By Ed Mead
Welcome to yet another edition of the PLN. In this issue I have an article on the class implications of prisoner rights litigation. It was written in response to one of many letters we get from readers asking about the politics of doing legal work from the inside. Some feel legal work is a useless and dead end form of activity. (See the letter from L.F. at Dwight Women's Prison in this issue's Letters Page.) When Paul and I write about issues of class it is usually not merely to talk politics from a soapbox, but rather to answer the real questions that emerge around people's day-to-day practice on the inside. If you have comments, either on Lisa's letter or my article on class and law, pass them on to us. These are the kinds of discussions that make for a lively newsletter.
What does not make for good reading, though, is our constant calls for you to dig into your pockets for more money to support the work we are doing. We pay as much as 69 cents an issue to get each copy of the PLN into your hands (40 cents for copying costs and 29 cents postage). We are prisoners who earn a maximum of only 28 cents an hour. It is only through your ongoing donations that we are able to produce this paper each month.
Paul and I gather the material together and type it up in our cells. We then send the work out to another person on the streets (Judy), who does the desktop publishing on a computer. Yet another volunteer (Scott) takes the master pages of the PLN to the photocopying place and runs off the necessary number of copies. Our mailing list volunteer (Dan) provides the updated mailing labels each month. Then still another set of volunteers (Janie, John, Steve, and Michael) do the folding, stapling, adding labels and stamps and do the actual mailing to you. Finally, when you write to us at our Florida address, our volunteer office manager (Rollin) sends you sample copies, accepts donations, and notifies people about changes in the mailing list.
All of the above people donate their time and energy to make this thing happen each and every month, on time. What we don' t want you to say is, "Well, eight months ago I contributed my five bucks so that ends my responsibility." Just as our obligation is a continuous one, so too is yours. These are hard times. It is important for those of us on the inside to keep the spark of progress alive. This paper is one vehicle that can help to achieve that end. But we cannot do it well unless you too make ongoing contributions.
Prisoners are not the only ones who can help. We also need more outside volunteers. Scott is leaving to taking a teaching position in China this month. Other people go on vacations or have other responsibilities to meet. We need replacements. The production team meets to do the mailing at the American Friends Service Committee building in Seattle's University District, on the last Tuesday of each month at 3:00 pm. Just drop in or else leave a message on Janie' s answering machine (phone number 221-7114) so she can call you back with additional information you might need. It will take only a couple of hours of your time, once a month. Please try to be there.
Last month we published an article on Japan's prison system. The article may have given readers the impression that if we only adopted the Japanese approach to corrections all would be well. That is clearly not the case. While a more gentle approach to crime and punishment would be a positive, if unrealistic, step forward, the underlying causes of crime (poverty, unemployment, etc.) would continue to create new generations of criminals. Ultimately, only fundamental social change can create lasting solutions.
Our idea of getting prison law libraries to subscribe at our "low" institutional rate of only sixty bucks a year ($5 an issue) fell flat on its face. We will continue to have no individual subscription rate, but will charge state institutions a more realistic figure of twenty-five dollars a year.
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