The message is that the current punishment approach to crime does not work, and actually makes things worse; that the public is being ripped off by the state, at the expense of the community's safety. Some who have read our "message" ask why we don't try to raise money for a full-page advertisement in a major newspaper, so we can reach more people? Our response is that we aren't out to reach a lot of people, but rather to reach those most likely involved in the process of moving things forward. To put it another way, we are after quality rather than quantity. That has been until now, and will continue to be, our approach with this paper. Yet the results we had hoped for over the years have not been forthcoming. Our readers aren't doing enough to communicate the message to a wider audience.
PLN is a different kind of publication. We are not doing this newsletter for the purpose of providing you with a reading experience that simply washes over you each month. Use the legal information we provide you with, and marvel at the prison news you would not otherwise be getting. All of that is fine, but what we want is for you to become actively involved in the process of public education. This can be as little as increasing the number of PLN readers, or as extensive as getting other media outlets to examine the claims being made by the PLN regarding criminal justice policies.
If you feel that we are wrong in what we are doing, or you think we should have a different approach, then let us know. We will print your discussion in our letters section, so others can respond, and we can get a good debate going. The point I am trying to make here is that things aren't going to change unless you, dear reader, get personally involved. And if you are not on some level doing that, then you ought to at least justify your inactivity and silence. If the fault is ours, we want to know about it. If it's yours, then we would humbly suggest that it is time for you to take some responsibility for how bad things are.
It is the end of January as I write these comments, and I have just been reading about a couple of cases that have been handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court. One of these, which deals with whether an organization made up of prisoners can proceed in forma pauperis (the court held they couldn't), will be blurbed in next month's issue. The other ruling simply disgusts me. In a 6-3 holding Chief Justice Rehnquist, writing for the majority, said that it is okay to execute someone who can prove their innocence. In a dissenting opinion, Justice Blackmun said, "The execution of a person who can show that he is innocent comes perilously close to simple murder." I would say it comes considerably nearer than just "close" to murder. We generally don't report on criminal law cases, and won't be doing a blurb on this one either, but it you want to check it out look up the case of Leonel Herrera in the Supreme Court Reporter. You can read about the triumph of judicial form over the substance of justice.
Lately we have been getting a lot of letters asking us to do legal research, photocopying, writing, and so on for people. Guess it's time for a reminder that Paul and I both work full time prison jobs, we also spend several hours a day in classes (learning about computers), we exercise for at least an hour a day, and of course we visit with loved ones, correspond with friends, and so on. We also publish this paper each month. My point is that what you're reading is about all we have extra time for. We do prepare legal materials for some publications in censorship cases, we vigorously defend against any attempts to censor PLN, and we both have our regular political work we do. We simply do not have the time or energy to do a whole lot else. So try to keep your requests to a minimum.
We do have some energy to get a legal study group going. Paul and I will supply the books to those wanting to study law, philosophy, and politics. We will set guidelines and manage progress, so it is not like some sort of book give-away program. We are looking for folks who are willing to devote a little energy to learning more about these areas. Drop us a note if you are interested. If we can get enough people together we'll make a course of it.
That about wraps it up for this month. Be sure to share this paper with comrades.
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