basic human rights.
HRDC’s mission, if realized, has a salutary effect on public safety.
11.

To accomplish its mission, HRDC publishes and distributes books, magazines, and

other materials containing news and analysis about prisons, jails, and other detention
facilities, prisoners’ rights, court rulings, management of prison facilities, prison
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conditions, and other matters pertaining to the rights and interests of incarcerated
individuals.
12.

HRDC has thousands of customers in the United States and abroad, including

prisoners, attorneys, journalists, public libraries, judges, and members of the general
public. Since its creation in 1990, HRDC has sent its publications to prisoners and
librarians in more than 3,000 correctional facilities located across all fifty states, including
the Federal Bureau of Prisons and various facilities within the State of Indiana.
13.

HRDC publishes and distributes a 72-page monthly magazine titled Prison Legal

News: Dedicated to Protecting Human Rights (“Prison Legal News”), which contains news
and analysis about prisons, jails, and other detention facilities, prisoners’ rights, court
opinions, management of prison facilities, prison conditions, and other matters
pertaining to the rights and interests of incarcerated individuals. It is frequently used as
a resource by prisoners. In 2013, Prison Legal News received the First Amendment Award
from the Society of Professional Journalists.
14.

More recently, HRDC also began publishing a second monthly magazine, Criminal

Legal News. This magazine focuses on review and analysis of individual rights, court
rulings, and news about criminal justice-related issues. It is also a valuable resource for
prisoners.
15.

In July of 2021 HRDC sent back issues of Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News

to ten prisoners confined in the St. Joseph County Jail.
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USDC IN/ND case 3:22-cv-00489 document 1 filed 06/27/22 page 5 of 10

16.

The prisoners had not sought the publications from HRDC. However, HRDC was

able to determine from publicly available information that the prisoners who they
selected to receive the periodicals were charged with serious offenses and could likely
use the information provided in the publications. HRDC frequently sends publications
to prisoners who had not sought them to further HRDC’s mission of public education
and outreach.
17.

The issues of Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News were rejected by the St.

Joseph County Jail and notices were sent to HRDC indicating that the publications must
be by subscription and must be a current issue. No other reason for rejection was given,
A copy of one of the rejection notices is attached to this complaint as Exhibit 1. (Prisoners’
names have been redacted from all exhibits).
18.

The notice indicates that the publication would be put with the prisoner’s property

and that it could be retrieved when the prisoner was released from the Jail.
19.

At no time did the Sheriff or his office provide HRDC an opportunity to be heard

concerning the refusal to allow back issues of HRDC’s magazines to be received by the
prisoners.
20.

Additionally, HRDC provided the same ten prisoners with free subscriptions to

Prison Legal News for nine months and Criminal Legal News for six months, beginning with
the August 2021 issues.
21.

The August 2021 issue of Prison Legal News was rejected by the St. Joseph County
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USDC IN/ND case 3:22-cv-00489 document 1 filed 06/27/22 page 6 of 10

Jail. The August 2021 issue was the current issue and was sent pursuant to the free
subscriptions described in paragraph 20. Notices were sent to HRDC indicating that the
publications must be by subscription and also that the publication was rejected for
“staples.” A copy of one of the rejection notices is attached to this complaint as Exhibit 2.
22.

At no time did the Sheriff or his office provide HRDC an opportunity to be heard

concerning the refusal to allow the August 2021 issue of Prison Legal News to be received
by the prisoners.
23.

In September of 2021, plaintiff again sent current issues of Criminal Legal News to

prisoners in the St. Joseph County Jail pursuant to the free subscriptions described in
paragraph 20. Plaintiff received eight rejection notices from defendant indicating that the
publications must be by subscription. A copy of one of the rejection notices is attached to
this complaint as Exhibit 3.
24.

At no time did the Sheriff or his office provide HRDC an opportunity to be heard

concerning the refusal to allow the September 2021 issue of Criminal Legal News to be
received by the prisoners.
25.

In April 2022, HRDC provided free six-month subscriptions to Prison Legal News

and Criminal Legal News to an additional six prisoners at the St. Joseph County Jail. The
subscriptions were not requested but were sent because HRDC believed the magazines
would be of interest and use to the prisoners.
26.

The April 2022 issue of Prison Legal News was rejected by the St. Joseph County
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Jail. Notices were sent to HRDC indicating that the publications must be by paid
subscription and that the publication was rejected for “staples.” A copy of one of the
rejection notices is attached to this complaint as Exhibit 4.
27.

The May 2022 issue of Criminal Legal News was rejected by the St. Joseph County

Jail. The May 2022 issue was the current issue. Rejection notices were sent to HRDC
indicating “not a paid subscription” and also that the publication was rejected for
“staples.” A copy of one of the rejection notices is attached to this complaint as Exhibit
5.
28.

On information and belief, the other issues of Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal

News sent to the St. Joseph County Jail pursuant to the free subscriptions were also
rejected, although HRDC did not receive notices to that effect.
29.

At no time did the Sheriff or his office provide HRDC an opportunity to be heard

concerning the refusal to allow its publications to be received by the prisoners at the St.
Joseph County Jail.
30.

As part of its advocacy work, HRDC wishes to continue to send issues of Prison

Legal News and Criminal Legal News to prisoners at the St. Joseph County Jail, even though
prisoners have not subscribed to the periodicals.
31.

The Sheriff’s ban on HRDC’s periodicals is not supported by a rational connection

to a legitimate penological interest.
32.

There are no alternative means for HRDC to communicate the information
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contained in its magazines to the prisoners in the St. Joseph County Jail.
33.

Allowing prisoners to receive non-current issues of Prison Legal News and Criminal

Legal News and current issues to which the prisoners have not specifically subscribed
would not negatively affect correctional officers, other prisoners, or prison resources.
34.

A ready alternative to the challenged policy is for the Sheriff to treat the Prison

Legal News and Criminal Legal News sent by HRDC in the same way as publications that
are accepted in the Jail.
35.

If defendant has a policy of keeping all staples out of the St. Joseph County Jail, a

ready alternative to banning plaintiff’s publications is for employees at the Jail to remove
the staples that secure both Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News. As another district
court noted when faced with a similar objection by a jail, “[s]imply removing staples from
an issue of [Prison Legal News] or [Criminal Legal News] takes no more time than
completing and sending a confiscation form.” Human Rights Defense Center v. Southwest
Virginia Regional Jail Authority, 396 F. Supp. 3d 607, 623 (W.D. Va. 2019) (finding that the
jail’s ban violated the First Amendment).
36.

At all times relevant to this complaint defendant has acted and has refused to act

under color of state law.
37.

HRDC has been damaged by the actions and inactions of the Sheriff.

38.

HRDC is being caused irreparable harm for which there is no adequate remedy at

law.
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Claims
39.

Defendant’s refusal to distribute unsolicited copies of Prison Legal News and

Criminal Legal News to prisoners within the St. Joseph County Jail violates the First
Amendment, as do any policies authorizing such refusal.
40.

Defendant’s failure to provide an opportunity to be heard by HRDC concerning

the Jail’s refusal to allow the distribution of copies of the Prison Legal News and Criminal
Legal News, violates procedural due process as guaranteed by the Fourteenth
Amendment.
Request for relief
WHEREFORE, plaintiff requests that this Court:
1.
Accept jurisdiction of this case and set it for hearing at the earliest
opportunity.
2.
Declare that Defendant’s actions and inactions violate the United States
Constitution for the reasons noted above.
3.

Enter a preliminary injunction, later to be made permanent:
a.
preventing Defendant from prohibiting prisoners from receiving
publications from Plaintiff sent to St. Joseph County Jail prisoners solely
because they are unsolicited, not by subscription, not current issues, and/or
because they contain staples.
b.
requiring Defendant to provide notice to Plaintiff and an
opportunity to be heard when Defendant refuses to allow any of Plaintiff’s
publications to be received by prisoners in the St. Joseph County Jail.

4.

Award Plaintiff its damages, including nominal damages.

5.

Award Plaintiff its costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees pursuant to 42
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U.S.C. § 1988.
6.

Award all other proper relief.
Kenneth J. Falk
Stevie J. Pactor
ACLU of Indiana
1031 E. Washington St.
Indianapolis, IN 46202
317/635-4059
fax: 317/635-4105
kfalk@aclu-in.org
spactor@aclu-in.org

`

Daniel Marshall, Fla. Bar #617210*
Jesse Isom, Fla. Bar #98588*
Human Rights Defense Center
P.O. Box 1151
Lake Worth, FL 33460
Tel: (561) 360-2523
Fax: (561) 828-8166
dmarshall@hrdc-law.org
jwisom@humanrightsdefensecenter.org
* Pro hac vice applications to be filed
Attorneys for Plaintiff

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